The only goal of a proposal is to persuade your prospect to do business with you. If it fails in that task then by definition it was a bad proposal. But unless you know what a good proposal looks like, all you can do is assume that your proposal must be a good one. You have nothing else to compare it against.
Let's look at the 4 things good proposals need to do to win work.
1. Focus on the prospect's problems and payoffs
The first thing that a good proposal does is focus on the problems of your prospect. It starts off with a description of the problems your prospect has and tells the story in a way that leaves your prospect nodding their head along with you. Within a paragraph or two they know you're on the same page because they can see their pain in your words.
2. Have a compelling value proposition
The second thing that awesome proposals do is have a compelling value proposition for the prospect. No one is going to pay you $20k for a service when they’re only going to make $10k back. The whole reason for hiring someone is to improve the business, not just spend it’s money vainly.
To get this value proposition you’re going to need to talk to your prospects. You’re going to need to ask them questions about their business. You’re going to need to delve deeper than the first reason they came to you for. All of this questioning takes time. Don’t rush in to writing a proposal just because you’ve been asked. Make sure you have the right information so that you can have a chance of writing a winning proposal.
3. Avoid jargon
Your prospects don’t care about the amazing technology you’re going to use. They don’t want to see acronyms and $10 words. Avoid all jargon, unless your prospect uses it. Most of the time consultants use jargon it’s simply a misguided effort to make themselves look smart. If you’ve done your marketing right, the prospect is already coming to you because they think you’re smart enough to do the work. Jargon is just going to confuse them.
4. Be persuasive
Finally a good proposal is persuasive. Remember the only goal for a proposal is to persuade the prospect to do business with you.
Don’t make your proposals information dumps to the prospect. Think sales letter, not verbal vomit. A good proposal with a well vetted client should be 5 pages maximum. Almost all of mine are 2 - 3 pages because I’ve spent lots of time up front talking to the prospect and gaining their trust. The final proposal is simply a summary of all the ground we’ve covered with a price added.
Take a look at your last proposal. Does it have these 4 things? Is it a persuasive sales letter? Would you purchase from a provider who sent you that document? If not, then it’s time to revamp your proposal process.