4 Reasons Proposals Fail

This is for all you proposal writers out there … Ben Yoskovitz at the InstigatorBlog wrote in 2007 about the top 10 reasons why proposals fail. His reasoning is still relevant today.

A few of his most important points:

They don’t reference the prospect’s pain. Why did the prospect ask you for a proposal? You better have a crystal clear answer to that question. Too many proposals don’t reiterate the pain properly. Skipping that makes the prospect feel like you don’t get it.

They’re too technical. I know you’re the expert in your field — that’s why I asked for a proposal. You don’t need to inundate your proposal with buzzwords and industry-hooey. A prospect knows only a smidge of what you know about your business, and they don’t really want to know more. Your proposal fails when it sells industry mastery using language I won’t understand.
They’re not selling benefits. Proposals that miss out on #1 and focus too much on #2 invariably aren’t selling benefits. If you’re not selling benefits, you’re sunk. And for the love of everything that is holy, spell these out as clearly as possible.

And of course, we’ve got to include this one:

They’ve got spelling and grammatical problems. A proposal with spelling errors is unacceptable, it’s as simple as that. Grammatical problems may be harder to catch. Three tips: Read it out loud. Write short sentences. Have someone else read it.

And I will be even more specific about that last part: don’t just ask “someone else” to read it … ask a professional copyeditor.
This post was originally written in 2007 by Samantha Enslen, President of Dragonfly, and has since been updated.

Man with brown hair and gray shirt holding his head in frustration.


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