January 08, 2009

Why Proposals Make Poor Sales People

Your proposal can’t and won’t sell for you, unless of course you have done all the ground work first. We write them assuming that they will sell for us, or more specifically that they will be read, and if read will be understood, appreciated, or even believed. 

Two decades ago, I enjoyed great success by directly and speedily replying to requests for proposals, often without meeting the customer in advance of submission.  How times have changed! 

As a general rule the earlier a proposal is submitted the lower the likelihood it will succeed.  Also the more proposals are generated, the lower the likely overall rate of success.   

So, how to ensure that when you do write a propoal it has the maximium chances of success?  Well, here are some of the ways the sales people we know are increasing their hit rates:

  1. Avoiding pre-mature diagnosis through more systematic needs analysis
  2. Avoid unilateral identification of needs and solutions
  3. That requires a bi-lateral approach, with lots of interaction, listening, probing, coaching, etc.
  4. Clear criteria regarding when Proposals will be prepared – a new approach to proposal preparation:
  5. Involve the customer in writing the proposal, or write the proposal with the customer at your side
  6. Avoid surprises – the role of the proposal is to confirm what has been already discussed, or agreed
  7. Trial balloon price and other aspects of the proposal and ensure feedback before submission
  8. Arrange a formal presentation of the proposal post submission
  9. Improving the quality and presentation of proposals, strengthening in particular the references and the investment and return sections

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