Is yours an indecent proposal?

In the past several weeks I've had multiple conversations with sellers and managers regarding proposals. When to send them, when not to, what to include, whether to use a grand total or line item pricing, how many pages are ideal, etc.

There are obviously multiple answers to these questions depending on the industry, situation and client's preference. BUT, there are always key things to consider when preparing a proposal that remain constant; otherwise, proposals become indecent.

To understand this better, let's take a look at some of the definitions for the word indecent: unsuitable, improper, unfitting. When your proposal meets any of these three, you've missed key information, will leave monies on the table and may be kidding yourself as to how seriously the client is even considering you.

Unsuitable proposals are those that are sent before first proving value to the actual stakeholder(s). To whom are your proposals sent? If to purchasing departments because you work with buyers, know that they'll only focus on your price. It's too late. Once your pricing is shared with a buyer you lose real leverage to negotiate on anything but price. You have put the buyer in control and have begun to play the game of cat and mouse. You chase, they dodge.

It is always improper to begin the conversation with a proposal. This includes capabilities presentations. What you're capable of providing needs to be something they care about. You need to find that out well before you begin to talk about yourself. Anything less is presumptuous of you.

Misusing your resources' time and energy is also improper. The two most common mistakes I see sellers make are: 1) continuously responding to rfq's from prospects that never make a purchase; and, 2) asking the team to help them hastily prepare an offer at the last minute because there's a 'strong chance'.

Here are some of the less obvious things that make a proposal unfitting. If you're a potential new supplier, be realistic about your odds of winning the business. Someone who is new to their role, or doesn't have a great relationship with their boss is highly unlikely to make any changes. They are simply not in the position to do so confidently. They may tell you what you want to hear, but they'll be all talk, no action.

A square peg doesn't fit in a round hole. If you provide a piece of the solution then you need to understand how your piece fits into their whole answer. Who else is quoting what you offer? Who are they using for the balance of the solution? Who do you know at those companies that can vouch for you? Would it help your cause to recommend another option? Are you really the best fit for them? Or, are you more focused on the win than the long-term affects on your team? Some expenses like frustration and stress don't show up in black and white on ROI spreadsheets.

Be diligent. Don't fool yourself or worse, your team. Send only decent proposals.

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