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Your proposal is not the sale

If a marriage proposal is to receive a resounding “YES”, then it’s usually the result of several years’ of romance, building relationships and quality, considerate effort.

Yet when we are selling we might be very quick to offer a proposal, which might be because the client has asked for it prematurely, but usually it’s because we offer it prematurely.

Your written proposal is not the sale – it’s the confirmation of the sale. You have to sell BEFORE you offer the proposal. You should sell the product, the solution, the concept, the price, the people, the extras, everything.

The reason for this is most people don’t read the proposal very well at all. They skim it – and skimming is the biggest passion killer of all. In fact, by the time they receive it (days or even weeks after you talked), the “heat” has gone out of the sale. The customer may have forgotten everything, and the document is just another one of 300 emails to read.

I think that if you haven’t sold effectively prior to proposal (ie they have agreed that everything should go ahead) then your chances of closing reduce dramatically. The “sale” is no longer a sale, but chasing paperwork, which is uncomfortable for both parties, inefficient and almost opposite to selling. It turns into a game of cat and mouse where the prospect avoids you because they are supposed to read 2000 words of stuff they don’t really understand. “Have you read the proposal, yet?”. (What a burden).

If you do find yourself in this game of cat and mouse, best advice is to forget about the proposal, and get back to the selling again. Restate the brief, find out about changing conditions, dig deep into motivations, concerns, egos, and go beneath the iceberg. Revisit BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timescale). Words like:

“Sheila, can we go back to basics here for a moment please? You have a team of 6, who need presentation skills, and they are losing pitches at a rate of 4 in every 5. You think that’s a bit high, because market conditions actually favour you now. You have a very appealing product, at a good price point, for a market that wants it. You approached us because you see us as a good solution…etc.”

Also, a word on price as it relates to proposals: It’s a good idea (actually pretty essential) to mention price to a client before you put together a proposal, as typically a proposal represents hours of your time. She could be thinking £1200, and you could be thinking £10,000. Here’s the line (once you have an idea of the price – so usually second or third call):

Jerry as an indication a program like the one we have in mind would be in the vicinity of £12,000. This might sound like a lot as a one off price but that would be spread over two years and include as many people as you like, plus it will help to retain the best people and turn them into top producers for you that you can then on-sell to clients. Does that fit in with your expectations?

Note – you are NOT hoping Sheila says yes. You are hoping she tells the truth. So, if you pick up uncertainty in his voice, then don’t let it lie there:

Jerry, I detect in your voice that it might be a big high/you’re not really digging the £12K price tag/we should be aiming for something a bit more affordable?… (Silence).

The point is, don’t be trapped into thinking that your proposal will do all the heavy lifting for you. Your proposal is not the sale. By the time you have put forward a proposal, you KNOW that they are going to say “yes”. Just like a marriage proposal, the work is done in the lead-up, not in the hope that everything turns out okay afterwards!

Want some help with your proposals? We offer world class sales training with a focus on proposal writing that wins lots of new business.

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