Sales proposals are an integral part of the B2B sales process. Love them or hate them, at some point you are going to have to write one. A well done proposal can make closing the sale a lot earlier, a poorly constructed proposal can actually extend the sales cycle or derail the sale completely.
To help make the most of your proposals here are three steps that will help you present a winning proposal.
1. Qualify Buyer Intent
It doesn't cost a customer anything to ask for a proposal but it can cost a sales person two to six hours of time spent crafting one proposal. And many prospects will use the proposal as a tactic to deflect a sales person. So it is very important for a sales person to understand where their customer is at in the buying process and why they client is asking for a proposal.
Before any proposal is delivered to a client, the sales person needs to make sure they have done their due diligence and have qualified the client. Three things need to be established prior to sending off a proposal.
Establish full specification of the project/job - This sounds like it should be a given that sales people will make sure they have all the information before agreeing to send a proposal. But you would be surprised to find out how often it actually happens. Calling back the prospect multiple times to ask additional questions has a very negative impact on the confidence the prospect has in your ability to complete the job.
Have a checklist or appointment guide with you during the initial stages of the sales cycle to make sure you get all the information you need up front.
Establish who is the decision maker and what the decision making process is - Again, this is something that many sales people fail to do early in the sales process. They assume they are talking with the right person and then right when they are ready to close a new person enters the discussions and begins to influence the buying decision. Before forwarding a proposal to your contact you need to make sure you have had quality face time with the final decision maker. If you haven't you risk not addressing their key concerns in your proposal.
Not only do you need to identify the decision maker early, you also need to identify what their specific process is. One person or group may make the final decision but if you understand who the key stakeholders are and how they influence the purchase decision. If you can turn each stakeholder into an internal champion, you are better positioned to make the deal happen.
Establish an initial client agreement on the pricing and implementation - You proposal shouldn't include anything that is a surprise to your client. Your proposal should be an overview of everything that you and your prospect have discussed and initially agreed on. If you are inserting any new information into your proposals, be prepared to push your closing date back. As you progress through your sales process you really need to get agreement from your client at multiple points throughout the sales process. You discuss their issues, you get confirmation on impact. You talk about objectives, get agreement on the impact of hitting those objectives and how to measure them. You talk about initial ROI, you get agreement on those numbers. You discus budgeting, you definitely want agreement from your client on what they have budgeted for this project.
2. Turn your Proposal in to a Marketing Brochure
Content is king. Many salespeople start the proposal with information about their company, but this doesn't help your cause. A proposal is an opportunity to show how you can help, not how great your company is.
With that in mind, the first info your client sees in your proposal should be all about them. You should be demonstrating that you understand their situation, the impact their situation is having, and what they want to accomplish. This section should also outline how they will measure their desired outcomes.
While you want to outline the key features of your product that will help them achieve their desired outcomes, the features section needs to be framed differently from the "we do this and this and this" format that is common. Your features need to be framed around the idea of what those features will do for them and the difference they will make in your client's company .
Once you have shown how you can help, you need to help your client understand how you are going to take them from point A, their current feeling of dissatisfaction, to Point B where they are delighted in how the business is performing. Laying out the process of how you will work with them will make it easier for them to visualize the outcomes you say that you can deliver. I prefer displaying this visually in a map or timeline along with providing a verbal overview.
Testimonials are also a powerful addition to your proposal along with the logos of companies that you have worked with successfully. They help provide credibility and often reduce the risk factor for the client. When possible, use testimonials from companies similar to the prospect's.
3. Have a Plan
I see it happen all the time. Sales people send out a proposal to a client that they think is going to close and then they never get back in contact. The client doesn't reply to emails or return phone calls, and the sale person can't understand what happened.
Before ever agreeing to produce a proposal, it is imperative that sales person establish what happens next. Is it a meeting? Is it a phone call? Video call? While it is okay to send a proposal to a client to review, it is never appropriate to expect your proposal to sell your product all by itself. This may be your last chance to make a sales presentation and you don't want to give up that opportunity. Failing to get a commitment to the next steps of the process increases your sales person's exposure to the risk of the sale stalling.
Your proposal must tell a clear story that is clear on the big differentiating message for our product and company taking into account your prospect's needs along with your brand story and unique selling propositions. Effective proposals not only helps you stand out from your competition, it will also help you close more business.