I propose a ban on proposals! I find them to be an enormous waste of time as no one has ever in the history of sales purchased anything solely based on the proposal.
We unwittingly taught all prospects that they simply have to ask and we will provide them with all the information they need in order to deal with their problem.
Proposals are time consuming pages usually filled with features, benefits, rhetoric, justifications, marketing data and, oh yes, let’s not forget your lowest price. By the way, there is usually enough information in each document for the prospect to fix the problem without you. I call them “unpaid consulting” because you won’t be paid for these efforts.
In this economy, I receive no less than five requests per week for proposals that are nothing more than the opportunity to provide free consulting. I guess they’re counting on the “law of big numbers” for success. That is if enough requests are sent out surely someone will be desperate enough to supply the information that is required.
In most cases the perpetrators do not even want to meet with me nor do they have any intention of doing business with me. They just want my recommendation so they can compare it to their existing trainer or shop it around to the trainers they are really considering.
One was so bold as to say he just wanted me to fax him my best price to train his organization of ten salespeople. I sent him a piece of paper and the only thing on it was $10.2 million, certainly a lot more than I charge for training, but enough to make my point. He called and said he was extremely offended by my action. When I asked why, he said, “Your price is way out of line.” I explained my deed by saying that he probably would have said that to whatever number I gave him so I just saved myself a lot of wasted effort assembling the document.
He thought about it for a moment and asked if I could teach his people that “move,” as they spend their days and the company’s resources sending out proposals that go nowhere. He invited me in for a meeting during which he vented his frustration at the amount of time his estimators wasted sending out proposals that closed at an 18 percent rate.
It would be interesting to analyze, whether you are a salesperson or business owner, how much of your company’s resources are eaten up by proposals that won’t ever close. What would happen to a prospect, serious about doing business with you, if they couldn’t get a proposal? How would that change your sales call?
That said, if you choose to ignore my recommendation to ban all proposals, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from those who want to steal your information:
- Commit to building stronger relationships so there is less reliance on the proposal. Weak relationships usually mean that the only way to close the prospect is with a lowball price.
- Do not submit proposals if there are more than two other competitors who will also submit them. Your odds diminish as more proposals are reviewed. It used to be that the average was three proposals per project and now I find there are between five and 12 in the mix.
- Get a commitment for a decision-yes, no or “clear future”-before you submit the proposal. You have the most power before they review your information and there is nothing worse than getting a “think it over” at the end. “Think it over” is simply a veiled NO given by a prospect who didn’t have the guts to say it to you personally or who wishes to shop you around.
- Once a week, conduct a “close the sale or close the file” meeting with your proposals. In this meeting, determine what you should do to move this proposal forward to a sale or close it out as it is dead.
- Develop the mindset that “knowledge is power” and place a monetary value on your information. It has taken years to gain the knowledge and industry insights that lie within your brain. Make prospects earn it instead of giving it up because you are flattered that they want it.
Image by Rob Green