The Perils Of Sales Proposal Over-Engineering

I was recently moved by the Genovese bridge collapse.

I note that there is a related, second project pincer that eats away at success.


Right through to build way more than required to enlarge both project and profit.

It is this latter crime that strikes me as particularly galling. Indeed, examples surface showing Sicilian roads that should have been short and straight ending up as long and winding. A viaduct even crumbled recently after just eight days in operation.

There’s a pair of pointers here.

The first is where an incumbent or final competitor with elements that you believe to be superfluous – and crucially that you may not have – is progressed favourably through the bidding process. This is particularly tricky to face down should that very piece be one which a key influencer either manages or from oversight of which they gain and maintain organisational status.

I did wonder whether, in the aftermath of the bridge tragedy, you could deploy an objection handle along the lines of, “do we want this Palermo road to be straight from A to B, or zigzag there via unpopulated C, D and Z?”

One commonplace avenue is to isolate their single area and show a minimal to zero cost-benefit assessment. But beware. When you fight on someone else’s perceived strengths, verges can be strewn with the litter of your forecast.

It is rare I compete against a higher ticket. But should that be the case, there are plenty of potential preferences to plunder. Simplicity, quicker payback, rapid deployment, easier maintenance, less pressure, stronger project guarantees, closer ‘true’ fit.

One aligned flip of this is an issue we can create when we are so keen to mark off every possible ‘need’. This can lead to a Prop bulging with brilliant components. Yet pricewise ends up dwarfing alternative offerings. To the extent that the cheaper comes to look a lot more palatable.

Here too there are some tried and tested tricks. Especially with the initial Prop creation phase.

And some kind of “pre-proposal” activity in the form of collaborative drafting remains an essential part of most solution sales cycles.

Distinguishing between different phases. Labelling the differing options by prospect division or business unit. Even the old school ‘First Class, Business, Economy’ can have a place.

Not all solutions lend themselves to such clear demarcation of parts.

But when in the early stages in particular, anything you can do to prise open a sealed whole and gain sight of the buyer’s real box-ticking high-scorers will be well worth it later on.

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