Lately I have been working with businesses who want to reduce the time it takes to close the sale. They are each selling different things to different people but one thing they have in common is that they are getting a lot of interest at the sales meeting and then, too often the sale stalls and ends up going nowhere. A common factor in each case was a weak sales proposal.

The proposals looked good in terms of presentation style but if you had not been involved in the sales discussions then it was actually very weak.

The larger the organisation and the larger the amount, the more likely it is that there will be multiple people involved in influencing the final decision. Your sales processes should ensure that you get to speak to anyone who has an influence. You are seeking to influence the influencers. The chances are, however, that you will not get to talk to everyone. In these tough economic times the Finance Director often has a very strong influence but often gets overlooked.

Unless you find a way of reaching these people then you are relying on your contacts to sell your solution for you. You will find that a well constructed proposal fulfils this purpose – it is a selling document for people you are unable to reach.

A proposal does not have to be a big document. It could be a letter. In theory it could be an email but I would recommend your proposal is in a branded document.

The key questions your proposal should answer are as follows:

Why are you submitting this proposal? (Background)
Why do we need to change? (Current situation – emphasising the pain)
What are you proposing? (Proposed solution)
How much is it going to cost? (Costs)
Why should we choose your solution/work with you?

You have to assume people are going to skim read so it needs to be short and easy to absorb. If you have lots of detail then that should be put into an appendix or even a separate document. If it is not essential to the decision then it should not clog up the proposal.

The ultimate test of your proposal is whether someone who has not been involved in the sales meetings, like the Finance Director, can read your proposal and see it is a good deal.

I find that doing a proposal, even if it is just a letter, is a good discipline as it forces me to find the answers to the above questions as part of my discovery process. If I cannot answer the questions then I am not ready to create a proposal. However, I always decline to write a proposal if I do not feel confident that I stand a reasonable chance of winning the sale. Otherwise it is just a waste of time.

If you would like a free review of one of your sales proposals then please feel free to get in touch.