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    Common Mistakes People Make When Writing Proposals


    A proposal is a document where you pitch to do something to a prospective customer.

    For the purpose of this write-up, I like to focus on writing proposal to SMEs.

    For example – A supermarket has a large space on front of their building and you like to propose to run a car wash on that space.

    Or the most common example is people send proposals to prospects about what they sell in their business.

    I like to share here a list of the most common mistakes I see in the proposals that get sent to me.

    1. It does not propose anything. They just write about their products and services in a document, then call it a Proposal. 80% of people are on this table.
    2. It is not easy to understand. You read the whole document and you are wondering what they are talking about.
    3. Abuse of the word ‘partnership’. Someone called me yesterday and wanted me to advertise on their TV station. He kept saying he wants a partnership of Accountinghub and their TV station. I struggled to understand that he wants me to be his customer because he kept calling me his partner.

    They seem to think that calling you a partner gives you a form of benefit. Lie.

    1. Big-big English syndrome that confuses everything. I wonder how they do not remember that the prospect should be able to understand a proposal to act on it.
    2. Does not address any problem that you might have. Looks like a document that missed its way.
    3. Clearly shows the person did no proper research (even a basic one) about your company. It displays so much lack of understanding of even publicly-available information.
    4. Addresses only what they want from you and tells nothing about what you will benefit.
    5. The Proposal is not done on the back of a KLT (Know, Like and Trust). Someone you don’t know just wakes up and sends you a bulky document to start reading. Waste of time.

    I never send a proposal without a prior discussion, or introduction or something that wets the ground for me.

    1. Bulky document that leaves the reader trying to find the main juice of the matter.
    2. Wrong call-to-action. You are selling a software, you send me a proposal telling me to invite you for a 2 hour meeting to understand my needs. Are you kidding me?

    Isn’t it better if your proposal explained your software offer, then maybe included a 3 minutes video showing me inside the software. Then the call-to-action can be to reach out for a more extensive demo if I am interested.

    1. Copy and paste proposal that shows very clearly that it was distributed to 100 people without any iota of customization to your needs.

    A proposal has some basic elements that must be included:

    1. Who you are
    2. What you are proposing
    3. The problems it will solve/The value it will bring
    4. More details about your proposal offer
    5. The costs and other conditions
    6. Why you are the best for the job
    7. Conclusion and Call-to-action

    There are many more mistakes that I cannot remember now.

    Please do share the ones you have seen, so we can all learn.

    A simple 2-pager proposal written in simple English can do the job.

    Sadly, we mostly receive the most confusing 40-page document that doesn’t do the job.

    I hope this helps someone.

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