Dan Seidman says clients should expect to pay for proposals. Rob Frankel disagrees, but shows how to do a proposal that isn't just free consulting.
Proposals are the foundation of business building for most salespeople. How many of us constantly invest precious sales time to draft a proposal, actually pouring years of experience and expertise into this written gamble at acquiring business?
The reason most of us are so quick to accommodate potential clients is that we really do want to please people. Think of how ridiculous it would sound if you refused to provide materials to your prospect! So you and I are very likely to assume that a request for a proposal is a YES indicator. It reinforces our hope that we just moved one step closer to closing that sale. There is, however, the prospect's perspective. If we don't understand what might really be going on with that request, we could spend endless hours creating and delivering documents for people who have no intention of buying our products or services. And here is why:
Prospects love free consulting. They love it even more in print than in person. If you don't have a strategy for dealing with requests for proposals, you are at the mercy of a potential client. My website of sales horror stories www.salescomics.com actually functions as a lead generation tool for a national training organization. This company has the wisdom to realize (and teach) how critical it is for a salesperson NOT to give everyone proposals, simply because they are requested.
It really is a qualifying issue. If you don't quickly sort the good prospects from the time-wasters, your income will be directly affected by the bad prospects. Your expectations of who will buy from you will be inaccurate. You will lose control of the sales process. In an effort to help you understand about proposals, here, offered for the first time are the
TOP TEN REASONS A PROSPECT DEMANDS A PROPOSAL
(The impact to you is in parentheses)
10. They need to keep their current vendors honest (what a surprise - you never did have a prayer of getting the business)
9. They want a fair range of prices for the type of service you offer (thanks for the quote, the business is going to the prospect's brother-in-law, just below your rate)
8. They want to keep themselves up-to-date on the latest business processes and technologies (thanks for the information, goodbye)
7. They think your product or service simply sounds interesting (but they have no intention of buying!)
6. They need new and better ideas - to make their own changes (thanks for your free consulting - that really hurts, doesn't it?)
5. They just wonder how much it would cost (wow, you're really expensive!)
4. This request will get you off their back (oops, you forgot to qualify the prospect, didn't you?)
3. They can look good when they pass your information to the real decision-maker (did you spend all that time with the wrong person?)
2. They honestly need their problems solved (too bad you don't know who the other eight proposals are from, what they charge and maybe what they're saying about you)
And the number one reason prospects make you pour your blood, sweat and tears into a proposal:
1. A PROSPECT CAN LIE TO A SALESPERSON AND STILL GET INTO HEAVEN!
Please, please stop wasting time jumping through hoops to design proposals for everyone that nods their head or grunts into your telephone. Qualify first, then begin to work with your best potential clients. Your organization should have some criteria for what defines a good prospect. Use it or immediately create your own in order to save yourself from sales heartbreak. One good strategy might be to charge a fee for a proposal. Obviously, a prospect who is not serious will not pay for a it. If this works for you, implement it.
The lesson here is that you need to set some guidelines to determine which prospects are worth the investment of your time in proposal design. Otherwise, you'll waste lots of that time showboating in print for prospects who have no intention of doing business with you. If you don't weed out the weeds, you'll have very little time to find and smell the flowers.
Great selling to all of you.
©1999 Dan Seidman
Dan Seidman manages a library of sales horror stories at the website www.salescomics.com . These stories in his monthly newsletter are used to by sales managers, trainers and executives to teach sales reps how to avoid similar mistakes. He can be reached at 847-798-8515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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