If you’ve been reading this blog or writing sales proposals for a while, you already know that proposals should be about the customer and their challenges, not about you and how great you are. If you’ve made it to that point, you’re probably already writing better sales proposals than most of your colleagues. However, even when you have a great conversation with the prospect, they prospect asks for a proposal, and you create a proposal that addresses the prospects’ needs, you can still find yourself losing the deal, or stuck in a seemingly endless series of discussions and revisions. (Or, in the worst-case scenario, both.) The reason is often that you’re (still) writing the proposal for the wrong person.
But wait, you object, you *are* writing it for the right person. It’s all about them. Their problem, and how you can help them solve it. The challenge is that unless the buying decision is made 100% exclusively by 1 person, there are other view points that may not be in your proposal. This is actually worth repeating: unless 1 person is entirely responsible for the buying decision, with no need to check, review, corroborate, or discuss with another human being, you have to address more than 1 person’s needs in your proposal. So if you are only writing for one person, even if that person is the ultimate decision maker, you’re still “writing for the wrong person.”
For example, you might be selling to a small business owner. The owner says she has total control over the decision. And she does. But she needs to make sure her sales staff and IT person are on board. Unless the owner does a great job gathering their needs before your conversations, you won’t have enough information to know that the sales team considers mobile access non-critical, but really needs support quickly approving discounts.
To avoid this pitfall, always ask your “decision maker” questions like “who will be impacted by these changes? How do we need to address their concerns?” A quick chat with the IT person and the head of sales could have resolved that before your proposal got relegated to a black hole.
Often, you don’t need to address the whole proposal to the whole committee. You may have a section for “Systems Integration” to address the concerns from IT. Or a training subsection to address roll out concerns.
Think about the decisions you make at your company. Even in areas when you have responsibility and ultimate authority, you confer with your colleagues both to make sure you are considering all the angles, and to build support for whatever change you are trying to implement. So when you are working with a prospect, help them help you by covering the bases their colleagues find important. Your proposal will get passed around to them, and if they don’t like what they see, your contact won’t sign. Like so much of selling, it sounds like more work in the beginning, but you’ll be able to write and close your proposals much faster.