Don’t Write Proposals, Write Confirmations
One of the most odious, frustrating and difficult parts of being in sales is going taking the time to put together a proposal only to have it rejected, scoffed at or to get no response at all.
This article is devoted to making sure that never (again) happens to you.
And paradoxically enough, we do that by not writing proposals at all, rather we write confirmation, summations if you will.
Once you think you are nearing the closing of a sale, one of the best questions you can ask a client is, “What are the specific (sequential) steps that you (your company) normally goes through (for us) to get a deal or sign a contract?
The information you will get in the answer to that question will tell you exactly where you are at and what still needs to get done.
And more importantly, what do you do if in the course of the conversation, the client says those ghastly words, “Why don’t you send me a proposal”?
Do not take the bait.
This question does not mean what most of us would like it to mean.
We think it means “Aha, we have a deal.”
It might mean or even more likely means that he is trying to get rid of you, nicely.
When this happens, immediately count to four steamboats, and then respond: “I would be happy to….
Are you Asking me?
1) To confirm what we have agreed upon today, in that we have a deal,
2) Or are there still people we need to speak to,
3) Or issues that still need to be addressed?”
If he/she responds, “No, this needs to go to our committee (I do not have final authority etc.) or there are still things that need to be done, or I’m still not sure”, then simply say….
“Well, before I put a proposal together why don’t we first try to settle those issues?
Is that OK with you and what is the best way for us to do that?”
What if the Client Insists on a Proposal Now?
“Charlie, when a client needs a proposal, my experience has been that they are not ready to make a final decision, so I of course am not comfortable to proceed.
I think that we still need to explore (together and more deeply) the best solutions for your company.
I am about implementation, exceeding your expectations, not just getting a deal done.
I think that we just are not ready for a proposal yet.”
Notice the two-fold Implication Here
- I am more committed to you and you best interests than I am to getting a sale.
- I am the best.
I am not worried about delivering but my own integrity with respect to our relationship and your trust in me.
“Charlie, you will not likely be happy with what I propose, because it isn’t your solution, but mine. And we have not yet finalized other details such as cost, logistics etc. But you are the customer, if you want a proposal I will give you one.”
Remember: Proposals are Confirmations, Summations, not Explorations or Sales Closers
So you need to ask the client three things:
- “Jimmy, if I do provide you a proposal what happens to it (other people etc.).
- And if you like what you see in the proposal, and how soon will you be ready to get started”?
- “Would you be OK to start tomorrow or next or next week?”
Any hesitation to your response/question means you are either talking to the wrong person or they are bluffing you.
If he Absolutely wants a Proposal say the Following
“Jimmy, a proposal takes me about 6 hours as I treat it with the intricacy a major and initial building block to our partnership deserves. I want it to have the value I think you deserve from our work together.
I will do a proposal, but because of the time and effort I put into it, I need a 100% commitment from you that we will have a telephone follow-up within 24 hours of my sending it to you. Is that OK with you?”
“So if I send you the proposal by Tuesday next week. Can we talk on Wednesday at 10:00?”
Write this date in your appointment book.
Then say (and this is extremely important), “Jimmy, is there any chance that our meeting might for any reason get postponed or cancelled?
Then count to four steamboats. Do not say a word.
If he says, “Yes, possibly, you never know, you can’t ask me that” or the like, then say, “Well, let’s find a time when that will not be the case.
Hold his feet to that fire. Why should you do for him all that a proposal entails and as his likely business partner, you not get complete assurance of the specific time for a follow-up phone call that you need and deserve?
By The Way, No Surprises
Lawyers are taught to never ask a witness a question unless they already know how the witness is going to answer.
The same advice holds true for proposals in the complex sale.
Never put anything in the proposal that the customer has not already agreed to and confirmed.
When you surprise your customers with new information in proposals, they will surely surprise you with unexpected, and usually negative, responses.
“So, OK Charlie, we are in agreement on the big stuff (your needs etc.), let’s go over the logistics and details (the issues that are important to you) that need to go into my proposal.”
Then you make sure you query and clarify with him/her on as many details (that might be problematic) as possible.
Then, make sure you give the client something to do (trust only action), “I sometimes hear not what people say but what I think they said, so could I ask you to email the details we just discussed to make sure we are on the same page..?
So there you have it.
Don’t write proposals, write confirmations.
Write this on a tablet somewhere important to you.
Get it tattooed on some visible place on your body if need be.
Whatever you do, follow this dictum.
You will be the better and the wiser for so doing.
For more on this topic, we recommend the following
Naked is the Salesperson