Sales proposals are a key milestone in the sales cycle and represent a turning point for new business success. Effective sales proposals are short, to the point, and sent as quickly as possible following the request or acceptance of a written summary for the proposed deal. Yet even though proposals should be kept as short as possible while addressing key concerns, there are many areas where sales people could be making mistakes that prevent sales proposals from converting into new business. The following four areas, where sales proposal issues are commonly introduced, can be easily corrected once the problem is identified.
Sales Proposals Are Not Being Timed Well
Very often, the sales pipeline and not customer need will dictate when a proposal is created. If sales proposals are occurring too early or too late in the pipeline, new business conversion rates may be reduced. This can happen either because the sales pipeline is measuring metrics that are out of sync with prospect timelines or because the sales person is mistiming the sales cycle. Be sure that all of your sales reps are timing the introduction of sales proposals appropriately by regularly examining the timing of their proposals in the pipeline and their results.
Sales Proposals Lack Necessary Elements
Sales proposals should always outline for the prospect exactly what to expect. This includes timeline to installation or deployment, up-front and operational costs, and crucially, financial data on the benefits. Although it can be tempting to reduce the proposed costs by incorporating long timeframes or hypothetical scenarios that are not likely to occur, sales reps should work to build sales proposals that have clear and concise data that is realistic. If the necessary cost elements are lacking from sales proposals, fewer prospects will be willing to make the commitment.
At the same time, sales proposals should be persuasive throughout; a proposal is never simply an outline of costs and profits. Make sure that your sales reps have templates and examples of successful persuasion techniques and language, and that these are incorporated into all sales proposals that leave the sales department.
Sales Proposals Should Be Incorporating Deeper Research
All sales proposals must be personalized to the prospect to be effective. Though a template can be used to begin constructing sales proposals, sales reps should be knowledgeable on how to meaningfully incorporate prospect and industry data into each sales proposal to make the best possible impression to influence acceptance. Questions that all sales proposals should answer for the prospect include:
- What are the exact business problems that the sales proposal will address, and how?
- How should the success of the solution be evaluated?
- What are the baseline expectations and future projections for performance?
The best sales people answer these questions by looking at the available data and asking for the prospect's input, a combination approach that invariably results in more sales.
Sales Proposals Require Greater Follow Up
The tendency that some sales reps have to wait too long to begin sales proposal follow up can derail the sales effort. Although prospects do need time to understand and act on the information that sales proposals contain, sales reps can – and should – be part of the understanding process. Encourage your sales reps to follow up within a short window of time after sending a sales proposal to ensure that the proposal was received and make themselves available to answer questions.
A prospect who has made it to the proposal stage should also be made to feel appreciated, and a letter for thanking the prospect for their interest and consideration is not out of place. The choice of sending a follow up letter by e-mail or by regular mail should be made based on how traditional the company's sales cycle is and how quickly the buying process is expected to conclude.