While writing and sending a business proposal is certainly one of the more time-intensive aspects of the process, your job isn’t done when the proposal changes hands. Successful businesses are the ones that understand how to follow up and close the deal. Are you out of touch when it comes to this important part of the process?
Persistence Trumps Timidity
Following up after a proposal is always a bit nerve-wracking. While you certainly want to have your proposal accepted by the prospective client, the last thing you want to do is come across as desperate or obnoxious. Unfortunately, this fear of being pushy can cause successful people to lose deals that they could have easily landed.
We’ve all gotten sales calls at inopportune times,” writes Mike Kamo of Stride. “As a sales professional, you don’t want to be that annoying salesperson on the other end of the phone. However, you also know that following up is a critical part of the sales process.” So, what’s the solution? Be persistent without pestering.
There’s a big difference between persistence and pestering. A persistent person doesn’t let one unanswered email or phone call deter them from sending another one a day or two later. A pest, on the other hand, will immediately follow up an email or phone call with another one just hours later. You want to be persistent, not pesky – because persistence always trumps timidity.
4 Tips and Tricks for Following Up
With persistence as your foundation, let’s take a look at some specific tips and strategies you can use when trying to follow up with prospective clients.
1. Know When to Follow Up
There’s no standard rule for when you can/should follow up after a proposal is sent. However, most people tend to allow for three to five business days. Or, if you have a proposal tracking software, you may find it appropriate to follow up the day after the individual reads the proposal.
When it comes to the first follow up, most people mess up because they don’t understand the purpose of the conversation. Unless the prospect guides the discussion in this direction, it’s probably not the right time to discuss closing the deal. The purpose of the initial follow up is to make sure the prospect has seen the proposal and to answer any questions they may have. This also puts a name/face/voice to the proposal and gives you the advantage of familiarity down the road.
If you watch professional baseball, you know that each bullpen pitcher typically serves a different purpose. There are “setup men” and “closers.” The setup man typically comes in during the seventh or eight inning and “sets up” the closer for the ninth and final inning. Using this analogy, you need to take on the role of the setup man during the initial follow up. Then, in subsequent follow ups, you can put on the closer hat and secure the deal. You don’t want to go out of order.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Part of a successful follow up involves asking the right questions in order to get the prospect talking and gain valuable feedback. Some of the questions you may consider throwing their way include:
Do you have any questions for me?
Were their any parts that you need clarified?
How does our proposal align with the direction of your company?
What do you think of our plan to incorporate XYZ into the process?
While you want valuable feedback, the more important thing is to simply get the prospect talking. The more you can get them to talk, the more comfortable they’ll feel with you. And as their comfort level grows, communication will increase – as will the chances of your proposal getting accepted.
3. Gain Feedback on the Proposal Itself
The first thing you should do when a proposal gets rejected is ask why. You’d be amazed at how such a simple question can produce such profound insights. You may not like what you hear, but it will be helpful.
Sometimes proposals get denied right away. While this can be frustrating, you want to make sure you’re clear about why you got denied. Ask for feedback regarding the proposal itself. Did you price your services too high? Was there some element of confusion? Are they going with someone else?
These are all questions that are bound to be circling around in your head over the next few days, so why not get the answers straight from the source? If you’re able to learn a valuable lesson about your proposal writing, then the denial may be worth it in the long run.
4. Always Say Thank You
Proposal writing can be a stressful and disappointing process – especially when you get ignored. However, you must remain gracious. Using another baseball analogy, your batting average doesn’t have to be 1.000 in order to be considered successful. Hall of Fame baseball players – the best in the business – typically only have a .300 average. In other words, they’re only successful three out of every ten attempts. This means they fail twice as often as they succeed! If you were successful three out of every ten times you sent a proposal, you’d probably be happy, too.
“Whatever answer you get, someone took the time to read your proposal, or speak with you on the phone,” writes Minda Zetlin, co-author of The Geek Gap. “They gave you some of their time and attention, which is a scarce commodity for every professional these days.” Furthermore, always say thank you. You never know when they’ll remember or refer you.
The key to successful proposal writing involves understanding the recipient and knowing how and when to follow up. If you’re still approaching this process on your own, you’re missing out on opportunities to maximize success.
Using iQuoteXpress, you can automate your sales estimating process, streamline proposals, and gain valuable insights into how your proposals are being received. For additional information – and a free, no-obligation, online demo of our software platform – please contact us today!