As you sell products or services, you might find yourself preparing a number of different types of sales proposals:
- Unsolicited proposal. A proposal that you initiate solely as a prospecting tool. Usually (although not always), you’ll speak to the customer before you submit it.
- RFP response. This is a proposal generated after you receive a “request for proposal.” The RFP usually contains a self-analysis of the customer’s needs as well as purchase specifications. It’s usually important that you follow the format prescribed in the RFP and rigorously answer questions the RFP poses.
- Bids. Like the RFP, a bid solicitation is initiated by the customer. A bid solicitation contains very detailed specifications. Like the RFP, a bid solicitation usually requires you to follow a tightly prescribed format.
- Pre-call proposal. You get this proposal in your customer’s hands before you make a sales visit. Generally it contains less detail than most other formats, and attempts to whet the customer’s appetite.
- Post-call proposal. Following a sales visit, you might be asked to prepare a proposal based on your discussion during the meeting. While you will probably have great flexibility in format, this post-call proposal must focus on the items discussed during the conference.
Great sales proposals:A few to-do’s
As you’re evaluating your sales proposal, ask yourself whether your presentation is ordinary…or power-packed. Does your proposal:
- Speak only about your customer’s needs today, or tomorrow’s potential?
- Sound “canned,” or regularly use customer’s name and mention his or her unique circumstances?
- Use your customer’s name more than your name?
- Limit discussion to your customer’s needs, or conduct a hard-hitting analysis of opportunities?
- Speak about your product’s features—or benefits?
- Focus on the process or mechanics of delivering your product, or describe the results your customer will enjoy?
- Mention only your qualifications and strengths, or sell on the basis of what makes you and your proposal unique?
Evaluating your proposal
Keep in mind the many different ways your proposal might be evaluated. As you prepare your proposal, write for the audience you expect to read and review your proposal:
- Individual buyer. Get to know as much as possible about your customer’s interests and concerns before preparing your proposal.
- Recommender. This buyer typically reviews the purchase and recommends it to an approving authority. Think of this buyer as a member of your “team.” Together, identify questions the decision-maker might have.
- Committee. Identify the members, if possible, as well as their approach to past purchasing decisions. Address questions or issues that members typically raise.
- Office team. In addition to identifying the members and their concerns, try to gain insight into the team’s goals and objectives before drafting your proposal.
- Panel rating. Members of the panel typically assign points to various sections of the proposal, and ultimately buy from the vendor who scores highest. If possible, obtain a copy of the rating scale to be used before preparing your proposal.
- Consultant. Inquire how the consultant plans to evaluate and rate proposals, and gear your proposal toward the consultant’s assessment methodology.