Don’t Be Presumptuous in Your Proposals

Golden Rule of sales proposals: Never insult your prospect’s intelligence.

One of the best ways to do just that? Assume they don’t know the psychological game you’re playing when you go for the over-presumptive close . . . which then becomes the presumptuous close.

We all know the classic example of the presumptive close: “So would you like the red one or the blue one?”

A little of the presumptive close may be strategic but err on the side of extreme caution in the context of a formal proposal. If the deal is such that it’s called for a submission, rather than one you’ve been able to get over the line in earlier meetings and presentations, your focus should be on compelling rather than presuming.

There are many ways you can come across as presumptuous. They range all the way from presumptive and ill-researched, to pushy, to arrogant, to very poor form.


  • Referring to the prospect organisation as your enterprise’s “business partner”.
  • Similarly to the above, referring to your “partnership” (unless in the hypothetical, example-based sense).
  • If your research has been insufficient, filling in your knowledge gaps with assumptions.
  • Closely related to the above, presuming to know more than you do about the internal dynamics or workings of your prospective client or customer organisation.
  • Referring to information that may, in fact, be considered closely guarded (but which may have been inappropriately disclosed) by members of the prospect organisation.
  • Framing your copy in such a way as to indicate you believe you have an unerring insight into the intricacies of what is important to the prospect, if you haven’t been told and it’s too subjective or too intimate in nature for research to have been able to uncover or verify.
  • Being so familiar as to make the reader feel “icky”. This won’t bring you closer. It will likely have the reverse effect.) This is where it really pays to understand the culture of the prospect organisation. Some are quite formal by today’s standards, and some are extremely informal. While you still shouldn’t be presumptuously familiar, there is a greater margin for error with the very informal organisation.
  • Using your prospective client or customer organisation’s logo or colour scheme in your submission. (This can border on, or actually be, a breach of copyright.)