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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Why 75% of Proposals Will Never Close, and 10 Ways to Improve


These days it seems like every time I ask someone in sales how they’re doing, I get the same response: “I’ve got a lot pending!” This has become so prevalent in every market I visit, I could easily be convinced that compensation plans have changed so radically that people are now getting paid on pending! Because I know this is not case, I also know we have a problem. 

500 Proposals Don’t Lie

Over the last 6 months, I reviewed over 500 proposals from a variety of B2B sales organizations. These were all legitimate proposals, actually presented to a prospect or client, and they have provided me with some valuable insight that I am going to share with you today. 

75% or More of Proposals Don’t Close

Of the proposals I looked at, just over 75% never closed. I’ve learned that there are several reasons why proposals don’t close, and I will address them all below. Although there were several factors, one significant factor was present in almost all of the failed proposals: a focus on the product rather than the prospect’s need. When your proposal is all about you, it’s really not very interesting or useful to your prospect. 

Let’s focus on improving your proposals and increasing your closing rate.

10 ways to improve your proposals and close more business:

  1. Track your closing rate. Within 30 days after you present your proposal, it should close. Knowing your closing rate will make you more aware and allow you to spot opportunities for improvement.
  2. Pay attention to the details. Make sure you’re using the right title for the person you’re meeting with. Check for typos. If you’re going to put your prospect’s logo on your proposal, make sure it’s the right version of the logo. Obsess over the details.
  3. Always include an expiration date on your proposals. Include today’s date as well to show that it is current.
  4. Make sure your name and phone number are in the footer on every page of the proposal.
  5. Include next steps. What happens after the prospect says yes? Show a clear picture of what is to come after the yes.
  6. Clearly address the challenge the prospect is facing and how your solution will solve this.
  7. Lead with your solution, not your product.
  8. Make sure your proposal is so easy to understand that even if someone did not attend your presentation, he or she could follow every detail.
  9. Commit to no surprises! Make sure that everything in the proposal has already been discussed and reviewed before your presentation.
  10. Solve problems, don’t “pitch packages.” Win business and earn customers for life by addressing their needs and solving their business challenges.

There’s no reason your proposals need to get stuck in Proposal Purgatory. By making these changes, you’ll find that your prospects will get excited about how you can solve their problems and make their lives easier—because you’re clearly communicating how you can help and doing it in a way that gives them confidence in your abilities.

Topics: Proposal Sales