Cold call, presentation, ten emails exchanged, meeting and finally, the prospect requested a commercial proposal. After so many steps to reach the proposal, the sale is practically done, right?
As in the vast majority of negotiations, your client is evaluating your proposal in conjunction with that of other suppliers (read your competitors).
As much rapport as you’ve built up to this point, submitting a proposal is still an extremely delicate point of negotiation and one mistake can send it all down the drain.
Even so, many companies regard this moment as a non-critical interaction point. They send materials without haste, often confusing and not very objective, which do not represent the quality of work and attention that the supplier has shown so far.
The result? The customer feels cheated and loses confidence in the company.
“Once they felt we were interested, they felt like another company. It was clear that they were making an effort to sell until then, but we couldn’t expect that level of service would be maintained after hiring them.”
That was the answer that the marketing director of a medium-sized consultancy in São Paulo gave me when I asked him why he didn’t close a deal with a company I had indicated.
He told me that, after some meetings, he asked for a proposal to present to colleagues who would make the decision with him.
The company in question not only took two weeks to send the proposal but missed the deadline for the client’s budget meeting and only sent an email with the highlighted amounts, without any support material that could help my friend explain to his colleagues why who thought that would be an interesting investment.
Needless to say, they closed with another company, right?
I like his answer because it represents what few companies realize. It also represents an incredible opportunity for you!
If you make the effort at this point in the negotiation, you will be able to gain a very valuable advantage over your competition, strengthening any positive points you have already established and correcting any flaws you may have made in the process so far.
Browse the content
- How Your Business Proposal Can Change the Game
- The Secrets to an Effective Business Proposal
- It’s Time to Sell!
How Your Business Proposal Can Change the Game
When your customer opens his business proposal, it’s as if he’s going to recap and re-evaluate everything that’s been said so far.
If the proposal differs from the impression he had of you, your company and your services, it will have a very big impact (positive or negative) on his opinion.
When you sell one thing in prospecting and, in the proposal, you deliver another
That’s why I say that a commercial proposal is, at the same time, a chance to start over and to ruin everything.
Proposals are also used internally to align information between decision-makers, as typically only one of them is involved in all contacts.
If you serve large companies, this is even more critical. In companies with between 100 and 500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in every purchasing decision.
Therefore, your trade document needs to be able to update anyone who was outside the negotiation. In addition, of course, to conveying in just one reading the same level of trust you’ve built up with the customer over several interactions.
Challenging, isn’t it? But it’s perfectly possible if you pay attention to the main mistakes companies make when submitting a business proposal.
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The Secrets to an Effective Business Proposal
This is a quick guide of what your commercial proposal needs so that the moment of analysis and decision of the buyer is a positive point in your relationship and boost your chances of closing a deal.
Clarity of Scope and Price
The first and possibly the most important point is that the document is clarifying and does not raise doubts.
Many salespeople believe they need to include absolutely everything the company does, owns, and has achieved in order to make a positive impact on the customer. But that only makes for an unnecessarily long document that doesn’t meet the buyer’s expectations.
It is important that your proposal guides the reader towards a purchase decision through a coherent and easy-to-follow argument.
Exposing the scope of service provision, a brief analysis of the customer’s situation, the expected results and results obtained for customers with a similar profile are excellent arguments. They will definitely help decision-makers a lot when it comes to hammering!
In relation to the prices shown, be as simple as possible. This is the part where you don’t need to go out and be objective. No more dividing the price between several factors that make it up (unless the customer has asked) or presenting several options. If you feel like you’re masking the investment, something’s wrong.
Your customer needs to identify in two seconds exactly how much he will need to invest, in just one swipe.
To help you decide the structure of your proposal, see Proposeful’s definitive service delivery proposal guide. In addition to a series of statistics to increase the success of your proposals, you can even use the checklist to confirm that they are perfect before submitting them.
Now that your content is well aligned, it’s time to package it into a quality presentation.
I always compare the presentation of a commercial proposal to the facade of a restaurant.
Many people think that if the food is good and the price is right, the beauty of the environment shouldn’t matter. But that is not true.
Your business is judged by all the factors because they all influence the context in which your service is offered.
The words of publicist Rory Sutherland in the lecture “Perspective is everything” illustrate this very well:
“…If you run a restaurant, there is no healthy distinction to be made between the value you make by cooking the food and the value you make by sweeping the floor. One of them creates, perhaps, the main product — the thing we think we pay for — the other creates a context within which we can enjoy and enjoy the product. And the idea that one of them might actually take precedence over the others is fundamentally wrong.”
In fact, the entire lecture is extremely valuable for anyone working in sales. Invest 20 minutes watching, you certainly won’t regret it.
I know that many companies don’t have the resources to allocate designing documents that codify with their brand. I went through the same scenario in 2013 and 2014, when I had a small production company that competed with design and advertising agencies that we’re able to create much more effective presentations.
It was with this challenge in mind that I created Proposeful, the online proposal tool. In it, you can choose a template and create your proposal right from your browser.
Creating the perfect proposal and taking a month to send it to the client won’t do much good.
I always remind my clients that the first company to submit their proposal gains a huge advantage by becoming the benchmark for all others.
The message you want to get across to the lead with your business proposal
For example, if your proposal is high value but very well presented, others that are lower in value and less well thought out will give the customer the impression that he will not have as good a return with your competitors as he would have by hiring you. And that’s exactly what you want!
At the same time, if your proposal is more competitive than the competition in terms of values, being the first will make the others seem more expensive and less cost-effective.
Even with the perfect proposal, sent at the right time, your work is still not over.
You need to follow your future customer closely in order to have a chance to make the sale. If you don’t, some competitor is sure to, and your effort could end up being for nothing.
A very effective strategy is to call the customer right after he views the business proposal. There are tools that notify you when the client accesses your proposal, such as Proposeful and some plugins.
This is part of a follow-up strategy that allows you to clear up your doubts and purchase objections instantly and significantly increases your chances of success.
It’s also important that every customer interaction ends with a well-defined next step.
For example, when calling the customer after they access the proposal, end by asking if this decision will be approved by others within the company and if they would like a new presentation made to them. Or schedule an upcoming meeting before hanging up.
Being present and understanding in relation to your customer’s decision cycle will help you not to miss opportunities due to lack of communication, one of the most common causes in long-cycle sales.
To close with a flourish, remove any obstacles your customer encounters on the way to purchase.
It is critical to be prepared to handle sales objections that may arise, avoid unnecessary bureaucracy, keep a clear record of customer interactions, and be generally available.
If the customer closes a deal, you do not need to extend the sale for days to prepare, approve, print and sign the contract. In addition to lengthening your sales cycle (and tightening your cash), this can generate friction that is now completely unnecessary.
It is now very common to sign contracts digitally through services such as Click sign. If you use a tool like Proposeful, you can also include the contract within the proposal itself and centralize the entire process in one place. And this is just one example of a business process that can be tremendously facilitated with the technologies available today.
Payments, communication, sending materials and many other issues can cause an equally risky delay. So that this doesn’t harm the negotiation, think about making the client’s life easier.
Assess whether the processes you usually adopt are really necessary. It may be a little difficult to change this in larger companies, but it is always beneficial in the long run to remove sales obstacles.
It’s Time to Sell!
Now you have everything you need to unleash the full power of your secret sales weapon: the business proposition.
If you want to leave tips or ask questions, leave a comment below or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be looking to help!
This post was written by Thiago Obaid, co-founder of Proposeful, the best business proposal creation platform on the market! You can learn more about the tool here.
And since we’re talking about proposal submission, be sure to download our ebook to create a sensational submission. Just click on the image below.