It’s rare that someone who receives a sales proposal from me turns it down. And when that happens, it’s because I’ll have broken one of these five rules that I’ve set for myself.
1. Am I Still Trying To Sell?
I sell most effectively when I talk face-to-face with people and help them to visualise the result of working with me. If I’ve done my job right, the proposal is only a confirmation of what has already been discussed. It shouldn’t contain anything new to the prospect. Any surprise – such as an additional item that will increase the cost – could derail the whole sale.
Sometimes, I explain to a prospect, when they ask for ‘something in writing’, that creating a written sales proposal just for them will take time and effort on my part, ‘and there’s no point in me doing that if you won’t be able to say “yes”, I’m sure you understand’. Often that triggers the prospect into talking about some reservations they still have, which I can then deal with.
I don’t believe you can sell with a proposal. Selling is what you do before you write it.
2. Could My Mum Understand It?
My mother was a very sharp lady, who taught me, amongst many other things, to value clarity in the written word. There’s a temptation for us to show how clever we are by using long words and complicated sentences. Don’t be tempted. Use simple language.
Although my Mum took an interest in what I did, I don’t think she ever fully understood my career in technology and marketing. She simply wasn’t brought into contact with those things, except through me. But sometimes, she’d ask me about something I was doing, and I had to find a way of explaining it that made it possible for her to understand me, without having to understand the whole subject. It was tough to do that.
I write proposals as if my Mum was receiving them. I don’t require a prospect to understand my world. I just need them to understand, in simple terms, how they will benefit from what I’ll do for them, and how I’ll do it. Simple language is best.
3. Does It Call For Action?
In my proposals, I make it very clear that I would really like the prospect’s business, and I ask them for it. It’s always very clear what they need to do next in order to make the project happen. There’ll almost always be a piece of paper, included with the proposal, which needs the prospect’s signature.
A proposal shouldn’t be some airy-fairy proposition, with several options described, sent to the prospect for them to review, and maybe choose the one that suits them.
It should be a clear description of the problem to be solved, and a straight-forward recommendation for what needs to done. And it should ask for their business.
4. Will The Prospect Understand The Benefits?
The sales process will have uncovered some problems to be solved, and by this point I’ll understand how I can solve them.
I’ll have a clear idea for myself of why the prospect should engage me. But I need to describe the benefits of what I’m proposing in ways that the prospect will empathise with and truly understand. Am I using their preferred words and phrases to describe things, or jargon of my own?
And since the prospect may ask their colleagues to take a look at the proposal, I need to be aware of how they might view the project too.
5. Is It Authentic?
It’s an old adage, but it’s true. People do buy from people.
If the sales process to this point has been building empathy and understanding, it’s a bit odd that many sales proposals don’t have a style that’s consistent with what’s gone before them. They morph into an overly formal style, often using the third person to talk about what the proposer will provide.
For example, ‘My company will perform a situation audit with key management personnel before the main project commences.’ is so much less direct than ‘Before we do the main work, we’ll check, with the colleagues that you select, that we’ve included everything we need to in the project.’
I want my sales proposals to be an authentic representation of me and what I’ll do during the life of the project. I don’t want the prospect to have to find ‘the real me’ within a load of over-formal and inauthentic jargon.
What About You?
So that’s what I try and do, but tell me, how do you ensure that your sales proposals are successful? Please leave a comment and share your expertise.