Dang it, your business proposal was rejected! Learn the questions you should be asking yourself, so this doesn’t happen again. I will explain how you can create a proposal knowledge base you can reuse in your future proposals, understand what works and what doesn’t and get the next deal nailed!
Nobody likes to learn his or her lesson. However, as much as we hate to admit it, we really can learn from our mistakes. Sales is no exception. In fact, studying our rejected business proposals, as much as our winning business proposals, can help us learn for the future. It can teach us about our client or a potential client, and we can use it as an opportunity to learn how to write a business proposal that is sure to win them over next time.
OK, so your business proposal didn’t get signed and you didn’t get the sale. Take a nanosecond to be sad and then rally up and take it as a moment to learn for your next proposal. Schedule you and your team five to ten minutes to brainstorm as to what went wrong.
Here we made a great playlist for you to cheer up! Just plug your headphones in, start listening and continue reading!
Start by asking yourself these groups of questions:
- What was the client looking for?
- Did our business proposal really aim to solve that problem, concern or need?
Content and presentation:
- Is our business proposal clear and concise?
- What could we have cut out of the business proposal?
- What could we have added to the business proposal?
- Was our business proposal easy for the client to open? To read through? To sign?
- What did we think was important to the client?
- What did our client actually think was important? What did he spend the most time reading? Was that because that part was unclear or because it was important to her? (After reviewing your business proposal software)
- Why do we think the client said no?
- Where do we think we missed the mark? Where did we fall short?
- Should we have been sending them a business proposal in the first place?
- Who is our audience? How do we define our prospective clients?
Taking time over a well-deserved cup of coffee to reflect on what went wrong will help you and your company solidify the success of your next opportunity to present a business proposal.
Make sure to look over those notes we keep reminding you to take. This is how you can be sure you understood the customer’s requirements. Then, see if you addressed them in your business proposal. Your notes and your proposal software can combine to become a wealth of information that can teach you how to write business proposals that get signed.
If you are using an online proposal software like Quote Roller, win, lose or draw, you can track what parts of the proposal your client spent the most time examining and what they skimmed right past. The parts of your business proposal that your client spent the most time examining are probably the same parts that lost you the bid. If it was the bottom line, probably you need to ask yourself if next time you can sell them a different package at a lower price or if maybe they really aren’t your target audience.
Make sure you and your team take and share copious notes during conversations with clients before and after sending them your business proposal. It helps you reexamine where those seemingly small comments or objections that were made may have made or broken the deal. It is also a way to compare your notes with your proposal software to try and see if there’s a pattern. If there’s an issue that comes up with multiple clients, that’s something you as a company needs to focus on rectifying.
If a client spends a lot of time examining an aspect of your proposal that was never discussed before, think about the questions you were asking. Consider what open-ended question that you could ask the client in the future about this certain aspect, so you can make sure to properly address the issue in your future business proposal. This is where developing and redeveloping your value propositions becomes key, as you can offer your customers two different ways of addressing a single issue. The results can be the clue to changing your losing business proposal into a winner.
When in doubt, when you are thanking your potential client for his or her time and telling them you look forward to working with them in the future, it can’t hurt to ask them (politely!) what went wrong. Be very open and honest and say that you still want to learn from them and you’d love to gain some insight as to why they accepted another company’s business over yours. Remember, people love to give their opinion and asking builds a relationship. Either way, these answers can give you the clue for working with them in the future, plus, you can take it into account the next time you are writing a business proposal.
Once in awhile, have your partner, friend or spouse read one of your business proposals that failed. If those that love you can’t get through your proposal because it was too long or too convoluted, probably your failed customer couldn’t either. Your friendly everyman can teach you how to write a proposal, by helping you filter out distraction and overly complicated jargon. This outsider can offer you a different point of view for free.
Now, if you are new to writing business proposals, perhaps you don’t have a lot of winners to look at… yet! Your proposal management software should have sample proposals that you can use to both as a business proposal template and as a way to compare your proposal against successful ones.
Once you build up your business proposal portfolio and compare your wins and losses, it should be easy to notice trends that clients want to see and those that they don’t.
On the flip side, when you have a signed business proposal, it’s another great moment to see what your client liked and didn’t. Using your proposal management software to see the last thing your client looked at before signing shows you his or her priorities for the future.
So remember, even though it sucks, losing and learning from that one bid could help you get five more business proposals signed.
Have you build your own proposal knowledge base?