Creating winning proposals is not easy. Only some mistakes are elementary to avoid. Here are the ten most common mistakes in proposals and the solutions.

Put your offer next to these most common mistakes and see how many points you “score“. With these tips, you can immediately take your proposals to the next level!

1: Nothing on the customer

An proposal is an excellent opportunity to convince a customer of your services. Only you won’t convince him by just talking about your services. First, the customer wants to know that you understand him and his problem. So don’t just capture the customer’s specific request; in our case, it’s “I want a proposal tool.” But explain why the customer wants it and what their world is like.

In this particular example, it’s:

Company A is the leading player in market X. In this market, competition is intense because Reason Y. Company A wants to cash in on every sales opportunity. Proposals play a crucial role in this. Right now they are losing 50% of the proposals. To achieve growth ambition Z, they must win at least 75% of the bids submitted.

2: Inaccuracy

One of the biggest turn-offs is inaccuracy. Think of spelling mistakes, typos, and sentences that don’t flow. The client shrugs off your carelessness. Your quote looks like a rush job if it contains these avoidable errors. You must be especially careful when using templates or reusing old quotes. Leaving another company’s name inadvertently is almost a mortal sin.

Use the spelling and grammar checker. Please set it to automatic in all the tools you use. In some cases, some tools do not allow spell and grammar checking. It is then wise to copy your text then into Word, for example, and do the check there. And make sure you have a second reader. After all, it is very difficult to recognize your mistakes. A critical eye from a colleague does wonders to fish out odd sentence structures.

3: Too long

People are busy. As a result, no one reads everything. And too long an offer discourages. Many providers tend to describe everything in detail in an proposal. By no means is everything relevant to the reader. For your delivery, does it matter that the customer has access to details, for example, for legal reasons? Then put it in an attachment and refer to it. Don’t make it too crazy by putting multiple references on each page. Then you achieve the opposite, as we also describe in point 4.

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4: Too short

A concise proposal is not good either. A customer quickly feels that his question is of no interest to you. He also then misses the answers to his most important questions. Even if those answers appear in the appendices, in a brochure, for example, having to look them up is a puzzle. No customer is in the mood for that. A good proposal is between 6 and 10 pages long.

5: Badly readable

Not only typos and misspellings make a text poorly readable. A lot of text on 1 page also makes it a struggle. Especially when there are hardly any blank lines and the headings are missing. In a book, you may use several pages for a chapter. In a proposal, no, with a few exceptions.

Clear chapter titles are not cryptic but describe precisely what one reads in the chapter. A little poetic license may surprise you, but you soon skip to the other side. Your goal is readability because you want your customer to read the text and become convinced of your offer.

If you want to wax poetic, write blogs or a book.

6: Recognizability lacks

In hospitals, people don’t talk about customers; they talk about patients. A lawyer has a client, and municipalities serve citizens. Word choice largely determines recognition for a client. You will never hit the sensitive chord with the customer if this recognizability is missing. Immerse yourself in the customer’s language and client. Adapt your story accordingly. An IT company will be fine with a more technical explanation of your software. You hit the mark in an SME where a non-IT person is at the helm. You will have to give a more functional explanation to strike the right chord there.

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7: Content too legal

A proposal is a legal document. And with many companies, you will then find terms and conditions in the proposal. If the legal department has interfered too much with the offer, it does not read as an offer but as a list of requirements. The customer feels pressured rather than heard.

8: Wrapping up about price

Although price is by no means the most important thing for your customer. He does want to know what it costs. Three common errors in price quotes in proposals are:

  1. The price is hidden away in the text, and the customer has to look for it.
  2. The price consists of many components, but only the total price is visible
  3. The price consists of many components and is all included; however, the total cost is not visible

A complete explanation of price quotes in proposals can be read here:

A customer wants to compare your price, especially the significant components that determine the price, with other providers. He looks for the differences. For example, if you offer something that someone else does not, your price may often be slightly higher.

If he has to look for the price or the components, the chances of dropping out are high. After all, he lacks the transparency he needs to label you as honest and transparent.

9: Delivered too late

If a client thinks he will have a quote within three days and you need two weeks, you have a problem. Just as well as if you promise to deliver within three days and only deliver after five days.

Momentum is lost because the quote took too long to come in, and the customer thinks you are not fast. To avoid this, match the customer’s expectations with your realistic expectations.

10: The match between problem and solution lacks

You step right through from the client’s problem to your solution without explaining how that relationship works. Then you have pages of text about how sublime your solution is. The customer wants to know what’s in it for him. And that’s what’s missing.

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes in proposals. Especially in B2B, the relationship between problem and solution is not nearly as clear as in the kitchen industry, where everyone understands why you need a cabinet door.

Pages full of praise about your service are worthless if you don’t relate it to your customer’s questions or what he has told you about his values. Each paragraph should contain a reference to its desire or problem.


If you are a true champion and have not made these mistakes for a long time, you can consider yourself lucky. But opportunities are also up for grabs for you. Have a conversation with the potential customers who finally didn’t choose you. You can find out why the customer chose a competitor by engaging in conversation. Asking specifically for things the customer missed in the quotation can make you even better.

If you do recognize yourself in some of these ten most common mistakes, then there are opportunities for you to improve. Would you like an outsider to take a look at your proposals? Contact one of our Sales Strategists for a free consultation.

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