A vital part of the sales cycle for B2B Salespeople rests on the creation and presentation of the sales proposal. Based on the true needs of your client, the proposal is the culmination of the hard work, patience, and talent of the Salesperson. When crafted with skill and diligence, your written proposal has the ability to be accepted without any consideration given to a competitor.
I’ve had the pleasure of writing sales training and marketing proposals for clients in Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton and Calgary for the past 25 years. In my B2B selling experience, the true product we offer is expertise, knowledge and consultative services of knowing to position ourselves uniquely with Salespeople, Sales Managers and Business owners. We teach our clients how to fast track the decision making process.
In this PROSALESGUY BLOG, I’m happy to reveal my Five Steps to allow you to work cooperatively with your clients to create proposals that get accepted quickly without competitive comparison.
While I know that may seem like a bold statement, this has been repeatedly my experience. Before I detail this strategy, please take the time to understand the philosophy of writing a strong proposal that gets accepted.
There are no shortcuts to Sales Proposals
Too many Professional B2B Salespeople rush the sales cycle. Perhaps we are too impatient for results. The sense of urgency that Salespeople and their Sales Managers have to close deals and fill their sales funnel with CRM information causes them to hurry the procedure, skipping the valuable steps of working in tandem with the client.
Answer this question
Would you rather churn out twice the amount of proposals in a week to get an acceptance rate of 30 to 40%, or deliver half as many to get twice the amount of confirmed business? You may think that this formula is a wash either way, yet it’s not.
Think of the investment of time and effort in doing the proposals, sourcing out the right clients to work with and doing a proper Customer Needs Analysis with each them. Now let’s add the frustration felt with every proposal presented that is rejected. Factor in the amount of energy invested in chasing clients who say they still haven’t made a final decision after a few weeks since presenting. We all know that acceptance usually comes quickly and delayed response means a probable no.
Win slow and lose fast
I am a firm believer in this philosophy when engaging with qualified clients. I’m not suggesting that we drag our feet and show little sense of urgency. We need to be proactive in securing the right business from decision makers matching our ideal customer profile. These decision makers will lead us to repeat business and strong, trusted referrals.
Here’s the key – we need to be diligent with doing a detailed Customer Needs Analysis and get great insight, support and buy-in from all decision makers involved before you present your proposal.
Here’s the winning formula for getting your proposals accepted:
A Thorough CNA + Partnering with your Client + A Great Proposal = Acceptance
This is where careful planning, patience and diligence on your part are required. Rushing through this process threatens the very likelihood of getting approval.
Step #1: Researching your client and your decision maker
You want to ask great questions in your Customer Needs Analysis to find the true needs of your client. Asking simple questions that could’ve been answered by visiting the customer’s web site shows little respect for the decision maker’s time. Go through all areas of their website. A FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions section is a gold mine of information. Photo Galleries are always well visited and clear signs of what’s close to the company’s heart. Don’t miss investigating these sections.
Google the name of the company with the word “news” after it. This will assess the company’s digital footprint and may give you great information for your CNA. Google the name of the decision maker followed by the company name. You may find his or her LinkedIn Profile that contains excellent intelligence. Once again, read everything applicable to this individual. The person’s employment background, endorsements and groups of interest will give you great knowledge on the individual before your meeting.
Step #2: The Customer Needs Analysis
Ask a series of low trust questions to build rapport, confidence and trust in your decision maker. Use the Five Success Skills of Professional Salespeople, detailed in my book SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money, to build confidence in the mind of the person you’re meeting.
1. Ask Great Questions
2. Actively Listen
4. Summarize the Customer’s Needs
5. Project a Positive Personality
Take notes and capture the true feelings of the client. After earning rapport by asking low trust questions, you should attempt to get answers from high trust questions. Your decision maker will be greatly motivated by either the rewards achieved or pains removed in the decision to give you their business. Invest the time to find the true needs of the client and build a sense of urgency for them to want to take action.
Your CNA should be at least 80% focused on their company. SHUT UP and listen to what they are actually telling you. Spend no more than 20% of the CNA on you and your company’s services. It’s all about them at this point. At the end of the appointment, thank them for their sincerity in communicating and make the next appointment to continue the discussions.
Inform them that you would like a few days to digest this information and use the talent and resources of your company to come up with a potential strategy to meet their needs. Ensure your decision maker understands that the next meeting will not be a presentation – it’s an open discussion and collaboration to work together toward coming up with a solution that makes sense to them.
Ask them if that sounds reasonable and get their buy-in. If they agree, you are already halfway to receiving acceptance. Inquire as to whom besides themselves are involved in making the decision to proceed. Make an offer for that individual(s) to be present in the next strategy meeting.
