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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

What Marriage Proposals Teach Us About Business Proposals


I’ve been divorced and remarried. I’ve also lost and closed sales opportunities. As I think about the courtship of either kind of relationship, I’m reminded of how a marriage proposal simulates both really great and not-so-great business proposals. 

How do you eliminate the risk of being turned down when you ask someone to marry you? Well, the same way you reduce the risk of someone saying no to your business proposal: eliminate the surprises.

Dating is often the precursor to being in a relationship. In choosing to date, you seek out those who are likely to be the type of person you’re looking for. While dating, you learn as much about a person as you can and you start to determine, based on what you learn, whether or not they’re the ideal match you’re looking for. In business, getting the first appointment works the same way. You find businesses you think may be ideal prospects, and through a really good needs analysis, you determine if they are indeed ideal prospects. If they fit the criteria, you pursue further.

Let’s say you find the ideal person to engage in a relationship with. The learning doesn’t stop. You discover differences, maybe even have fights, but you talk through them. And someday, you may bring up the topic of marriage. If your partner becomes excited about the idea of marriage, you talk more about it. You start planning the wedding: when, where, what ideas you both have, and your budget. You can see and hear the excitement as a picture of the future begins to form in your mind! 

Then, a proposal… and a YES! Imagine if none of the prep to the proposal ever happened—if you simply found a person on Match.com or you swiped right then popped the question via email? How likely is a "YES!" to happen in that case?

Now on to business. Let’s say you have uncovered a key marketing challenge with an ideal prospect and have an ideal solution to meet their needs. Why stop there and jump to a proposal? You should discuss your ideas as well as your thoughts on when, where, and how much all of this will cost. What are their expectations of you? You may disagree, and you may argue, but you’ll come to a mutual agreement at the end of the meeting—having discussed all elements of your solution prior to your proposal.

How often does this happen? How often do you present a proposal that the prospect is prepared to sign off on? Maybe not often enough.

I recommend you take our No Surprise Proposal Test prior to any business proposal. Can you answer "Yes" to these 10 questions? If so, you are more likely to get a "Yes" in return. If not, go back and learn more. Your relationship is still too new!

Download the No Surprise Proposal Test:

eliminate objections in your proposals


Topics: Proposal Sales