I have been in Sales, Sales Management, Sales Training Seminars, Mentoring, Business Consulting and Key-Note Speaking in one form or another, for more than 50 years now. During that time I have either learned, analysed, dissected or written many hundreds of sales proposals, perhaps maybe in the thousands – some were exceptional, many were extraordinary, others I would rate as good and many others were (to put things simply and in context) really ordinary. – in fact, so ordinary, they mostly complied with or just fitted a simple framework and little else.
The reason I have written about this vital subject in the manner I have, is because, far too many of the proposals I have analysed or reviewed seem to follow a pattern that tends make the same fundamental mistakes over and over. It is for these reasons I have focussed on three simple strategies that any salesperson should be able to understand the basics of your sales proposals well enough to ensure that you stand out from your competitors.
May I also suggest that anyone who personalises their proposals by adhering to this easy-to-use and understand format, is well on the way to getting the information to the prospect in a concise and structured way.
The best way I felt that these issues could be addressed is to separate how to create the proposals to address the issues of Sales Presentation as they can be achieved with either a face-to-face presentation to explain the proposal before it is presented in a written format. Another method is to provide a written proposal after a brief face-to-face meeting. The third method is to provide a written proposal somewhat similar to what one would expect of a sales proposal as a tender.
All three sections encompass all of the above. However, the first sector mainly encompasses what one could expect to achieve working a face-to-face sales proposal. The second with a combination face-to-face and written format. And the third favouring a written only sales proposal that may also be applied to a tender style sales proposal.
1. As they Spend Time With You they should Feel that it’s All About Them
Here is the first of the three segmented ways to ensure that not only is the proposal read by the prospect, but as they read the proposal they will be able to grasp both the purpose and the contents based on the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) Concept.
By structuring the Sales Proposal this way you are more likely to get their immediate attention, and if that happens within the first 90 seconds, they should be keen to follow you through the rest of the proposal. Another factor to realise with the proposal is that the direction of the content should have a change of content designed into it within each 10 to 15 minutes.
This is the process I would suggest you follow:
Always Open effectively. Far too many sales proposals start off with information about the seller’s company. I have no idea why anyone would use this approach. Prospect don’t care about you or your company at the beginning of the proposal. They really don’t want to know how long you have been in business, what awards you may have won, or what other companies you have worked with over any given time.
There is a time for that information and it can be used to advantage when used at the right time. All effective proposals should always highlight the challenge that the prospect is facing and the impact that it has, or may have in future, on their business. Good sales proposals do this early, and never on page two, three or fifteen.
Address their Wants (and Needs) early in the proposal. To achieve this at the foundational part of the proposal, I would start with an idea I have found really effective whenever I have to address any of the wants or needs issues at this point, and the easiest way to do that is to begin with asking a few key questions – the same questions that should have jumped out at you as you researched their company and the industry they are a part of. Then once completed, simply ask yourself if your one paragraph overview of the prospect’s situation appeared to be on track and if you fell it is, follow on with what you perceive to be the key objectives they would want to achieve.
If at any point you feel you had missed any of their objectives in your summary, simply ask where they were at in their own minds, as you could clarify your thoughts on their behalf.
Whenever you do something like this, it will demonstrate to them that you may have good understanding of their issues and concerns. Then state your objectives, in bullet-point form whenever possible, because it will be easier for them to read these and absorb the information you need to present to them.
Show them the real value. This doesn’t mean you simply expand on whatever you discussed in points one and two at great length about your personalised solution. Instead, identify exactly how your prospect will benefit them by implementing your solution. Then build on what it will mean to them if they take on your solution and do this by going back to working on the bullet points you brought up earlier. Once you have done this, highlight each point expanding on a separate value proposition for each point.
The more these points are personalised, the more you will build value via those solutions.
It should also be remembered that the purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate that you, through your company, have what you consider to be the best solution for your prospect’s
2. Now Getting Them to Understand the Superiority of Your Proposal
There are times that no matter what you attempt, your prospect cannot see the “wood from the trees” and continues suggesting that there are no differences between your offer and something else they were made aware of, or had been presented previously, or simply could not be swayed away from that awkward belief of theirs.
When that happens, here is something simple you could try to turn around the situation:
Differentiate. How are you and your product or service different? What makes your product or service better than others? So don’t try to copy any of the others. In fact, what will shape your success, is how you deliver a personal touch to the product or service you are selling from the prospect’s eyes and knowing what makes you unique lets you sell the uniqueness of that concept (from the prospects eyes) far more effectively.
Form relationships. Whenever you build relationships with prospects, new or old customers, or even when working referrals you are best to turn those relationships you have formed along the way into partnerships. Then if you provide enough value so that every one you encounter really appreciates doing business with you. When that happens, you will be well advanced in both creating lasting sales success and developing good clients for life.
Know what you want. Far too many salespeople jump in too quickly and try and close down a sale. Many will do so even before they know what they or their prospects really want. The reality here is if you step back and ask yourself what you’re really going after, and combine it with what will be best for your client, you will create a win/win scenario.
