10 Things I Hate About Your Proposal

10 things I hate about your proposalYour clients will never tell you they hate your proposals. However, chances are that they do.

Once during a follow-up call with a client of mine I had this conversation:

- The proposal looks good. I was wondering, if you could point me to the solution section?

That was an embarrassment for the whole team, who was working on the proposal. We’ve added so many details to the proposal, that the most important thing didn’t stand out at all. Proposal consisted of more than 20 pages, while ideally it should have been 5 pages long.

Want your proposal to be read attentively? Don’t beat about the bush, be succinct and cut the crap unnecessary details. When writing proposals we tend to add meaningless details, which sometimes take several pages.

Here are 10 things not to include into your proposals:

1. Your objectives, philosophies, mantras and other spiritual practices
applied in your company bear no interest to a potential customer. Believe me, they will figure out if you are a right company to work with after one or two phone calls and several emails.

Love being awesome2. Being Mr. Proud
Most companies are very proud of themselves. “We are proud to be on the list of Most Pleased Companies of 2012″. Who cares? Your customer has a pain that needs to be adhered to, and fixation on your own achievements is not helping.



3. Pretending to be a shrink
How many times have you read: “We understand your needs” and “share your pain”. Customers don’t need extensive moral understanding – they need a solution to their problem with a reasonable price, which meets deadlines and is professionally executed.

4. “Trust me” cliché 
You are far before mutual trust phase in your relations. Let your experience, presentation and communication earn your trust and credibility.

Crystal Ball5. Crystal ball predictions
Some proposals boast such a wide range of predictions you think the service provider has a crystal ball in their possession. Don’t mention things you are not sure will happen and commit to them.


6. Most and best
While superlatives have a great conviction power, don’t use them too often. Furthermore, give proof and try to cite your experience, performance, pricing, etc.

7. Section 29: Tea bags usage policy
Don’t include sections and items that were not requested by a customer. Do you like when your interlocutor starts telling you about their clown-phobia when you asked them about current time?

8. Hiding a price tag
Don’t you hate it when you are browsing around a shop to understand you have to ask for the price of each item? If you thought that your client is not scanning your proposal for $ sign, I’m sorry to break it for you. That’s the first thing they do.

Color Madness9. Color seizure
Don’t use more than 3 colors. Some clients are very color sensitive and will throw your proposal away when they see rainbow tables on every other page. It’s not because they don’t like it. They hate it.



10. Telling a lie
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain

Someone will slip eventually in one of the emails forwarded to a wrong address or during a phone call. Once caught, you won’t ever be trusted again. If you feel unsure about the truth, just omit some parts of it.

How much of these are in your proposal? Can you share any other tricks with our readers?

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  • quoterollermikita

    Well done, Sasha! Really funny and straight to the point. 

  • Fred Stein

    Great post Sasha. Add to the multi-colors – “Font Abuse”. Use 1 font, vary the size. Only use Bold or Underline, not both.

    • http://sashakovaliov.com/ Sasha Kovaliov aka nlupus

      Glad you liked it Fred! Font abuse should definitely join the list.

    • http://twitter.com/_pof_ Preston Fitzgerald

      Just to throw in my $0.02, two fonts are usually acceptable in most media. Very seldom 3 (if you have a really good reason to use a big fun display font or something). Never four.

      If using two fonts, try to stick to one sans and one serif. Remember that you need more than one kind of contrast between the fonts. The more contrast the better. That means, change the size, change the color, change the weight, change the alignment–some combination of these.

      If they look similar, you might as well be using one font to begin with. There should be a _reason_ why you are using more than one font. What are you trying to accomplish?

      Food for thought.

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