5 Reasons Why Customers Hate to Read Your Sales Proposals

There’s one moment of truth in every large B2B complex sale: when a proposal is submitted to an RFP (Request for Proposal).

Until then, customers haven’t evaluated, decided, or bought anything.

Up to that point, it’s only sales’ hopes and customers’ explorations.

So when that moment of truth comes, why do customers have a hard time evaluating proposals?

Because many (most?) RFP responses aren’t customer/evaluator centric: they look like compliance racing for a deadline.

Here’s five reasons why customers hate to read sales proposals, and as a result, evaluations are harder to make.

No time available

#1 Customers have no time to read proposals

Other than Procurement, customers on eval teams have day jobs. Whether they’re in plant operations, quality assurance, safety, legal, HR, etc., they’re on the team for their perspective/expertise.

They’re not given time off to read proposals. They have to fit that in between meetings, emails and calls that scream for their attention. How much attention do you think they can really give to this extra job?

#2 Customers are expected to read thousands of words

A customer on an eval team might be expected to read 90,000 to 200,000 words as part of evaluating proposals (i.e., 15,000 to 25,000 words per proposal, times six to eight proposals).

Consider that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has only 76,944 words.  And RFP responses? So many words, so little time.

Dense text kills, in a bad way

#3 Dense-text is reader-unfriendly & kills (in a bad way)

Unless you’re a corporate tax lawyer (nothing wrong with that), there’s no need to answer each RFP question with 45 paragraphs and 80-word sentences.

Unrelenting dense-text is a poke in the eye with a sharp font. It kills customers’ attention and suggests they jump to the price page.


#4 Marketing babble to anonymous audience

By the time customers evaluate proposals, they want lean meat, direct responses: more like Hemingway than Faulkner.

Drop the marketing speak, aka smoke and mirror text.

Some RFPs may include misplaced-RFI type questions, like “How many years have you been in business?” Don’t clog up all other responses with regurgitated website/brochure info.

And if your cover letter runs to more than one-page, you’ve lost them at “Hello.”

Drop the obligatory “Thank you oh so much for offering us this wonderful opportunity to participate in your RFP process,” and…

Get. To. The. Point.


#5 Too many pages

When suppliers don’t know what’s important to a customer, their entire proposal library is dumped into the RFP document. Better not miss out on something that may be important, right?

Voila! 350-page, kitchen sink proposal. Price page anyone?


Proposals for large complex B2B sales are difficult to read and evaluate. Don’t make the eval team’s work any harder.

Think first, then respond with lean, meaningful proposals that are customer/evaluator centric. They’ll thank you with signed deals.

IMAGES: Read/Review by Sebastien WiertzRunning out of time by Thomas Auoverload by groucho

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