Our sales training clients in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary deal with this challenge on a regular basis – the “hurry-up and do your best with limited information” proposal. It usually comes from a new inquiry where someone has the task of gathering information on a tight timeline. He or she may know little in the way of specific client needs and unfortunately, has no decision-making ability. The turnaround time is tight and you’ve been told to submit your proposal quickly. What do you do?
Consultative Salespeople are compelled to ask many questions to best understand the needs of their client. That’s what their proposal is based on. We all want to do a great job to show a new client that we have the professionalism to earn their business, so when we get a hurry-up request, it can be quite unnerving.
The Questions We Ask Ourselves
Here’s the frustration higher-end end B2B suppliers are faced with in this dilemma:
- What kind of proposal do I create with limited information?
- What chance of success do I have with a near-blind submission?
- How many hours of work might we devote to this to lose to a supplier with a lower price?
- What happens if my proposal requires major revision based on the true needs of the client?
- What if those revisions cause the investment to increase?
- What if the client expects us to stick to price and do sub-standard work?
There are three levels of activity with B2B Customers
Engaging with the customers that meet your ideal customer profile. These are the clients you mostly definitely want. They have manageable expectations on product, service and price.
Considering clients who meet your minimum qualifications of engagement. You feel they are potentials for the ideal customer profile, yet they might have a low budget in tandem with demanding expectations. You’d like their business and need to work past some obstacles.
The warning signs are obvious. While you don’t like to turn away business and seem arrogant, your instincts with this client are making you uneasy. You’ve had clients like this before and often questioned if working with them was the right decision.
It Comes Down to This
To understand where each client fits within the three levels of activity, they must be willing to freely share information on their needs. If they don’t have the time, resources, or desire, it will be extremely difficult to be consultative. The very definition of the word means that people need to work together toward the right decision or you will be pitching your proposal blindly. You’ll have to fight the urge to lowball the investment to make the price attractive because there isn’t much else to be excited about.
Before You Submit Your B2B Sales Proposal
I believe the key to engagement is to push clients up to the top level as much as possible – especially if you are a top-quality supplier. We make the conscious decision to put our high standard of hard work into a proposal. If we do this with limited information and don’t feel good about it, then we are the ones to blame.
Ask yourself this question…
How many times have you presented a proposal blindly to a potential client knowing limited needs and won the business? Most of our clients answer a resounding never response.
Why would a client not allow us to help them get a better proposal from us? There can be a lot of reasons for this including a rushed schedule, looming deadline, over-worked decision makers or lack of communication. There is also another reason that many seasoned Salespeople will attest to. The choice of provider may be virtually already made. A second quote or proposal is needed for proper protocol or the decision maker may be looking to negotiate price with his or her preferred choice of provider. This is where your quick, low-ball proposal comes in handy.
Experienced sellers have been placed in both ends of this arrangement and have learned how to deal with it.
Next Time – Try This
Next time you encounter a hurry up decision maker, ask them for the opportunity to ask the right questions to create a proposal worth consideration. Otherwise, it’s a waste of their time and effort, which no one wants. Encourage the client to be open to a higher level of proactivity.
Call and have the conversation. If they don’t return your messages which seems to happen often, send them an email like this.
“Hi, (name)! Thanks for the opportunity of providing you with a proposal for (request). We pride ourselves in doing quality work and stand behind the ideas we put forward. For us to do this, we would appreciate the opportunity to ask you some questions to better understand your needs. We can then offer you our best proposal. Please let us know what time works best for you. Thanks!”
This way, you aren’t pitching blindly or being inactive with them. You are requiring them to meet your minimum expectations of engagement. If they choose not to do so, then perhaps there’s another supplier who will be better for them.
You could follow up this communication with a phone call or another email. That’s your choice. Our clients are at the higher end of the price spectrum and feel the need to sell on the merits of the superior value they offer in exchange. In following our advice, they are relieved to know that they are focusing their client proposals with decision makers who wish to engage and create a partnership with the right provider.
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Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY