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Selling: Ten Things to Know and Do Before Making a Proposal By Alan Melton
Many small business owners simply “spout off” what they do with prospects, and lose the opportunity to win a new account. There are important things you need to know and to do before making a presentation to a prospect.
If you try to shortcut the process, you will likely lose the business. On the other hand if you cover the following bases, you can move rather quickly to winning a new account. Below are some of the keys to winning a business proposal:
1. Know that you should have a good relationship with your prospect(s) prior to making a proposal. Remember that people do business with people that they know, like and trust. If you have not moved to some level of likeability and trust, you will not likely win a proposal.
2. Do make a concerted effort to establish a strong bond and rapport. You can only do this by asking good questions and listening well. Repeat back and summarize their answers to help them know that you are listening. Briefly relate to experiences and activities that you have in common. Give your 30 second commercial, but keep the main focus on your prospect(s).
3. Know that you or your prospect should have an “out clause” and may at any point walk away. Many sales people are so eager to make a sale that they lose their dignity and the prospect’s respect during a proposal. The prospect may mislead the sales person about their true intentions after a proposal is made. Eventually the prospect stops returning phone calls and a lot of time is wasted by the sales person.
4. Do confirm your “out clause” with your prospect early in your discussions. To remain on equal footing with your prospect, lead them to an understanding that either you or your prospect has the right to walk away if either one of you determines that there is not a good fit between the two of you. Agree with them that either party will immediately inform the other should that occur, and neither one of you should feel offended if that should happen.
5. Know who the decision makers are. Many sales people spend a lot of time talking and making proposals to people who don’t have the authority to make a decision. In larger businesses is it not unusual to have more than one person or even and committee that makes spending decisions. Prospects may not reveal that they don’t have the authority to make a decision. Ask the following question: “In addition to you, who else will be involved in making the decision?”
6. Do make your proposal to the decision makers. Always ask for a meeting with all of the decision makers. Meeting with all decision makers will be easier if you invested the time in getting to know each person prior to making a proposal.
7. Know the “pain points” of each decision maker. Understanding the prospect’s pain points may be the most important part of making a successful proposal. How can you help a prospect if you can’t relate to their problems? You need to know three to five pain points and how much money this pain is costing them. For more on this topic, see the coaching tip “Winning the Business: Focus on the Prospect’s Needs.”
8. Do address and solve their pain points in your proposal. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you can clearly articulate the prospect’s pain points, the costs associated with the pain points, and how your product or service can save them money and make their pain go away, the decision to go with you will be a no-brainer.
9. Know the amount in the budget to determine whether to make a proposal. Although many small businesses do not use a budget to run their companies, many mid-size to large companies operate on budgets. Always strive to determine the amount of budget dollars available for your service or product. Sometimes your prospect may try to evade the question. You can ask, “In round dollars, how much is your budget for this service?” Or “What’s a ballpark budget range for this service?” Another approach is: “I’m trying to determine which package to propose to you. Would you say that your budget is closer to the $5,000 to $10,000 range or to the $15,000 to $20,000 range?”
10. Do tailor your proposal to the available budget dollars. This goes without saying. But you would be surprised to know how many sales people just throw out proposals that are way too high. Or even worse a sales person will leave money on the table because they proposed well below the amount in the budget.
As you can see, if you do the extra due diligence before making a proposal, not only will you increase the chances of success, you will put more in your pocket. Go for it!