Don’t Do “Insert Company Name Here” Proposals

Some won’t like this post, because it will require more work. And more creativity on their part. But I think the message is critical:

Don’t do “insert company name here” business proposals.


What do I mean? You may try to save time, cut corners and improve efficiency by submitting virtually the same proposal to multiple prospects, especially if you are recommending a similar project scope to multiple prospects.

I get it. I’ve done it myself. And I didn’t sleep at night. And I don’t do it any more. Here are some additional thoughts on the subject:

1. If this prospect is your “dream client,” they deserve more love and respect than some generic template. Don’t they?

2. Is it more work? Yes. Absolutely yes. And if they are worth doing business with, than this is worth the effort.

3. Will it take more time? Yes. Yes it will. I get that there are not enough hours in the day. Trust me, I have a half-dozen proposals to draft at this very moment. It would be much easier to write one, and cut and paste name and address on each. But this is lazy. And disrepectful of the human beings on the receiving end of that proposal.

4. It will require you to be much more creative. And this scares the hell out of many people. But you are a creative. Read this if you don’t believe me. And this is the price of doing business in this day and age.

5. Draft this unique proposal quickly, while the ideas and creative solutions generated by your conversation with your prospect are still fresh in your mind. Or at least capture your thinking (in written notes or recorded audio) while still fresh. The priceless nuggets you recall from your meeting are essential to capture and include in the process. If you delay, you will lose those nuggets. Trust me. I’ve done that too…

6. We are no longer in a “job” mindset. We are in a “project” mindset. And naturally, unique proposals makes more sense in this context.

7. Each prospect has different needs. Different decision makers. And a different decision-making process. Once you learn some of these things about a specific prospect, you can craft a proposal that flows better with their internal process, rather than shoving your template down their throat. All so that you can save time to watch Dancing With The Stars instead…

8. Perhaps this idea will improve your overall prosposal drafting process. Are your proposals too long? Too detailed? To expansive? I learned to refine my drafting process significantly by writing unique proposals, only including the relevant details that they truly need. This effort, while difficult, has made my proposals better. If you are merely reusing the same proposal draft every time, you are likely not updating it. You are likely not upgrading it. You are not improving it. Going through this process, I improve my proposals every time. I make it better. I learn things from past failures to improve on the next one.

9. In the end, you might ultimately put out fewer proposals as a result of this action. But guess what? I am willing to bet your batting average of closed deals will increase.

10. The most important reason? Creating a unique proposal for each important business opportunity is an important exercise in clarifying your thinking on this opportunity. Merely typing in the name of the lead and the company is lazy, and requires ZERO thought and additional creativity. Every time I’ve created a proposal unique to each prospect, I add more value to the draft. Each time I think deeply about the specific prospect, I add more customization and personalization to the process. This makes it more personal, and more meaningful to the end recipient.

So, if this business opportunity is important to you and your organization, and the work worth doing, respectfully craft a personal, meaningful, sincere proposal for your prospect. Don’t half-ass it by taking the easy way out. And I’d think long and hard about whether you want to remain in an organization that does “cut and paste” sales, and requires you to sell this way.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

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  • Thomas Rector

    I agree and disagree… I use a general structure and format for most of my core engagements, since the parameters and statement of work are similar.  However, after fleshing out the general structure using my template, I viciously edit/expand to make it unique for the proposed client.  Deadlines, pricing models, and benchmarks are all unique with each client, and I make sure to create it as such.  In addition, my partner and I will BOTH proofread it several times (as well as use search-and-replace) to assure no old or incorrect elements exist.  Its not perfect, but it effectively works for us. 

  • Todd Schnick

    yeah, i suspect that most people will claim to fall into that camp. and
    that’s fine tom, if the client reads that proposal and thinks it was
    specifically and carefully created for them. i’ve just seen too many cases
    where it was blindingly obvious the main cruz of the proposal was written
    long before the current opportunity presented itself… you know?

  • Joe Lavelle

    Great post (again!) Todd – I am in the same camp as Thomas in that I agree and disagree.  Part of what makes a consultant successful is that the have a unique methodology or “a better mousetrap” that will accelerate the benefits to the client.  So in my proposals I have to balance my efforts to point out the uniqueness of the client’s problem and my proposed solution with the benefits of my experience and tools/methodologies.

    Thanks for the continued thought leadership and inspiration!  

  • Todd Schnick

    yeah, great notion of applying proven practice, experience, and methodology
    to your market. your prospects can benefit from your set of experiences to
    help them in their endeavor. but doesn’t those same set of experiences apply
    differently to each prospect? or are these prospects more similar then i am
    suspecting? perhaps this article is jaded by the fact that each and every
    one of my clients are SO very different…

  • Joe Lavelle

    You are exactly right Todd – and this is why it’s important to split hairs.  So many of my competitors get lulled into the “insert name here” approach which takes 5 minutes.  They don’t do the hard work to really understand the uniqueness of each client.  It’s great to have methodology and experience, that is 20%, not 80% of the solution.