Deal closure or winning rate is pretty crucial success factor when it comes to evaluating performance of proposal teams and sales team as a whole.
As they say, there is nothing like success. Success brings positivity, excitement, joy, it attracts more business, and in turn bring more people to the team. Consistently cracking deals isn’t easy, it never was and never will be.
But one must not forget, proposal team has to get quite a few things right before its sales manager presses ‘send’ button on the proposal email.
There are quite a few hurdles in creating an impressive proposal. Remember, some of these challenge are similar to common mistakes proposal writers make. If I list-out all these challenges and group them together, they would belong to one of the following
- Proposal Writing – Time Challenge
- Proposal Writing – Quality Challenge
- Proposal Writing – Accountability Challenge
- Proposal Writing – Customer Buy-In Challenge
And you will notice, these aspects/ challenges are interdependent; meaning, if sales team changes its focus on time, it affects quality; if it focuses too much on accountability then it can impact the time and customer buy-in, and so on.
Proposal – Time Challenge
Almost every business sales teams have to deal with proposals. The proposal can take different forms be it formal proposal in the form PDF or PPT or email or text message.
But every sales team needs to know the submission deadline for RFP, RFP, RFI, well before time and should be able to create, review and send proposal on time.
Depending on number of proposals a business has to deal with in a given month, it can hire/contract sales-proposal team members/managers and consider their productivity, ability to get inputs/reviews on time. There are issues to keep up with the proposal content calendar.
Proposal – Quality Challenge
I am sure you will miss your heart-beat if you realise that you have got the costing/pricing wrong, or surprisingly missed to address customer’s main pain areas. If so, you can only hope somehow, some miracle will happen and client will say YES to your proposal. We live in the real world, miracles are rare 🙂
Hence sales proposal team has to make sure that
- You are including the right information about company, products, services
- You are involving right people (subject matter experts) and receiving their parts on time
- You are following sound quality reviews before proposals are sent
Higher the quality of your proposal, higher are the chances of your proposal getting selected. Instead what do we see?
The attitude/approach ‘let’s put together few things so that we will have SOMETHING before submitting’ can work in counter way to product high-quality proposal.For beginner there is nothing wrong about this approach, but that’s precisely what it is. It is for beginners.
As a sales professional hungry for closing more deals, you would be give serious thought before taking up a proposal, plan well to involve right set of SMEs, have brainstorming session, understand client requirement well, understand clients, devise a strategy to outdo competition and get it reviewed from important stakeholders, etc. All such thoughtful activities will result in a high quality proposal.
Proposal – Accountability Challenge
I have been on the both sides of the table, when it comes to dealing with business proposals. It is not rare when we see companies submitting proposals keep committing its resources to meet ambitious targets.
And this especially true in case of start up, new ventures who do not have enough experience dealing with post-proposal challenges e.g.
- Not having enough skilled & experienced resources to deliver project/assignment
- Not keeping enough buffer in terms of delivery timeline
- Subject matter experts who provided inputs during the proposal processes, turning it down or disowning part of their commitment
So the accountability challenge is both internal as well as external.
I have deliberately included it here because the roots of such post-proposal challenges start from the time of proposal writing.
If sales team is going to commit its resources without realising whether company will be able to achieve stated goals or implement/deliver projects; it will not only challenges its accountability of its resources but also put a big question mark in the mind of customer, whether you are a reliable business to deal with or not.
Proposal – Customer Buy-In Challenge
Your proposal is accepted.
Statements like we can rarely hear during initial sales conversation.Generally client wants to get more information in order to judge vendors properly. Hence client keep asking fewer/more questions. If these questions are about clarifying the information you provided in proposal and client is perceiving it as inadequate.
You still have not lost the opportunity, as long client has not perceived your proposal information as poor. You can still rectify your proposal, quickly provide needed/suitable information and still be in the race.
Though this process can get frustrating (especially you feel like you have nearly cracked the deal and still not receiving confirmation message/email or stumble upon surprising rejection); it also gives opportunity to garner customer confidence in us. Every conversation with the customer, after proposal is submitted gives signals. You need to pick up those signals, make sense of customer psychology and turn those in positive direction, gain customer confidence.
The post-proposal challenge is also the inability to collect signals/body language. Typically when you email a proposal to your client as PDF/PPT/DOC or such formats, there is no way for you to understand whether client has opened your proposal or not. There are no signals.
You have to either follow up withe emails or keep calling client frequently. It causes bit of a friction in your conversation with your client.
Why not use technology to silently collect such signals and use them with conviction to convert the prospect to client?
Is it possible?
Just think about it, how would you respond, especially when you know
- Client has opened your proposal means something than not knowing anything about it
- When client has looked at your proposal till the end and discretely means something
- When client opens proposal and spend significant time on solution page or cost/pricing page gives definite signal
- When client looks at your terms and conditions in the contract information in proposal, is different level of signal
- When client keeps checking your proposal, keep returning and spends time; you know when to follow up, how to follow up, with what questions to follow up.
Are you interested to know, how it can be done?