“This is interesting. Why don’t you put together a proposal for me of what we’ve discussed and let me take a look at it.” – typical comment from a buyer at a prospect company at the end of a sales call
One of the mistakes that even veteran sales pros make is the proposal head-fake. They present to a strong prospect company who offers them the opportunity early in the process to provide a proposal. This is a buying sign, right? Isn’t this what we went to the meeting for, was to get to know the company and get their commitment for an opportunity to do business? Don’t you need a proposal so that you have a scope of work that you can work through with the prospect? Right? Right?
Prospects will ask for proposals early on for 3 reasons:
- To get you out of their office without offending you or having to listen to your well-crafted responses;
- To meet their corporate governance requirements for considering outside vendors when buying products and services; or
- To learn more about the current market solutions and prices.
If you want to convert more proposals into sales, propose less often, propose later in the sales process, and propose only when you have gotten the 5 most important requirements met before proposing.
The 5 things you must have before submitting a proposal:
- An Executive Sponsor. I’m not talking about a supporter or a favorable buyer. An Executive Sponsor has agreed to the key role of securing the time and consideration of other members of the buying team. She has agreed to provide you with necessary information to make your proposal a tailored solution to her company. If there are logjams in the process, she will take your calls and emails to help you work through them. She has not agreed to buy yet, but you have real support.
- Defined Scope. The core idea of what you are proposing: how big, how much, in what locations over what time frame and so on. I have seen proposals that were no better than a list of services and a ramping price schedule. That’s not selling. That’s quoting and hoping. A great way to give away information, a miserable way to close business.
- Clear Outcomes. How do you know when you’ve won? Is there a clearly defined set of outcomes that means that the relationship has been successful? A proposal includes a feedback loop and a measurement schedule, defined up front.
- Implementation and Ramp Up Plan. Proposals give the prospect a clear picture of how this will roll out including roles, responsibilities and review of performance cycles. If you have not fleshed this out, then don’t ship the proposal.
- Price. Even if your proposal is a working document on pricing, or has ranges based upon the choices made with the prospect, you need to have these ranges defined verbally before you send out the proposal. If you are sending your price for the first time with the proposal, you are wasting time.
Proposals are not supposed to be Christmas presents where your prospect opens them up not knowing what to expect inside. Proposals should be a written confirmation of what has already been agreed upon.
If you want to be more successful with your proposals, then be more effective in your selling. Work through the core issues before writing your proposal. If your prospect keeps hurrying you through the discussion and pushing for a proposal, the deal is not real. Do not be hurried in your process to get a proposal to them. Instead, explain the process you follow as well as the information that you need. Make certain that the person to whom you are presenting understands her role as your Executive Sponsor. Then follow the 5 proposal must-haves, and your conversion rate will double.