Step #3 – Send the Decision Maker an email
This is a powerful way to continue to strengthen your newly formed relationship. The next morning send your client an email summarizing the needs you verbally confirmed in the Fourth of the Five Success Skills of Professional Salespeople. In the email, ask the client to reply back indicating that the two of you are in agreement of needs analysis done yesterday. Inform the client to make any changes that they feel appropriate after having a day to think things over. Ask them in the email if there’s anything else they would like to add to the discovery.
Ensure you get a response from them before your next meeting. Once that occurs, you have now received a commitment and buy-in from your client twice. The odds of acceptance are now in your favor.
Step #4 – Strategy Meeting with the Decision Maker(s)
Now you are meeting with the people involved in designing the strategy and making the final decision. Open the meeting by asking your client if anything has changed since the last meeting. You would be surprised at what could be revealed. If your client is on board with the concept of open discovery, they will be sincere in giving you vital information that could influence your strategy and the decision to proceed.
Review the full needs of the client once again. Repetition is the basis of all learning. It also personally brands you as organized and concise in your communication.
Present the concept of your strategy in meeting their needs. This should be done verbally as it will show your client that you have conviction in your approach and have internalized the solution. Feel free to detail it on paper. This is still not your proposal – it’s your solution to allow the client to feel the rewards achieved or pain removed in doing business with you. Every step of the way, gain feedback and consensus. Ask those present how they would revise the strategy to take it to the next level.
Once they feel great about the strategy, cover all the specifics required – time frame, deadlines, metrics of measurement, expectations and most definitely investment and budget required.
At the end of this meeting, summarize everything that has been agreed upon. Ensure everyone is on the same page and 100% in agreement on all details. Conclude by asking what’s required to get this proposal accepted. By now, your client is trusting you and probably excited about approval. No doubt, they have invested time and effort in tandem with you. They will tell you what you need to know to get this deal confirmed. Book the appointment for the presentation.
Step #5 – Present the Proposal
Start by thanking everyone for their sincerity and willingness to work together. This proposal is the culmination of everyone’s collaboration and hard work. Without the client’s support, this solution would not be possible. Given them the entire credit for everything. They will probably acknowledge and even thank you for your hard work and approach in helping the process.
Ensure your proposal contains their full needs, strategy and all details required. Make it concise, relevant and well written with absolutely no surprises. I personally am a huge fan of bullet points. Business people hate reading long, boring paragraphs. Give them what they want – a clear direction of a solution and how you are going to make that happen.
The true secret to this approach
People support what they help create. If your client has the opportunity to shape the solution specific to their needs, they are very likely to recommend or approve it. They will now likely be your personal champion and the best internal Salesperson for you. They will also be a great source of future referrals.
Consider that the client has already agreed to their true needs, strategy for success and every possible detail required before your proposal has even been presented. Why in the world would they walk away from all of their hard work?
I realize that every Salesperson, Sales Manager and Business Owner will need to adapt these Five Steps based on their sales cycle and industry they serve. It makes sense to customize it based on your products, services and how your clients make decisions.
What do you think? If you found this post useful, I’d love to hear your comments. Share this article on your favorite social platform.
Thanks for reading!
Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY
Author of SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money.
Available on Kindle and paperback.
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PROSALESGUY TRAINING offers Keynote speaking, Group Sales Training, Individual Sales Training, Sales Management Mentoring and Consultation, and Business Consulting Services in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Training can be done on site or via web conferencing.
All good strategies in developing a winning proposal. Having the prospect involved in the process is key. I have found that if they can help develop the plan there is a much higher closing ratio. The downside of this is trying to get them to give you the time. Unfortunately all too often they don’t want to get involved. They just want to see what you come up with. It takes a persuasive sales person that is good in that area to get that commitment. There is the real issue. Developing a strong rapport with the key person(s) is what it takes to make that happen.
As always, thanks for the thought provoking topics and direction.
Thanks for your comment and kind words, Ted. In addition to increasing a Salesperson’s closing ratio, this procedure would allow a Salesperson to ask for a larger commitment required to meet the client’s needs. I can appreciate that many time-starved decision makers will expect the Salesperson to magically engineer the best solution independently. Perhaps the best way for the Salesperson to position this might be as follows. “There are two ways we can do this. I can work independently and do my best to come up with a good strategy or we can work together to devise a great strategy that you know will be successful.” The key (and challenge) is to identify and engage quality clients that meet the ideal customer profile.
Love this, Dave – it reiterates the importance of relationship development and taking a moment before diving into the sales cycle. I’ve sent your blog to the team today as a great reminder of how we can influence buy in with our clients. Great way to start my Tuesday!
Thanks, Christine! I’m glad to know that you feel the post is worthy of making it part of your sales team direction. I have always believed strongly in the principle that people support what they help create. Working in tandem with the client to create a proposal shows your sincerity in wanting to meet their needs, over-deliver and create a strong working relationship.