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Marketing Your Products
Your Proposal Was Rejected ... But Why?
September, 2008

by Diane Hughes

When a request for proposal (RFP) comes in, you get excited! It¡¯s a chance to earn income, develop more business contacts, and expand your client base. You work your little heart out in order to be thorough, compelling, and professional. Everything is in place. Your RFP is geared to show why your product or service will meet or exceed the client¡¯s goals. With fingers crossed, you submit.

Whether through non-response, a phone call, or an email, you find out your proposal was rejected. But why? Have you ever wondered? Have you ever asked? You should!

Finding out why proposals are rejected can lead to some valuable insights that - in turn - lead to increased proposal acceptance. But how do you go about asking? Many people find this is an uncomfortable situation to approach. It¡¯s really quite easy, if you handle it professionally.

Step One - Create a Form

Create a form or questionnaire that lists a few questions you¡¯d like the answers to. You may want to ask:

• if the proposal itself was clear
• whether all the information the prospect needed to make a decision was included
• if the price was too high based on the services provided
• whether your product/service was flexible enough
• if any element was missing from your proposal


• ask to see the winning proposal
• ask which company won

These questions are too probing and will likely make your prospect feel defensive.

Step Two - Ask Permission

Ask your prospects for permission to send the questionnaire. This will give them the opportunity to refuse if they don¡¯t care to participate.

Step Three - Send the Form

Email works best in these situations, so, if possible, send your questions via email. Your prospects will have time to think about the answers and what information to provide.

If email is not possible, send the form via postal mail. Be sure to include a postage-paid and addressed envelope.

One note: While follow-up is usually a good thing, in this case it¡¯s not advisable. If the prospect is too busy or simply changed his/her mind about responding, let it go.

Step Four - LEARN!

When you get your responses, review them carefully. Don¡¯t make radical adjustments based on one or two pieces of feedback. Instead, wait until you¡¯ve collected several forms then look for trends.

If you see that most prospects are making reference to the same things, you¡¯ll know it¡¯s time to make some changes.

By asking a few simple questions, you can find out an enormous amount of information that can help to turn losing proposals into winning ones. Simply be professional. While no one will win every project they bid on, with some ¡ˇăinside information¡ˇŔ direct from your prospects, you¡¯ll have a much better shot at creating winning RFPs in the future.

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