Submitting a proposal could be the last point of communication that a salesperson has with a potential customer—that is unless they know how to create a proposal that is so convincing they win the business!
Unfortunately, too many salespeople miss the mark in their proposals. Though they see themselves as “solution providers,” their sales proposal doesn’t describe the problem or business need that the customer wants to have “solved.” The most critical component in the sales proposal is identifying and communicating the problems the client is trying to resolve.
Consider these 5 questions when writing your next sales proposal:
1. Who will read the proposal?
It’s likely that your proposal will be distributed to multiple decision makers in a company. A proposal written only for, say, a production manager isn’t likely to appeal to an IT manager. That’s why it’s important that you determine which decision makers will review your proposal and the buying criteria that each will use to determine the best solution for their business challenges.
2. What problems are these decision makers trying to solve?
Your proposal should summarize the “big picture goals” that your customer has described for you. Use a short story or actual example to describe their most compelling problem and demonstrate how your solution will help them achieve their goals better than your competitors.
3. Why are those problems serious? What would be the impact of not solving them?
The #1 competitor you face today isn’t another company; it’s the customer’s decision to do nothing, to make no change at all.
To win against this most difficult of all competitors you have to help the customer appreciate the value in taking action. And the best way to do that in a proposal is to describe the gap between where the customer thinks they are now versus where they could be. The wider the gap, the bigger the value they will perceive in making a change.
4. How will my solution apply to this client specifically?
Remember that there is a difference between “buying criteria” and “solution criteria.” Solution criteria describe the types of functions or capability that solution must have to even be considered. Buying criteria are how a buyer chooses between options. Your prospect’s buying criteria will change as the buying process evolves.
In fact, solution criteria become less important closer to the decision because, in many instances, all vendors being considered can meet solution criteria. If they couldn’t, they would have been eliminated sooner. Be sure to place extra emphasis on how you can achieve the prospect’s specific buying criteria more effectively than your competition.
Summarize your differentiators starting with your second strongest point and ending with your strongest. As you talk about each one, make sure you show how it will help them solve a specific need they identified. Be selective in what you decide to present. TMI (too much information) can dilute the impact.
5. What are my competitive strengths and weaknesses? How can I build on the former and diminish the importance of the latter?
Suppose that you were selling for your competitor, against you and your company. How would you as a competitor beat you? The answer is likely your competitor’s sales strategy! How can you defeat that strategy, and win the business?
Summarize your strategy for winning by developing at least three reasons why your customer should buy from you, reasons connected to explicit customer needs. If you can’t come up with three compelling reasons, then you have no right to ask for the customer’s business!
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