Reasons your proposals get rejected and how to combat them

While it would be great to tell you that I win 100% of the proposals I send that would be a lie. Just today I sent a proposal and the prospect said ‘no’ for very legitimate reasons that I was unaware of (but should have been, and that’s my fault).

Let’s look at the main reasons you hear ‘no’ to the proposals you submit.

1. No Money

There is always ‘no money’ in an organization. Any business has to continually prioritize their spending and only spend on things which will yield a solid return on investment.

So what they’re saying when they tell you that they have ‘no money’ is that they don’t see the value in the proposal you just submitted. What you provide is simply not worth what they would need to spend.

Hey, my book on estimates goes on sale tomorrow. Make sure you get on the email list so you don’t miss it.

Like I said above, I just had a proposal rejected and it was entirely around the cost of the project. The cost of the project would have eaten 80% of the entire revenue of the site for the year and this project is not likely to double their revenue. I would never advise anyone to spend like that, it would be stupid.

So this really means that I missed some vital questions when I was vetting the project up front. I needed to get better numbers on the revenue of the site so that I could put together a proposal that actually was worth it for the prospect.

2. No Time

Yup, time is finite. You don’t ‘find time’ in the couch cushions. You don’t ‘make time’ at the time factory. So when a prospect tells you that this isn’t the right time for the project or there is currently no time, what they’re really saying is that in the 24 hours they have in a day they don’t feel that the project is worth spending any time on.

They don’t think that putting time into it will provide a good ROI for the time investment.

Now it is possible that there is a valid reason to delay the project. I once had a client’s wife lose her battle with cancer and we put off his project for a full year. If there is a valid reason like that then commit to a follow-up time and follow up on the project when you said you would.

If there isn’t a valid life reason and they’re ‘just waiting to finish project X’ then it’s likely your project will never happen. You never showed that it was important enough to devote resources to now and that’s unlikely to change in the future.

3. No Need

What if they say “Hey, thanks but we don’t really need this right now”? Uh…then what have you been talking about this whole time?

It’s entirely possible that the prospect was just tossing out some work to ‘see how much it cost’ and they didn’t really have a current need. They were fishing and if just the right thing hooked the line they’d take it home; otherwise it’s all catch-and-release.

If this is the case you need to beef up your vetting process so you don’t bother putting time into prospects on fishing expeditions.

It’s more possible that you simply stopped asking questions too early. You heard “I need a new website” and sent an estimate over for a new site. You didn’t dig deeper and find out that the new online store from a competitor has eaten into 20% of their revenue this year and what they really need is a site with a marketing plan that will get attention back to them so people purchase.

If you don’t know how to get down to the second and third level needs of a prospect then it’s time to learn more about questioning techniques like:

If you can get a handle on even one of these questioning methods you can quite quickly learn to get down to the real value in a project and the prospect’s real needs.

4. No Trust

You know what? The other three issues, in the end, really come down to this issue of trust. The prospect doesn’t trust you with their money. They don’t trust you with their time. They don’t trust you enough to tell you their real needs.

You haven’t convinced them of your credibility, integrity and quality. You’d never spend money with someone you didn’t trust so why do you think that a prospect will?

Before you send anyone a proposal you need to spend time cultivating a relationship of trust. That doesn’t happen in a single phone call or a flurry of email exchanges, at least not usually.

If you really want to win proposals and charge well then you need to spend time getting to a proposal, not just rush to get them out and let sheer volume make up for bad proposals to prospects that don’t match up with you.

photo credit: pellaeon cc