”After I have sent the proposal I hear nothing. I try to reach the clients for weeks, sometimes months. Why don’t they call me back? It feels like a waste of time”

For ten years I had this problem too. I called my prospects to close the deal so often that they blocked me or simply hang up as soon as they realised it was me on the line. I even had two phones for a while so the customer could not recognise my number…

It was not until I did Solution Selling training I learned why a proposal kills sales.

I will share what I learned about proposals, what to do instead and how you can shorten the sales cycle with 50% or more* by using a different approach.

When the customer gets a proposal they will evaluate if the solution is right for them, valuable and risk free. What they will find in most cases (if not all) is a list of offered products and services and prices. The benefits of the offering, ROI, and the roadmap for a safe and secure implementation are not there. It will leave the customer to try to remember what the seller said and what the customer knows about the offer him/her self. If the decision is perceived as big the customer will have to think about it, bring in other options and discuss internally. This can take a lot of time. The seller is at this stage looking to close the deal, wants a yes or no. But the customer is not ready to give either, he/she needs more time and must leave the seller hanging.

After a while the seller gives up chasing the customer and the customer may even forget to bring in the information needed – it becomes a “no decision”. No one benefits from this.

Never ever send another proposal again!

On my Solution Selling trainings I ask the attendees to raise their hands and promise this. And then I give them a better way to stay in control, manage the buying process and close the deal safely. 

Here is how to do it:

1.     Explain your sales process to the client on the first meeting

a.     The customer will trust you more if you show the way to the best solution – and both of you can make a plan and a timeline**

2.     Promise a proposal at the end of the sales process

a.     So it will be correct the first time (so the customer can feel safe to order from it)

3.     Issue a draft proposal to make the final proposal 100% correct

a.     The client and the seller may have to change the solution, price, terms many times before everyone is satisfied. A draft is easier to change than a formal proposal. Since you keep an open dialogue with the customer and want input the client will feel no pressure to interact – trust will increase.

4.     Close the deal once the client has no more input to the draft

a.     Then the draft reflects what the client wants to buy from you. All you will have to do now is ask for the order. Easy.

The reason why this process is working

When the seller sends a proposal it will trigger a big red alert in the mind of the client: “It is decision time, no turning back”. If there are new information in the proposal, such as price, it needs to be processed and analysed by the client. If the seller puts even the slightest sales pressure on the client he/she will disappear faster than a cold beer on a hot summer day. Therefore it is so much better to work step by step with a draft so the client gets ownership of the solution, price and risks.

One of my clients. Lars, shared a story how he applied the draft approach and won the deal

“The client wanted a proposal with prices very early in our conversation. It was clear that he had got a couple of offers from our competitors and wanted our prices to make sure he got the best deal. But I refused as we jointly not had made sure he liked our stuff, our way of implementing and the values he would get on a 3 year basis from working with us. 

I suggested that we made a plan to check these things and after that he would get a DRAFT proposal for review. He expressed some irritation over my step by step approach but agreed if we could work with a short timespan. I threw in our best guys and after a few weeks the client got the first draft. He made a few changes so I asked him if he wanted to place an order based on his changes. He did not hesitate: “Yes”. 

Later I asked him how he had felt working with me. His answer surprised me: “It felt good to cooperate and not get shitty, non understandable prices from sales people. Now I know that the solution will work for us and has good value”

Final good words

A transparent sales process ending with a draft proposal will keep you and the client in control, it will block competiton from interfering too much and keep the dialogue flowing until the customer is ready to buy. No more proposals – ever.

Good luck

Jens Edgren, CEO and Solution Selling instructor. jens@salesmakeover.se +46707998800

* According to a study at IBM, Software division, the sellers closed 66% of the opportunities at the draft stage – saving in general 50% of the forcasted sales cycle time. One of my clients (nov 2017) confirmed this: “We usually have 12 months sales cycle – now it has became 6 months. Tanks to a clear, transparant sales process and unsing a co-creative draft approach”.

** The timeline & evaluation process from acustomer standpoint is called “evaluation plan” in Solution Selling. It is explained more in detail in this blogpost about IBM sales secret. Read it here.

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