For salespeople, much of a given job hinges on just getting heard. But simply meeting with a prospective client and talking through the situation usually isn’t enough to land the contract.
Most bureaucratic organizations want official sales proposals. So how do you respond appropriately when you finally hear those four thrilling yet dreadful words? We’re talking about “Send me a proposal.”
Gathering Important Information
When you get down to it, it’s astonishing how many sales professionals don’t do the necessary legwork before they submit a proposal. As soon as they hear that a company is interested in receiving a proposal, too many throw one together haphazardly and send it. We can call this blind proposal writing.
This is dangerous on many levels, but perhaps the most risky aspect is that you honestly don’t know what the recipient is looking for. A go-ahead to send a proposal is far from the same as getting your proposal accepted.
Don’t assume that because a potential client has asked for your proposal that the company’s going to hand you the deal. The hard part has just begun.
Start by gathering more information. As soon as you’ve gotten the go-ahead, gather your team and decide what information you need to proceed with a proposal. You have to grasp the full specifications and entire scope of the job.
The goal should be to get as much information as possible the first time around. Any proposal recipient is going to expect you to call or meet once to gather details. Some will even find it acceptable for you to ask for details a second time.
But if you keep coming back -- a third, fourth, or fifth time -- your prospective client is eventually going to get fed up and move on. In their mind, you can’t be trusted with a project if you can’t develop and submit a proposal efficiently.
Ask the “Why” Questions
It’s also important for you to identify the “why” behind the proposal. And it’s an unfortunate truth that many companies will ask people for a proposal just to get them to stop bugging them.
Upon receiving the proposal, they’ll reject it immediately and tell you they aren’t interested. While this borders on unethical, it’s ultimately up to you to weed out the companies who try to get rid of you from the companies who are genuinely looking to do business.
The way to do this is by asking two questions: “Why now?” and “why me?” The “why now” question is intended to get to the bottom of why the client is seeking a proposal.
Do they have a project that needs to be completed this quarter, or are they lining up a job for 12 months down the road? The “why me” question lets you know how they see you fitting into the picture.
If their answers are precise and concrete, you can be more confident that your proposal will be taken seriously. If their answers tend to be non-descriptive and vague, you might want to reconsider the time investment.
Knowing How Long to Wait
Knowing how long to wait before submitting your proposal is not as simple as remembering a formula or rule of thumb, unfortunately. Much depends on the industry, the project, and the client.
Your first few proposals will probably take some trial and error. However, sooner is probably better than later. As you develop a number of proposals over time, make sure to track the results.
Carefully analyze when you send each proposal, how long it takes to prepare it, when you hear back, and what your success rate is. Eventually you’ll be able to identify which proposals get accepted at a high rate and which don’t. This can tell you a lot about when to submit them.
Identifying a Response Deadline
Here’s one thing that newbie proposal writers don’t always do: Set a deadline for getting a response. Why does this matter? Well, consider that for every day your proposal sits on the desk of its intended recipient, they have time to forward that proposal to one of your competitors.
This increases the chances that the competition will undercut you and nab the deal … which means you’re losing on two different fronts. In addition to missing the deal, you’re empowering your competitor.
According to sales expert Bruce King, the ideal range is between one and three days. Anything longer than this means the recipient wasn’t very serious about your proposal to begin with.
Again, you need to figure this deadline out prior to drafting and sending the proposal. It’s a small detail -- and may not hurt you all of the time -- but it can come back to bite you on occasion.
Establishing Decision Makers
As you communicate with the recipient, begin poking and prodding a bit to find out who is really on the receiving end. Are you merely communicating with a receptionist or are you getting through to the decision maker?
They are both important -- one’s a gatekeeper and one’s a decision maker -- but you have to approach them differently. The earlier on you’re able to establish who the decision maker is, the more targeted your proposal will be.
And as you can guess, this is an essential aspect of getting your proposal accepted.
Using the Right Tools
The final thing to think about after hearing those four words -- “send me a proposal” -- is choosing the right tools. Thankfully, we’re no longer in an era when everything has to be done manually.
There are many different tools -- some specific to proposal writing and others that are more general to conducting business -- that can help you facilitate the process and end up on the winning side of a proposal. Identify these so you’re ready to meet your deadline.
At iQuoteXpress, we understand the essence of proposal writing and how challenging it can be to manage the process with efficiency and accuracy. That’s why we’ve developed proprietary quotation software that aids in proposal writing and handles one of the more difficult aspects of the entire process: quoting and pricing. Contact us today to learn more about our sales quote software and how it can help you!