Less is More With Sales Proposals

Posted by Chris Mott on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 @ 07:02 AM

Teach Less learn More

When writing a proposal, have you or your salespeople ever overeducated a prospect, resulting in the loss of the deal?  If you didn’t answer yes to this question, you are likely in denial.

Let's recap some of the common obstacles which sales organizations face:

  • Qualifying the application and not the business problem,
  • Demos provided too early or with limited qualification,
  • Missing compelling reasons to buy,
  • Not creating a high-value relationship,
  • Incomplete financial discussions,
  • Decision Makers not engaged in the conversation, discussion or presentation, and
  • Competition not identified and compared.

Among other content, I conduct training sessions on presenting skills, which include proposal-writing.  A very high percentage of the attendees admit to not including a summary of the business problem or the consequences of inaction.  I encourage you to do some digging to determine whether or not that is happening with your salespeople.  You may be surprised.  Experience proves that most salespeople include lots of detail and comprehensive descriptions of their solutions.  While this may be necessary for very technical applications, as a general rule, we tend to provide too much information and too many details.

What are the risks of this?

  • We surprise people by including things they were not expecting.
  • We make things look and sound more complicated.
  • We create questions about whether they need everything.
  • We take focus off the big picture.
  • We complicate the decision.
  • We open doors for pushback.

We all know the old adage that says underpromise and overdeliver, and yet many salespeople frequently do the opposite.  Ask your technical people about their biggest complaint with the sales force.  You will likely hear something like, “They commit to things we may not be able to do.” or “Why can’t they sell what we have?”  This is, in essence, overcommitting.

Relationships are impacted by expectations.  Everybody has them; unfortunately, they differ widely from person to person.  What’s worse, salespeople do a poor job of communicating what they expect, both from their prospects and customers, and rarely ask about their expectations.  Think about that for a second.  It’s like saying that you will come home for a special birthday party, but fail to ask what time you need to arrive.  So, when the prospect says, "Please send me a proposal.", we send what we think they want, often without discussing and agreeing on what will be included.

If your information focuses too heavily on deliverables, at the expense of outcomes or results, you are more likely to create problems.  If it seems too overwhelming to the prospect, they could incorrectly believe that it will take “too much time”, be “too complicated”, or “too distracting”.  They may feel that it will require “too much change” or be "too difficult” and you may lose the prospect's attention and interest.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading the proposal.  Ask yourself how you would feel if you were considering it.  What questions would you have?  Are there components which you feel you could do without?  Does it feel like the risks outweigh the benefits? 

Remember that their responses to your proposal will likely be emotional, not intellectual.  They may process the information intellectually, but their conclusions are more likely to be about fear and risk.  Compensate for this by communicating in terms of how things will improve and how the investment will make people’s lives better.  More specifically, what will the outcome be?

In summary, keep it simple, include only what was discussed, and be concise.  Less is more.  The shorter the proposal, the more likely they are to read it!

Join us for Part Two of Leading the Ideal Sales Force on Wednesday March 12 at 11:00am ET. This compelling one hour webinar will cover new approaches and stratagies for this critical business need.    

Topics: changing sales performance, Closing Sales, avoid blowing sales, better closing percentage

Subscribe to Email Updates

Scan the QR Code with your smartphone for immediate access to Chris Mott.

Chris Mott LinkedIn

Sales Leadership Intensive


hiring mistake calc