August 29, 2022

Providing Written Business Proposals: Dos And Don’ts

team writing business proposal

If you email a proposal that was not asked for, you can expect either a quick no or a prolonged no-answer (silence).

My main goal in this quick blog is to share some real-life learnings and thoughts on providing written business proposals, as they might be a very important part of your success.

For the sake of clarity, written business proposals are serious documents. The written business proposal typically comes at a stage where the prospect truly understands the service/product, the costs, and the process to buy and how to implement what they have agreed to buy. They are in the know on what they are buying and have asked all the key questions in your meetings and received satisfactory answers. Written proposals typically have a signature line for someone to take out a pen and commit themselves/their company to.

Let’s set the stage. You have worked hard to refine your product/service/offering for a sale and have had several meetings with a prospect. You have worn your best business duds and/or done a bunch of ZOOM meetings, and are ready to close the sale (as they say) with a decision maker. Here are some Dos and Don’ts…

Making a Written Proposal: The Dos

Offer options in the contract. When providing a written proposal, offer some options so that the prospect can craft or tweak the path forward. Maybe it is an option A, B, and C, each with a distinct set of characteristics. By providing options in the proposal, you protect yourself from a hard no by giving the prospect ways to say yes. Put the prospect in the position to have some choices, which I will outline in a moment. Conversely (and not recommended), don’t just give them one path forward or limited or no options in a written proposal.

Make proposals in person. Try to never, ever send a written proposal in an email. I have found using email for proposals that have not been agreed to generally either get delayed and not acted upon and having a prospect use email is an easy way for them to say no!At the end of the meeting, where there is agreement about the client wanting a proposal, set a time and date, right there in the meeting, to come back and walk through the proposal in person. If you have momentum for them wanting a written proposal, convert that momentum into the meeting to review the written proposal—in person (or via Skype/Zoom or other remote meeting technologies if needed)!

It’s as easy as this: “Hey, I can come back before your workday gets started, or late in the day any day next week to walk you through the proposal?” Make it easy for them to meet with you. This is also a great closing/validation technique. If the client agrees to have you back in, that is a good sign for the sale and the need/urgency.

Never just send a proposal. If the client says, “Just send me the proposal in an email” after you have asked to see them, I proffer that is not a good sign (usually). There are occasions where the client is rushing to decide, and that can be good, but, when a client will not make time to see you to review a proposal, that can be a sign of low interest. I always read that as them just wanting to get me out of their office by asking for a proposal that they may have no intention of signing.

There are polite ways of trying to get in-person meetings with clients. You must pick your own style and voice to express them, but I caution you to be ready for any pushback. If you do have to send a proposal in email, follow up and send a hard copy overnight. Sending the written proposal in email does not mean you should leave it at that. Send two signed copies of the proposal in overnight mail (FedEx, UPS, et cetera) to the person. Include a handwritten note and the proposal signed by you, marked confidential. You need to a) show them you are serious, and b) make it easy for them to move forward. This helps to reinforce that you felt you had a closed deal with them.

In any case, those are a few quick tips for closing the deal on written business proposals.

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Originally posted on Forbes.