July 18, 2012 by Ken Dooley
Posted in: communication, In this week's e-newsletter - Sales & Marketing, Latest News & Views - Sales & Marketing, negotiating, Sales meeting ideas, training
Here are some guidelines for writing your proposal:
- No surprises. Customers don’t look kindly on surprises. It’s always easier to deal with and defuse negative issues if customers are prepared for them ahead of time. Nothing in the proposal should be a surprise to prospects. The power of the proposal isn’t in flowery prose or multimedia graphics. It’s in the fact that customers have actively collaborated in its preparation and already agree with its conclusions. When they read the proposal, customers should agree that the solutions provided match their criteria.
- Use the customer’s fingerprints. You accomplish this by using the prospect’s exact terminology and ideas as often as possible. Eliminate the verbal distinctions that separate you from the customer. Everything is “us” and “we” — that is, you and the customer working together. Try not to make customers translate your terms into their language. The more your proposal reads like a document that might have been produced within the customer’s organization, the higher the comfort level. You’re combining the best of your company’s experience and knowledge with the best of your customer’s and you’re describing the desired results in terms the customer is familiar with.
- Ask for pre-proposal feedback. There will be times when the purchasing decision is going to be made outside the cast of characters you have met with. In these cases, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback on your proposal from the people you’ve been dealing with. They may provide you with some feedback so you can make adjustments before your proposal moves to a higher level.
- Provide a participative presentation. It’s usually a good idea to ask members of the customer’s team to participate in the presentation. Customer participation is particularly effective when discussing problems and possible solutions. These are areas to which the customer’s team members can speak with an insider’s authority and credibility. Members of the customer’s team are usually more than willing to participate, since it gives them the chance to demonstrate their expertise to top management. The greater the team’s ownership in and comprehension of your proposal, the better the odds are that your proposal will stand out.
- Identify the links between the solution you’re discussing today and future sales. At the same time you’re selling and installing the short-term value, you need to be positioning and anchoring your long-term capabilities. As you talk about the value the solution delivers, you can also mention opportunities for future added value.