Your New Business Proposal: Feel Like All Your Shots Are Blocked? (Part II)

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Two weeks ago we presented Part I of a two-part series about why a good new business proposal may be rejected.

The post was based on the Harvard Business Review article, 5 Reasons Good Deals Get Rejected.

In Part I, we addressed the first three possible reasons why even a terrific new business proposal maybe declined:

  1. You didn’t justify it (your proposal)
  2. You didn’t help them sell it internally
  3. You didn’t respect their constraints


This post wraps up the series with the final two potential reasons for rejection.

4.  You didn’t help them save face.

Hopefully, the need to help a prospect save face never develops.   Always set realistic expectations.  Or even set expectations a notch or two lower than what you can deliver, then delight them with something perceived as better.

Under-promise; over-deliver.  It’s a formula that can help avoid the need for a prospect to save face.

On a related note, Marketers tell us year after year in our New Year Outlook surveys that one thing that troubles them about agencies is the claim that they are full service — only to find out that’s not the case.  Keep big promises out of the picture, and the prospect won’t get put in the position of needing to save face.

5.  You didn’t offer closure.

The HBR article describes how decision makers may pass on a great proposal out of concern that by saying yes, they perceive they are going to need to commit to more before the “deal” is really done.

Again, at this stage you should know you prospect well enough to ask:  “What else to you need to see to accept the proposal?”   If the proposal is at a stage that requires this question, be certain to explore outlying concerns that are holding up the close.  Answer them honestly.

With regard to “closure”, I’ve often seen the issue being more about the agency not “asking for the order” rather than the scenario HBR describes.

And it’s important.

Again, on the client side, I can’t count the number of times agencies have presented their proposal, and left with a wave and a “let us know if you have any questions.”

Be certain to present your new business proposal in person. Among other benefits is that of watching reaction to the proposal by way of body language.

When the meeting is done; when all questions that can be answered there have been answered, and the next step appears to be either agreement or not, ASK for the business.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.