1. Home
  2. Blog
  3. Create proposal
  4. Making a proposal in uncertain times

Making proposals in financially uncertain times

“Can a prospect see that my business is doing badly based on my proposal?” This interesting question came to me.

Making proposals in financially uncertain times

“Can a prospect see that my business is doing badly based on my proposal?” This interesting question came to me from Arjen. He is going through uncertain times and will soon compete for a major assignment that could possibly turn the situation around. To explore his chances, we delved into his proposal together. Discover what we encountered and how we ended up with an informative and inspiring proposal.

The experience with a proposal

I have written about it before, the impact of our subconscious mind is enormous. Research by Professor Gerald Zaltman (Harvard Business School) shows that 95% of our decisions happen in the subconscious mind. It's Harvard, so you can assume it was a solid research study. How does it work then? Our brain consists roughly of a conscious and unconscious part. In the conscious part, rational and thoughtful choices are made. The unconscious brain is like an primal instinct, choices are made quickly and mainly based on association. According to Zaltman, we use this part most. And here we all think we don't rush into things and make unbiased, conscious choices. We all have blind spots, inherited from our upbringing or influenced by our environment, society or media.

Arjen's proposal

Arjen faced the challenge of putting his company back on the map, and winning that big contract felt like a last resort. Would his insecurities seep into his proposal? The answer is simply: yes. Read along and see how we were able to eliminate any doubts.

#1 From 'safe' to promising

As a whole, the proposal looked a bit unimaginative. Arjen wanted to play it safe and had prepared a decent cover letter, worked out a price specification, and to liven things up a bit he added the company brochure. Now I've known Arjen for a few years now and despite his miserable situation, we both burst into laughter. "Quite boring when I look at it," Arjen said. I advised him to give his proposal an inspiring cover. A cover with an image that visualizes the desired result as a preview of the sunny but realistic future that awaits the prospect if they choose to work with you.

#2 From subordinate to mutual respect

Arjen had told me that the conversation with the prospect had been quite relaxed. The prospect answered all questions and they clearly clicked. There was mutual respect, and they quickly realized they were on the same page on many issues. I couldn't find any of that in the proposal. On the contrary. The introduction said: "Our small family business is pleased to submit a proposal." Okay, the company has 9 employees, but the tone of this sentence is almost humble. Why "pleased"? During the conversation, the prospect had expressed high regard for family businesses. So why take such a subordinate attitude? Besides, unconsciously we are more attracted to successful, confident people. With such an uncertain start to the proposal, there's a good chance that a prospect will lose interest. My advice: remind them of the nice conversation right in the introduction: "I have never felt so aligned with someone so quickly before. That bodes well for our future together, don't you think (prospect's name)?

#3 From discount to added value

Arjen had included a significant discount in his proposal. Understandable, but instead of simply lowering the price, it's more effective to emphasize the added value that Arjen's services provide. Another option is to offer something extra. For example, an annual check-up, a payment arrangement, or an extended warranty. Above all, customers want their 'problem' solved. If you can demonstrate that, they are willing (despite what they sometimes make us believe) to pay for it. If you still want to give financial discounts, make it a one-time introductory offer so as not to create expectations for future proposals.

#4 From fake to authentic

It's not always easy either. You want your proposal to stand out and differentiate itself from the others competing. So you put your best foot forward. Because so much was at stake for Arjen with this project, the pressure to perform and make a good impression grew and grew. He forgot to be himself and even became formal in his proposal. "As I mentioned during our pleasant conversation, we would love to add your organization to our portfolio." Why are you suddenly using "you" now? Wasn't it "we" and "you" during that conversation? I asked Arjen. Advice: write as you speak. Just be yourself. For example: "We would love to become a regular client of yours. As far as I'm concerned, the foundation for that has already been laid when we spoke." Et voilà, there's your authentic message. It also says so much more and reinforces the confidence to work together.

#5 From passive to proactive

I quote Arjen's closing: "Attached you will find our brochure. We hope to hear from you soon." The brochure is good, but an About Us page is even better. Introduce the key contact persons to the prospect, add a video explaining the work or production process, and give a behind-the-scenes look. Now about the closing. It can be more proactive: "Naturally, we're curious about what you think of our proposal. If you have any questions, feel free to call me; otherwise, I'll contact you myself in two weeks." This way, you prepare your prospect, they don't feel hesitant about asking questions, and they know they are being taken seriously because you indicate that you will stay in touch.

The result

We optimize the proposal - it becomes an informative, transparent, and inspiring proposal. When we go through the final version together, we're completely satisfied. Everything flows smoothly, there's room for experience and trust, and we even incorporate the subconscious aspect. The proposal now acts like a marble in a marble run - effortlessly on its way to its final destination: the signature!


Just as a prospect's subconscious plays a role, your own subconscious also plays a role. The answer to the question "Can a prospect tell from my proposal that my company is doing poorly?" is yes. Knowing that, you can do something about it. Take another good look at your proposals. Trust yourself and the added value you offer.

And did Arjen get the project?

No, someone else was awarded the project. But two weeks later, the prospect contacted him again. Doubts had arisen. Arjen's proposal and the previous conversation led to him being asked to present his proposal again, this time to the entire management team - and with success! After our conversation, the success rate of his proposals significantly increased, and he got out of danger. Investing in your proposals, being open to feedback, raising awareness, and trusting yourself pays off big time!

Gabriëlle de Sain

Gabriëlle de Sain

Tuesday, May 7, 2024 - Create Proposal


Related articles

Proposal knowledge base
Everything about proposals and why they are important to your business. Read detailed information and learn how to make better proposals.
Proposal program for online proposals that strengthen your advantage
Discover how you can use a proposal program to create smarter, more powerful proposals that convince with your story
New contact management and functionalities
High time for a party at Offorte! We are launching a new version of customer management. After months of hard work, the job is done.
The story behind Starbucks
The story behind Starbucks. Discover the entrepreneurial story behind this special company and be inspired.
Increase your proposal conversions with call to actions
To get more results from your proposals, it is important to encourage the reader to take action. Learn all about call to actions in your proposals
Airbnb: How 3 air mattresses took the world by storm
How do you grow from 3 air mattresses to a global player? read this fascinating story about the origin and success story of airbnb.

Ready to get started?

Try Offorte for free during the 14 day trial

Click here to start