Proposals that secure new business

What is the first thing everybody does when they get a proposal, they go to the last page to see what the price is. Why is the price on the last page, because the creator of the proposal is hoping that you read the other 20 pages leading up to the price that now justifies it.

If this system is not proving successful perhaps there are some tips in this article that will help you.

Let me start by suggesting a three stage process that will get you better results. Firstly, you have a meeting with a potential customer, do you make a presentation about your company? My suggestion is no, unless they request it. There is little value in you making a 20, 30 or 40 minute presentation telling them how great you are. The fact that you have the meeting suggests that they have done their homework and have asked you to attend based on their research.

If on the other hand a presentation is required then it should be reflective of the audience that is attending (CEO, CFO, CTO etc.) and talk in a language that engages them. If your presentation is a series of PowerPoint slides with text that you read out to your audience then we need to have a conversation, free of charge of course. LINK

Step 1

So we do not need a presentation which means that we have a discovery meeting and your job is to find out what prompted them to call you. This requires you to have prepared a list of questions that asks in a non invasive way questions that get to the heart of the matter. Phrases like 'do you mind if I ask you' or would you mind sharing with me' allow the potential customer to engage with you without feeling they are being interrogated. A key question to ask is, 'do you mind me asking, what is the most important challenge you face at the moment'? Allow the person time to reflect on the answer and the tell you. You can then follow up their answer with 'how is this impacting on you'? or what impact is this having on the business' or similar questions. We need to get to the heart of the matter and if possible put a value on this issue. Once you have a monetary value you will be able to refer to this in your proposed solution which will remind them of what is at stake.

I do not take notes until they have opened up as it puts people off but once we start getting into an open conversation I always ask, 'do you mind if I take notes' ?

One final note is to ask if they have a budget around this issue or project. They may push back by saying no but your counter is to say that you may have a number of solutions but do not want to waste their time with ones that are outside of their budget. In most cases they will suggest a figure and if you can get this it is important because when it appears in your proposal it will not be a shock to them.

Step 2

I am always keen to make sure that we do not have any misunderstandings from the outset. Often the eagerness to sign up new business encourages people to fire off a proposal without ensuring that the customers needs are fully understood. I have seen many times proposals come into my clients hands that do not reflect the conversation that took place or address the needs outlined. My suggestion is to go through your notes carefully and send an email within 24 hours detailing your understanding of what was discussed. Furthermore, you add that if you have omitted or misunderstood anything to please let you know. If your email is reflective of the conversation you had you should get an immediate response confirming that fact or clarifying something that was misunderstood.

Step 3

You now have confirmation that you understand the issue. Your proposal now outlines the issues (you have confirmation of these) so there is no issue here. Your proposal outlines your solution and why it makes sense. You demonstrate how your solution delivers whatever the company needed and can save the organisation X amount (this amount was discussed in the discovery stage). I would also include testimonials of how other customers felt once they used this solution.

TIP - if you want a structure when asking for a testimonial try using this;

  1. What was the problem?

  2. How did it make you feel?

  3. How is my solution addressing the issue?

  4. How are you feeling now?

You cost out your solution to reflect the budget discussed. Again no surprises here as it was talked about in the discovery stage. If possible, I would give three solutions at different price points. The first is the most expensive and has all the bells and whistles. It may have much more than they need but it is comprehensive. The second is the one that fits their budget. However, having looked at the bells and whistles option they may ask can they have one or two items off that list and that allows you to up sell your product or service. The final price is the cheap option that is designed to dissuade them from taking it but allows flexibility in case the CFO decides to cut the budget on this particular project.

Finally, two important notes;

  1. Get your proposal back to them ASAP. In this fast changing world of distraction, a delay may have what is urgent today put on the back burner as something more important comes onto their desk.

  2. If possible present the proposal in person or online. This means that you can clarify anything that may hold up a decision.

  3. Ask for the business. If you have completed all stages correctly there should be nothing holding them back.

Good hunting.

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Alec Drew, KBE shares his passion and knowledge around productivity and communications in the professional services sector. A major part of his 40 years in business was spent as Managing Partner of a highly successful branding agency where he worked with a wide range of CEO’s across all sectors. His insightful questioning and straight talking opened up new conversations, giving them fresh insights into their own organisations and uncovering valuable revenue streams that were previously overlooked. One strategy helped his clients achieve €3.23 billion in additional sales over a 5 year period.

He demonstrates the positive effect on shareholder value when all levels of an organisation speak the same language.  


As an international speaker he shows very quickly how a simple shift in mindset can have such a positive impact on the bottom line. He hates waffle, verbose explanations and jargon and his talks get straight to the point in a no nonsense but entertaining way. ’Disconnected in a Connected World’ is a fresh and honest look at the combined effects of technology and communications not just on business but on society as a whole.


He hosts a weekly radio show where business leaders from all sectors share seminal moments in their lives. Asking insightful questions he encourages guests to retrace their steps from the start of their career to where they are now and talk about key influencers that shaped their success. It gives listeners their weekly fix of encouragement to believe in themselves and demonstrates the abundance of resources that are available to help you complete your journey to destination SUCCESS.  


He is Past President of the Professional Speaking Association, Ireland, a member of the PSA and the Global Speaking Federation. 


'The concept of business is simple until you let a human being near it' - Alec Drew