How to Make Sure Your Proposal Fails

 
 

As the wise man once said:

“Success — it’s the worst.”

And we all know that feeling, drowning in an ocean of successful bids, garnering awards, attention, and admiration. Building a prosperous, competitive business. Don’t you wish that, just once, you could do something awful?

Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips to make sure your next proposal falls streamroller-pancake-flat. And since you’re really looking to tank your proposals, make sure you download the 7 Fatal Proposal Mistakes that are Costing You Sales guide and do the opposite of everything it recommends.

Without further ado, let’s make a trainwreck!

Start with an Outdated & Hideous Design.

Today’s proposal design sensibility is all about communicating complicated information with simple, attractive visuals. It prizes beauty as well as function, structure as well as surprise.

Throw that out the window. We don’t want to be appealing and understandable. We want to be dull—criminally dull. Walls of technical writing in default Microsoft Word styling should do the trick:

WallofText make sure your proposal fails.png

Nothing screams “My company is as interesting as a pile of sawdust” like a wordy, barely-spaced, jargon-filled ramble. Bonus points if you use Times New Roman instead, the preferred font of humorless accountants in law firms.

But maybe you want something a little more stylish. Something that evokes a sense of decadence, of rotting leaves in the fall. In that case, try throwing in a header. Use the most depressing colors you can find, and slap a drop shadow on everything, a super-intense drop shadow that screams, "Hey, this is the mid-90s and we've just figured out how to put drop shadows on stuff."

Dingy colors, haphazard design. . . this'll do nicely, I think.

Dingy colors, haphazard design. . . this'll do nicely, I think.

Sporting your new look, you’ll just ooze an outdated, unaware, chintzy vibe, which'll instill your reader with an instant, profound sense of revulsion. Great!

Outlast Them By Talking Only About Yourself.

Even with Times New Roman and the most garish colors to ever make the designers at Pantone weep, clients may occasionally be tricked into signing an unattractive proposal. They won’t be able to, however, if they never get through it in the first place!

To that end, you want your proposal to be as long as possible. Debating whether or not you need to include a blow-by-blow account of all your ancillary services? Answer: yes, and preface it all with six pages about your business' mission, values, commitment to client experience, and fabulous but ultimately irrelevant team members.

A good length for a good proposal would be ten or less pages, so shoot for, I don't know, 50?

Use Actual Printed Paper.

More businesses nowadays are moving to digital proposals because of lower costs, speedy delivery, and the benefits of proposal automation apps like Proposify.

But you don’t want that. It’s too easy. Digital is effortless — weightless. Opening a 50-page document on your computer doesn’t pack the stultifying punch it would in print.

Additionally, with paper you have the opportunity to send your proposal by snail mail, which is the best way to ensure it arrives late, maybe even after they’ve signed with somebody else. In this case, slow and steady doesn’t win the race. It loses the race. And we want to lose the race.

And even if, by some miracle, after all this they still want to sign off, you can take solace in the fact that, instead of just clicking a button, they'll have to sign the darn thing by hand and fax it back to you. All 50 pages. Think of it as vengeance for your foiled plan.

So there you have it! The concrete steps you can take towards the most abysmal moment of your career.

Most will obtain adequate failure employing these strategies, but, if you’re such a wunderkind you need some extra help to be awful, check out this guide on more fatal proposal mistakes and do all of them.

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