You might gladly write a sales proposal if you were guaranteed a sale. Salespeople, all too often, work very hard prospecting, then writing and presenting proposals. What happens after? They hear crickets (no response from email or phone) from prospects a week or weeks later. How can you avoid crickets? Don’t write another sales proposal unless you follow these guidelines.
Write a sales proposal only when you know how much the prospect’s problem or need costs.
Your ideal sales strategy is to avoid writing a proposal. After all, when a customer recognizes he has a problem and needs a solution, he doesn’t need a proposal to know he has a problem. Prospects all too often don’t realize they have a problem because they don’t know its cost.
Don’t write a proposal unless you know the problem’s cost. Here’s what happens if you break this rule. Prospects without an understanding of their problem’s cost do nothing with your sales proposal or at least that’s what it appears. It’s not right, but prospects actually do something. They avoid you. You hear crickets.
Avoid hearing crickets by uncovering what conditions prompted the prospect to reach out and ask for a proposal. You may have to dig deep and ask “why” or “and why is that?” several times to get to the root cause. That root cause is what you need to learn to be able to quantify the problem. Learn the impact on productivity, lost sales, or revenue and quantify it.
Write a sales proposal only when you know your prospect’s budget and key people.
Some customers ask for proposals long before they intend to buy. Some technical people may want to buy the products, but they may have to go multiple layers up and over to get budget approval. Don’t write a proposal for a prospect who really isn’t ready to buy.
You should be asking during your sales process about their budget. Certainly you can ask about the range of the budget. You might not get the range, but you will learn whether there is in fact a budget. You would respond to a prospect who tells you, “We can’t disclose the range of the budget” with the statement “So you do have a budget.” Most people like to correct mistakes. Watch to see how your prospect responds to your statement. Only write a proposal when your prospect has a budget. You are too early in his buying process to write one without a budget.
Learn who the key decision makers are at your prospect. Ask your propsect, “Who along with you makes the decision to buy?” You never ask if your prospect is the decision maker because it’s embarrassing for most people to tell you they are not the decision maker. Even more important is to learn who can stop the buying process. There often is someone who can say no. Be sure you are addressing that person’s concerns as well.
Write a sales proposal when you get agreement on next steps.
Here’s how to make it hard for a prospect to avoid you after you submit the proposal. Ask about next steps before you submit your proposal. You might not be ready to write a proposal when your prospect doesn’t have the next steps clearly defined.
Get agreement to actually speak with your prospect after the proposal. Propose it as a brief phone call to follow up on a particular day and time for five to 10 minutes. It’s a simple ask and if you sense any hesitation, inquire about that.
A guaranteed sale is not the norm with written proposals. While you should do your best to avoid having to write a proposal, when you do write one, your objective is to get the business from that proposal. I think Yogi Berra was thinking about proposals when he said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” That place without these proposal guidelines is cricket land.