In this article, leading Sales Expert Andy Preston explains 7 things you need to consider finding out, before sending your proposal or quote to the prospect….
I’m often astounded when someone says ‘send me a proposal’ or ‘can I have a price on that’ to a salesperson, they go away and work on a proposal or quotation, then ‘blindly’ send it off to the prospect, just assuming it’s going to go ahead!
These same salespeople are the ones that wonder afterwards why they never hear from that prospect ever again!
If you follow these tips below, you and your team won’t get caught in that trap – and will not only convert more sales opportunities, but also be able to prioritise your time and have more idea which are likely to convert the fastest, for the most money!
This might sound simple, but you’d be astounded how many salespeople fail to do this properly! Most salespeople will get the majority of the specification down, but some have to call back a second time to get things they forgot, or that their colleagues tell them will be needed in order to produce an accurate quotation or proposal. Some salespeople have to call back a third time to get information they failed to get on the second time!
You can imagine the impact this has on the prospect! If you’re in a competitive market with other people ‘pitching’ for the work, you’ve put yourself on the ‘back foot’ before you’ve even started! Not a clever move….
These two areas are ESSENTIAL areas to question around in EVERY sales opportunity, not just at ‘proposal time’. However, when someone says ‘send me a proposal’ and you DON’T get these answered, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
You need to establish early on in your sales conversation how serious they are, and how serious the project/job is. Even more important however is getting the WHY YOU bit answered.
The aim here is to uncover both the buying motivation, and also what chance you have of picking up this business! Remember – the ‘fluffier’ the answers to the questions you ask here – the less likely you are to win the work!
This is again something that most salespeople fail to do properly! Failure to establish the decision makers involved will mean that you could go all the way through the process, and then fall at the final hurdle as someone else comes in to influence the buying decision that you weren’t aware of!
Once you’ve identified the decision makers, you can then decide your approach for ‘engaging’ them. It’s pointless knowing who they are without getting ‘airtime’ with them either over the phone or face-to-face, otherwise the same thing will happen as if you didn’t know who they were!
You also need to identify the process they’re going through in order to make the decision. If they’re cagey about the process this time, it might be that the person you’re talking to is low-level in the organisation (and the decision). In which case, simply asking about a previous process for similar projects will uncover most of what you need to know.
Another word for ‘other options’ would be ‘competition’. Yet I didn’t use the word ‘competition’ in the title because most salespeople then ask a question like ‘what other companies are you asking to quote on this?’
That’s a bad question because the person you’re speaking to will know that you’ll gain an advantage by knowing that information, so will usually say that they ‘can’t tell you’ or ‘it’s confidential’. Therefore you need to ask the question differently 😉
Asking about the other options they’re considering will usually set the platform for you to get information about other potential suppliers/vendors. It will also get you vital information about ‘alternative competition’ – either them finding another way to achieve the results they want, doing it themselves in-house, or not doing it at all!
In addition, any other project they could spend money on right now is ‘competition’ to your proposal being auctioned and approved – so question around this area as well….
Another area you need to question around is their timescales. In order to find out how serious they are about this project, you need to find out when they’re looking to move ahead.
Most salespeople make the mistake of only finding out about when the clients want to implement the project, or when they need to take delivery of the product. If you only get this timescale then you’re missing out on something that’s potentially more important!
The other timescale you need to ask question about to uncover is when they are looking to make their decision on the project. Just because they don’t want to implement the project for a few months, doesn’t mean that they aren’t deciding on it quicker than that! Make sure you understand the timescales they have to buy in order to give yourself the best understanding of how to handle the proposal, and give yourself the best chance of winning it!
It’s VITAL in ANY sales opportunity, let alone a proposal situation, that you identify budget or funding as early as possible. As most decent-sized projects require money from someone’s budget, or the company to have thought about how they’re going to pay for it, failure to identify this can mean the project ‘stalling’ at the last minute – when you’ve put lots of time and effort into it!
Make sure that you’ve got the ‘budget’ area covered and you’ll reduce the risk of the project being put on hold, or shelved – plus it may also bring to your awareness other people involved in the buying process that you weren’t aware of!
The final (and most important part) of ANY sales situation, and even more vital at proposal stage! Now for those of you with a short sales cycle, you could also think of the word ‘closing’ here. For those of you on longer sales cycles, usually with higher-value items or projects at stake, think about gaining commitment to the next stage and to yourself and your company.
Failure to get commitment to the project and/or next stage, and also to you and your company will mean that you’re likely to be disappointed when it comes to announcing who won the business…..and who lost it. So gain commitment to ensure you end up in the winner’s enclosure!
So, make sure you take action on the above and the best of luck with your sales!
This article is copyright Andy Preston 2004-2016. To copy or syndicate this or any part of this article contact Andy Preston for guidelines.