3. One More Way to Creating a Really Good Sales Proposal
As mentioned earlier, I have been in sales and sales management, in one form or another, for more than 50 years now. During that time I know I have learned, analysed and written many sales proposals – some were extraordinary, others were good and many others were really ordinary. Then as most of those proposals analysed seem to repeat the same mistakes, I have added the following ideas you can incorporate to ensure that your proposal stands out from your competitors.
Avoid corporate-speak and mumbo-jumbo. The best proposals are written in plain, easy-to-understand language. So never, never ever use any form of terminology that either might be difficult to understand or may cause the hearer to question the statements being made. And although the Sales Proposal may be thought of as a simple concept, too many include wording or technical information that’s just not necessary.
Keep it brief. Decision makers are far too busy to read a long proposal. It should also be understood that some proposals require a lot of information and detail, especially if a complex solution is being recommended. However, the longer the proposal, the more likely it is that the prospect will skim through it and flip ahead to the investment. Therefore, most experts suggest that it is much more effective to write a short, concise proposal and provide the appropriate back-up information if needed.
Avoid the words “I” or “we”. The more times these two words show up in your proposal the more likely they could conclude that the proposal is about you, not about your prospect or their business or company. This could also include mentioning your company name throughout the proposal. As a final suggestion here keep your proposal focused on your prospect and if you need to use a personalized word, then use the word “you” and never “I” or “we.”
The purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate that you and your company have either the best solution, or at least an ideal solution, for the prospect’s problem/s. If you apply the concepts that have been mentioned in this article and you will improve your chances of standing out from your competition.
There will also be the times that no matter what you attempt, it is difficult to create a good and viable sales proposal that is easy to read and just as easy to follow. Over the years I have had the good fortune to read dozens of sales proposals and to be honest, I am mostly under-whelmed by the majority of them. In fact, most of the proposals I see make the same fundamental mistakes.
Here are three strategies you can use to ensure that your proposal stands out from your competitors.
Use titles or headings. This is particularly important if your proposal is relatively long although can also be an effective approach with short proposals too. The use of headings also make it easy for your prospect to find key information whenever this is needed. Headings also break up the page and make the proposal easier to read.
Include at least one testimonial. Testimonials remain one of the most effective sales weapons available to a salesperson and work well whenever incorporated in proposals. Some salespeople like to add these as a P.S. just after the signature. On the other hand, others may choose to include several testimonials throughout the body content of their proposals.
Include a summary and end with a call to action. Many prospects skip the details of a proposal and simply flip to the last page. Effective proposals include a bullet-point summary of the services for the prospect. One thing you can include as a close to your proposals is,
“If you require any additional information please feel free to contact me.”
Alternately you could tell the prospects what you want them to do next.
It should also be remembered that the purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate that you through your company have the best solution for the prospect’s. Here are three simple strategies you can use to ensure that your proposal stands out from your competitors.
Address their Wants and Needs Early. Here’s an idea that’s really effective whenever you address any needs or wants issues is to begin with asking a few key about them. Once done, ask what objectives they want to achieve. To further investigate this one issue simply state that you want to clarify your thoughts on their behalf and go over some of the key points raised. Whenever you do this, it demonstrates you have a reasonable understanding of your prospect’s issues and concerns.
The next thing to do is to write down and discuss their objectives in bullet-point form. That way it becomes not only a better form of communication, but also creates a summary list that can be used at a latter time – and is especially valuable when closing.
Show your prospects the real value. This shouldn’t mean you expand on whatever you discussed previously at great length. Instead, simply identify exactly how your prospect will benefit by implementing your solution and then build on what it will mean to them if they take on your solution. At this time it would be of value to bring up the bullet points you wrote down earlier and expand each point as a separate value solution. This works in your favour because the more these points are personalised, the more you build value through those solutions.
Avoid any corporate-speak or marketing mumbo-jumbo. The best presenters work at using plain and easy-to-understand language. Far too often and far too many salespeople acquire a belief that it’s important to use “educated sounding” words when a simple every-day word would be sufficient. That also means you should never use terminology that might be difficult to understand. And although this concept is simple to grasp, far too many salespeople go out of their way to include wording or technical information that just isn’t necessary.
It should also be remembered that the purpose of a proposal is to demonstrate that you through your company have the best solution for the prospect’s challenges. Apply the above concepts and stand out from your competition.
This Article is by Peter Collins – In a sales career spanning more than 50 years, Peter Collins has focused on helping and bringing out the best in others – whether it involves training or mentoring salespeople, managers, business consulting to SME’s. Since the 1970’s Peter has built a reputation as a Nationally and Internationally Published author, and has 65 books to his credit, but he is mainly known for one book based on the Audio Tape series of the same name, Over 50 Ways of Closing the Sale. In his personal life, Peter has been sought after as an encourager and motivator that has given of his time and talents freely despite his busy schedule. Subsequently, he has assisted churches, pastors, community and charity groups, as well as individuals through his teaching, training, development and on-going mentoring.
Peter can be contacted through his website – profitmakersales.com