A new year and a new sales cycle! So, I thought let’s kick off the year with sales proposal insights. This is an area that I’m very passionate about and love. I have significant experience in sales & business development. Lately, I’ve been asked by a few of my clients to review and compare different vendor proposals. They want an objective eye and opinion. They just don’t understand what is being proposed to them. This is the inspiration for this week’s blog.
Sales proposals are one of the first touch points with a customer to explain the value. It’ is the first written deliverable that we are providing to the client. It’s putting pen to paper and creating a level of commitment. It’s exciting times to be able to get a sales proposal together for clients. We need to remember, that sales proposals are to articulate and illustrate the level of confidence that your client will get by hiring you. However, many sales proposals fall short. This blog is about just that..I’m going to go over the most common sales proposal mistakes and provide some tactical tips in how to incorporate some of these best practices.
I actually did a free webinar on this topic, so you can also hear more details and some of the questions that I got.
Let’s remind ourselves of what is the definition and intent of a sales proposal.
What is a sales proposal:
I took the definition from Google Dictionary
A proposal is simply a written plan & offer from a seller to a prospective buyer. Another definition of proposal is an offer of marriage, which is also true in the sales proposal world because it is an offer of trust and partnership.
- It’s a formal written plan/offer from a seller to a prospective buyer
- To put forward for consideration & discuss with others
We need to remember that most often the proposal will be discussed with others that may or may not be familiar with the project or initiative. We need to provide a convincing story/offer in order for potential buyers to depart with their hard earned money or tight divisional budgets. Clients have the expectation that you’re the best option for them and will represent them in a way that makes them look like a rock star! This is where the art of marketing and sales, really comes into play.
Clients are looking for support and experts in an area, someone that can really lead them and drive things successfully. Clients only know what they know, they don’t know what they don’t know. It is important that they get a level of transparency to be able to understand the journey that they are about to embark with you. It is important to really understand the client and truly be able to represent their needs.
1- Unqualified Sales Lead
I have seen this way too many times, where I get a generic proposal and no one has spoken to my client. It seems that their sales pipeline is based on volume versus qualified sales lead.
Have you received those emails? ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or the LinkedIn emails? A little spammy and old school/ old fashioned and COLD and unqualified. Sometimes we send out proposals too soon, too early and we lack information, because we haven’t spoken to a client.
Not every sales proposal deserves the right energy &/or effort. Sales proposals are timely activities. They require some level of due diligence, research to understand who our customer is. However, there are some preliminary things to consider:
- Does it fit our business criteria &/or business model?
- Does it fit with our target audience – industry/size/revenue
- Does it fit with your go to market strategy?
- New or Existing Relationship
- Are you dealing with the decision maker or the gatekeeper of the decision maker?
2- Sales Discovery Call
A proposal should formalize what has already been agreed upon. Which means, that you should have done some preliminary research and had a discovery call. The prospect/potential client should already provided you with some information:
- What is the objective, goals and the value of the project/initiative from THEIR perspective?
- How can you help them solve this? What experience are they looking for?
- Client’s budget – what is their ball park budget?
- Timelines: Urgency for solution
- Commitment time frame: What is the turnaround time to make a decision?
If the potential client isn’t willing to have a 30 minute call with you to understand their vision, needs and parameters, then they really are not invested in this solution with you. They may already have a preferred supplier/vendor.
3- Not being Client-Centric
Use the proposal to illustrate and articulate the journey that they will take with you. From the approach you’ll take to how & when you’ll deliver. Some businesses will put information in at random in almost a stream of thought manner. A great way to confuse them. Some businesses will put information in a random order without thinking that they are telling a story. A story and journey that they will explain to other stakeholders.
4- Features tell, benefits sell
This happens a little too often. We tend to focus on telling them what WE want to tell them instead of focusing on what the client wants to know. WHY’ do they need this product/service from THEIR perspective? Have we uncovered and discovered our prospective client’s why? We end up listing all the features of the solution, instead of the benefits that the potential customer will gain. We need to help translate how the features will enable them to be successful based on the value from the client perspective.
5- Do the ‘MOM’ Test
The ‘MOM’ test is my favourite. It is simply getting someone to proofread the proposal that is not overly familiar with the industry or solution. We need to remember, that the sales proposal is an educational tool. We are providing a story of the journey that we are going to take. If you ‘MOM’ or whoever can understand the value that you’re going to provide to the client, then you WIN!
Also, check for grammar and spelling mistakes. I see this all the time. Someone will use an old template and it will have a previous client’s name or we’ve spelled the client’s name wrong. How embarrassing! We all need editors in life.
Other key considerations:
- Grammar & Typos
- Is the proposal in UK English, Canadian English, US English? Where is the client located?
- A table of contents – to provide structure
- Not being direct or being too technical
- Using too many acronyms & abbreviations without explaining it
- Different fonts & sizes
Another pro tip – Write the proposal and read it the next day with a clear set of eyes. You know what they say, it’s always harder to write than edit, so give yourself time to edit!
These small details count & are important as it will dictate the level of attention to detail and care you will provide to your other clients. It’s a representation of you and your brand. The intent of the proposal is to show how easy it will be to work with you.
Other FREE Goodies:
I also did a free webinar about how to Optimize Sales Proposals topic, there are more details and information. Check it out!
Share your thoughts, feedback and if you have other tips for others!