I don’t ever recall going to a sales training seminar or a class that teaches you how to write a proposal with true common sense. I am sure there are courses out there somewhere that cover this subject matter. And I am not just speaking about the grammar or punctuation, or even sentence structure. I am referring to the kind of proposal you and I would like to read, and definitely something your client or customer would want as well.
I usually see the marketing department of a company teach or actually show the sales staff what makes a good or decent proposal, and then they are in control of what goes out to their prospects or clients.
In smaller companies, you will usually find an owner who is a sales manager – who at best was an average salesperson before their promotion – showing the newer salespeople “how they used to do it.”
Guess what, sports fans? Neither of those scenarios are winners. As Harvey Mackay said in his book “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” “If you are doing something all the time and it is wrong, you are now perfecting an error.”
Proposals should always be put together with the customer in mind. Yeah, I said it – the customer. Most proposals are thrown together with everything under the sun. The sales rep or the manager somehow thinks thicker is better. The more information we can pack in to this puppy, the better. Let’s include everything from our company history, a factual timeline of the industry and how it began, our mission statements, our complete product line (past and present), a description of every employee with their complete biography, features and benefits of the stuff we sell, lots of graphs and charts – since they look really cool in color – and, oh yeah, our pricing for the product or service.
Who are you trying to impress? No one wants to read through all this junk. Think about it – if you were going to buy the latest smart phone or an insurance policy for your home, do you want a 28-page proposal? I don’t know about you, but all I care about is:
• Will you be competitive in your pricing?
• Will the product or service do what you said it will do?
• Can I trust you and your company, and rely on you in the future?
• Is the service going to be as good as you said it was?
That’s it, end of story. See ya later, alligator. Quit complicating something easy. Customers want the truth, to get to the point quickly and for you to keep your promises. Heck, we don’t even need “the best deal in town” – just a fair price so we have as few hassles or problems down the road. We are all way too busy or rushed for big fancy proposals that have way too much information and don’t tell us what we really want to know.
Did you ever pay attention and watch someone go through your proposal? If so, you would notice they go all the way to the back page of the proposal to look at the numbers. If this is the case most of the time, why are you bringing in these proposals that look like a book, almost as thick as “War and Peace?”
Keep it simple and bring in the most compact and relevant proposal that fits the customer’s needs and not just yours. The faster they will go through it, the faster they will say “yes” and give you an order.
Time for me to run and read my homeowners insurance policy I have been putting off for the last 32 years.
Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.