This is the third part of a multi-part series about the turns of events I had to go through and how the startup/product idea of Fresh Proposals software was conceived. There have been moments of failure, painful realization of the inability to change things around us with existing resources and mindset, overcoming failures, keeping up faith-patience and a lot more. I hope you will enjoy this ardent journey of an entrepreneur.
Six Months Passed!
One fine day, I was working from home and suddenly a few notifications popped up on my screen.
George H <firstname.lastname@example.org> has opened your email “YYY Proposal for XXX”
Maria T <email@example.com> has opened your email “YYY Proposal for XXX”
I jumped out of my bed and quickly started writing email.
You guessed it right. I accidentally used an email tracker while sending proposal email. And after six months passed, I almost got past the whole incidence. However email tracker it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It notified me when prospects opened my emails.
One Follow Up Email That Just Worked Wonders
The prospect who almost turned frozen cold, had resurfaced and became active. I would never let go of this signal. I was quick to send follow up email to the same prospect.
This email worked like a charm. I got a reply from George within an hour and he asked if we can schedule a call very next day
“Amazing, isn’t it?”, I thought and I started thinking about possible sales obstacles this time around.
The Moments of Realization
Thereafter we scheduled calls, conf-calls, involved their accounts & legal teams. In this process the proposal went back and forth at least ten times
(Yeah, I am pretty sure about it).
The pricing section, I changed it at least four time for:
- Subscription pricing (separate monthly, yearly options, added discount)
- Number of subscriptions (it started with 250, increased to 380 and then 500+)
- Training was mentioned separately and it was optional, I made it part of core pricing
Many Changes to Proposals, It’s Unavoidable, Isn’t It?
A sales proposal gets updated multiple times. It is a part of the sales process. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with how it is done. Let me tell you why.
- First of all, before I add any new change to the file sent earlier, I would have to save a different version of MS Word document
- I needed to perform pricing calculations outside the proposal file, I would use MS Excel/ Google Spreadsheet or just a calculator to calculate subtotal, discounts, taxes & total
- I would have to carefully scan every entity in the fees section for the impact e.g. subscription changed, its discount numbers need to updated, subtotal, discount, tax, total
- Make a list of comments/ change requests received from prospect(s) and map those comments to changes done in the proposal (whether it is addressed or not/ how/where)
- Export the proposal Word file as PDF, rename it and email 4-10 MB file to everyone concerned
The “times” I spent making all these were not trivial. I repeated this process more than ten times just for one prospect. As I mentioned earlier, I had to be extremely careful about what changes I was performing to the proposal. If you have to perform any activity very consciously, it sucks mental energy.
At Last, We Closed It Successfully
Finally, the prospect sent the signed copies of the proposal agreement and I CLOSED THE SALES DEAL.
Since George and team were based out of a European country, it took about two weeks for them to get everyone to sign the physical copies of the proposal, courier the package. A week later, we signed it from our side, couriered the other copy back to them.
Of course, the customer (who are we selling, why: pain points, aspirations), product (what I am selling) and the company-team (who is selling) are still the three required conditions for the sale to happen in the first place.
Importantly, we need to build incremental trust through the process and it has to be bidirectional (don’t be surprised: eg. there are instances, where we have excused and walked-out of the bidding/ sales process after realizing the engagement is not going to work for us). Buyer needs to emotionally connect & get involved with the solution as well as with the team offering a solution.
When I looked back three things that strongly helped me close the deal
- Proposal was well structured, it captured requirement-solution correctly
- I have been very responsive, tirelessly communicating, shared proposal every time despite of so many change requests
- I approached the prospect at the most opportune moments
Well, there was more to come before I could seriously start thinking about solving my own problem. Let’s find out in next part, what was that trigger.