This Is Why Your Sales Proposal Wasn’t Read

This Is Why Your Sales Proposal Wasn't ReadIt took me a while to realize this but sales people make a lot of mistakes.

The life of a professional seller is rarely easy so mistakes happen. At all times we are being drawn in multiple directions. It is a never ending struggle between allocating time towards what will make you money and what needs to be done.

So it’s not surprising when situations present themselves where taking the fast and easy road seems like the best one.

It can be very tempting when month end is approaching and you are just shy of your sales quota, you might think to do everything you can to get as many proposals as possible out in front of clients.

But believe me when I say that there is a right way and a wrong way to tell someone the cost of doing business.

When a customer asks for a proposal they are almost always asking for one thing, the price. And if you give them what they want right away, well then you’ve done a poor job of selling.

When you present a proposal you are not presenting a price, you are presenting value. You are presenting the solution to a problem. And most importantly you are presenting why they should let YOU fix that problem.

Below I’ve outlined the wrong way to present a proposal and good, better, best way to present your proposal.

The Wrong Way To Present A Proposal

“Johnny, we loved what we saw in the demonstration. We need a price to move to the next step. Send over your proposal and we’ll let you know next week how we want to proceed”

….sound familiar?

It sure does to me. In fact I had someone email me a very similar statement this past week. The easiest thing to do would have been send them over an email with the proposed offering and the investment involved.

And this is exactly what most sales people do. They shoot over an email and lose complete control over the sale. They sit at their desk waiting hoping to hear back from the customer.

Let’s be honest, when a proposal is received do you think they will read each page thoroughly one after the other, or will they flip through to the page with the dollar signs?  I know I jump the gun. I want to know what the cost is. I can all but guarantee that most buyers are the same way.

Simply handing them a proposal does nothing to create value. There is no explanation of where their money will go. And very often sticker shock comes into play.


The Right Way To Present A Proposal

The idea behind presenting a propsoal is to build suspense. Create value and understanding behind what you are offering.

Always remember that your product or service is not a price tag. Your job as a sales person is to make it perfectly clear what value will be created by working with you over the competition.

There are three options when it comes to presenting a proposal that will allow you to do that. In all of these situations you are leading them through your proposal. Going through each section creating suspense and value around your product.

Although every company does proposals differently I tend to have six sections to my proposals. This will also very by industry or product. My sections include:

  1. Cover Page
  2. Introduction
  3. Evaluation Plan (time line)
  4. Proposed Offering Summary
  5. Investment Proposal
  6. Next Steps

There will be a never ending battle between those who think proposals should only be one page and those that feel there should be more meat to them. I think it again varies by what you are selling. For me, selling enterprise level software which requires a significant investment, a meaty proposal works best.

And my belief as to why some prefer using a single page proposal is because they know the customer’s eyes will dart immediately to the price point. They are adjusting their sales process to give the customer control. Not a great way to be successful in sales.

The below proposal presentations are not the easy or fast way to deliver a proposal but they are the best.

Option #1: In-Person Meeting

This is the best possible way possible to present a proposal. Live and in-person.

face to face meeting will always be your best choice when interacting with a customer. You’re more able to pick up on their overall reaction to the proposal. Do their eyes widen? Do they smile? Does their head nod or shake? These small cues will help you move the sales process forward by adjusting to their reaction.

As with any other presentation come prepared with an agenda and folders with the proposal to hand out. If you want to be really sneaky, have the investment page separate from what you hand to them. This way you can lead them through the proposal and control exactly when they see the cost of doing business with you.

Keep in mind this will probably create an awkward situation when they open the proposal and start flipping through looking for a price tag. Again, this is why an agenda is important. Explain to them, as stated in the agenda, that you will walk them through the proposal first and then provide the investment options.

Once you’ve covered exactly what they will get by working with you you can provide them the dollar amount. That number will have a much different meaning than if you had simply sent it to them by email.

Option #2: Online Review

The next best option is for you to deliver the proposal online through WebEx, Go-To-Meeting, or something similar. Google Hangouts might even be an option. This should always be an option since there are low cost providers out there.

By doing this you still have complete control over what they see and how the proposal is delivered. You are able to steer the conversation through each section to makes sure that value is being built throughout the meeting.

It is actually much easier to keep them from jumping ahead since you only let them see what you want.

Option #3: Phone Conversation

This is the minimum standard you should expect when delivering proposals. You can email the proposal over if you’d like so that the two of you can discuss the proposal but it is still very likely they will open it and scroll down to the price page.

However when you do this you still have an opportunity to build the value up. They will very rarely start a conversation with you, receive the proposal, look at the price, and get off the phone. They will give you time to make your case.

Control The Situation

The whole point of presenting a proposal correctly is to control the situation. Once a customer gets what they want there is very little motivation to continue the conversation.

What are your thoughts? Do you think proposals should be one page or more meaty? Is it ever OK to simply email a price or proposal over? Let me know in the comments below. 

~ Johnny Bravo
Image courtesy of stockimages /

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