The Smart Sales Proposal

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Most sales proposals are all wrong. In fact, they are perfectly backwards. They’re all about the seller instead of the buyer. They get too technical too quickly, and above all, they miss the key buying reasons. Stop allowing your sales team to send these proposals and stop accepting low win rates.

Instead, implement The Smart Sales Proposal. The Smart Sales Proposal has a win rate of over 70%, targets the buyer’s survival, and is built on Relative Value (Business Return + Risk Mitigation @ a Fair Market Price).

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Don’t Build a Losing Proposal

Losing sales proposals talk all about the seller, not the customer. About themselves, not about the customer’s business objectives.

The organization writing the sales proposal always claims to have the highest quality offerings at the lowest price while their solutions are always described as cutting edge and second to none. The service is always unparalleled. Their people are always the most honest and friendliest.

Ask yourself “How does any of that help a determined business stakeholder, technology user or financial stakeholder improve their market share, reduce working time, advance quality, meet compliance or improve profitability?” It doesn’t. As a result, the conventional sales proposal does not effectively address the buyers’ personal or professional survival. Nor does the conventional proposal showcase relative value.

It doesn’t describe the business return, it doesn’t explain how risk on the part of the buyer is mitigated, it doesn’t say why the price is a reasonable price reflecting fair market value. Any parts that do touch on that, the most important parts, are either lost or buried on page nine or ten or missing completely. Stop using this approach.

Writing a Smart Sales Proposal

The Smart Proposal, like all of our work, is built on the SEL model. That is to say, it acknowledges that the customer’s personal and professional survival is the primal motivational driver for all decision makers. Ready to go?

Client Business Objectives

The Business Objectives section comes first and addresses the decision makers’ business objectives discussed during your Smart Fit-Assessment.

If you aren’t familiar, business objectives are the job description responsibilities of the individual with profit and loss responsibility for the business unit. Specifically, business objectives encompass winning more sales, reducing operational cycle time, improving quality, meeting compliance, and earning more profit.

It’s essential here to get your client’s direct quotes. You opened the Fit-Assessment by pointing to a benchmark or describing an achievable ideal state or business objective, and then you asked them, “How this would impact your business?” You listened to their answer. They told you what matters most to them. This is where you record it.

Alternate Strategies Considered

The Alternate Strategies Considered section prevents put-offs or stalls.

At some point in every sales cycle, someone from the customer’s organization will try to maintain the status quo by (rightfully) asking the decision makers, “Why do we need to do this now?”

Furthermore, if you show them why they need to do it now, they’ll go, “Why can’t our own people do this?” And when everyone agrees that it’s obvious that their own people can’t do it, they’ll say, “Why can’t we use our existing provider?”

These questions are good and proper due dillegence. They demonstrate reasonable buying behavior from a smart customer. And we all want smart customers. So instead of getting upset when questions like these occur, let’s anticipate them and prepare for them and be ready to answer them. Let’s expect them and include them in our sales proposals.

Solutions Overview

In the Solution Overview section, you describe the solution as it aligns with the customer’s business objectives as quoted in the Business Objectives section.

Anytime you’re selling a technical product, service or solution there’s going to be a combination of those three elements: capability, usability, and reliability.

Capability – how it works, what it will do, and how that meets the business objective.

Usability – ease of use; how well the user will interact or engage with it.

Reliability – how it will hold up under working or expected conditions

Do the full technical specifications need to be rolled out here? No. Should they be available if the customer wants them? Of course.

But they’re in the background – available, but not up front. You can present it bundled along with your Smart Proposal, but the objective is to present the solution in two pages.

The greater the complexity, the shorter and simpler you need to present it. Not the opposite. That’s why everything in the Smart Proposal is condensed into simple and decisionable information.

Pricing, Terms, & Conditions

Statistics show plainly that price represents only a small part (9%) of the B2B or B2G purchasing decision. Because of this, it shouldn’t be something to avoid or put off discussing much less fear. Instead, it should be addressed early, discussed often with your customer throughout the sales cycle, and negotiated with ease.

Your sales proposal should absolutely not be the first time your customer learns of the price range or estimated cost.

By discussing price early, often and with ease, you now have a process for effectively discussing and developing a Relative Value equation with your customer – a way to discuss price in terms of the business returns it will generate and the business risks it reduces, and a way to present it as reasonably priced overall as compared to the alternatives.

Uniquely Qualified

The term “unique” has a special meaning and it’s written into most modern procurement rules today. Originally, it was used as a justification for why something doesn’t have to go out for competitive bid. That is to say that if a procurement organization, an end user, or a business level stakeholder recognizes a product, service or combination of the two as being unique, they can source it directly – buy it straight out, and not have to bid it.

Anyone of the six points listed below can justify the seller as uniquely qualified, and therefore rightly allows them to step outside the bidding process. We recommend that you utilize all six points, sequentially, and use every justification possible, to enable you to position your solution as strongly as possible.

  • Product/Service Superiority
  • Customization to Specific Need
  • Meeting Specific Schedule or Time Frame
  • Pricing, Terms, & Conditions
  • Technical Alignment to Customer’s Current Technology/Environment
  • Cultural Alignment of the Organizations

Corporate Overview

Finally, we get to the part most failed sales proposals start with: Corporate Overview.

Describe your company skills and specialties as they align with this specific solution. After that, define your experience delivering similar solutions successfully. Finally, list all of the accomplishments, awards, recognition, and references that are relevant to that solution.

Download the Smart Proposal Template

It Doesn’t Start or End with the Proposal

Smart Sales Proposal win over 70% of the time when preceded by a Fit Assessment & followed by a systematic follow-up process.

The objective of a Fit-Assessment is to capture and develop the complete and accurate business and technical requirements needed for constructing a compelling proposal. The Fit-Assessment contains a series of questions asked to the Business, User, and Procurement level stakeholders within the business unit you are selling to in order to understand their business objectives. For more information on the Fit-Assessment & Smart Proposal, see chapters 5 and 6 of The Smart Sales Method.