One simple way to dramatically increase your probability of closing your strategic deals, is to make sure that your sales proposals illustrate the true value of the product you are offering to your customer. Often times, sales people do not invest enough time to prepare professional looking and comprehensive proposals. I’ve seen it time and again, where salespeople use a spreadsheet as the method to present multimillion dollar proposals which is almost always inadequate and will by no means properly demonstrate the full value of their own product or solution. Successful sales proposals include common elements that will help you demonstrate how your product is the best one available for your customer. By following these repeatable steps, you will save substantial time preparing professional looking and powerful proposals which in turn will help you to boost your sales results.
You should always arrange to present your proposal face-to-face to the most senior people that will be deciding on the product your customer will ultimately purchase. By having the right people in the room at once, you will simplify the negotiating process while enabling you to get immediate feedback from the decision makers themselves. You will also be able to qualify the validity of your solution, the compelling event driving your customer and how it relates to their priorities, along with the time frame in which they need to make a purchase. Many times your proposal will be distributed amongst other executives further emphasizing the need for it to live on its own when you are not there to support the value of your product. Do not deliver your proposal via e-mail and hope or assume your customer will examine and understand all of the essential attributes and the value you are offering.
Following are some of the most important ingredients to include in your proposal:
- Executive Summary. This section should describe your customers priority, along with the challenge they are facing, and a brief, high level description about the uniqueness of your product or service and how it addresses your customers particular problems.
- Solution Overview. The overview should further elaborate on your solution with some facts and examples of how it maps to the particular challenges and overall strategy of your customer. You should incorporate items such as the goals and findings of any proof of concept completed, along with the names of the individuals involved on your customers evaluation team, and results of any other customer site visits or reference calls completed. If you had a partner involved, share their findings and recommendation or endorsement to further substantiate your solution. You should also indicate the time your customer invested and the steps completed to prove how your product is a viable solution for their company. This will build substantial credibility for you and your company.
- Implementation Plan. Show the high level project plan along with a timeline along with professional services needed for implementing your solution. For technical products, you should include a high level solution architecture. This will not only demonstrate the completeness of your solution, it will also show how you will get the job completed and validate exactly when the project needs to start to meet your customers deadline and will further confirm the compelling event. For example, if your customer needs a solution implemented in six months, and your project will take five months from beginning to end, that leaves one month to negotiate a contract, allocate resources, and kick off the project. Showing that detail will help support the fact that you and your customer need to get a contract signed and start the project without delay.
- Education Plan. The education plan (as required) should detail all of the instructional classes needed, timing of those classes, the curriculum summary, and the people your customer should have attend. This plan should be incorporated into the implementation plan above.
- Financial Investment Summary. The investment summary should clearly represent the total financial outlay for your proposal including a breakout of the fees of your products, services, any applicable training, along with the payment schedule. If there are any financial incentives or special discounts you are offering, make sure that you show exactly what they are, and the financial savings provided as compared to what the “normal” or “typical” pricing would be. It’s also helpful to show the estimated time frame for your customers return on investment as well as any hard dollar cost savings your proposal provides.
- Proposal Conditions. If there are special conditions tied to your proposal, be sure they are documented and reviewed during your meeting. These would typically be items that would help you meet your targeted close date, or help you with future commitments from your customer, or other items that would help you generate incremental future business, and should always be considered for inclusion. For example, you may have a due date for a signed contract, or a condition your client must satisfy such as volume purchases needed to preserve special pricing, etc.
- Agreement Framework. This is usually a description of the product names and quantities, along with professional services and education that are required for your solution and included in your proposal. Additionally, you should specify the contract vehicle to be used so that you can confirm the purchasing process, and the resources needed to get your agreement signed.
- Proposal Benefits. This section is just about the most important element of your sales proposal and provides the opportunity for you to tie all of the pieces together. You should summarize and highlight the overall benefits you are providing and briefly recap each of the previously mentioned items while reinforcing the completeness of your solution and any other exceptional elements.
After you have gone through the presentation of your sales proposal, your customer will have a clear understanding of all pertinent aspects of your solution and how they relate to and resolve their business problem. Furthermore, you will have much better insight into what’s needed to close your deal. Now that you’ve demonstrated how you have earned the business, be sure to ask for it.
By following these simple and repeatable steps, you will save time developing future proposals as well as increase your sales performance, while demonstrating your professionalism, reliability, and the unique value you provide to your customers.