Canadians hate to say “no,” especially to salespeople. It’s in our blood. Speaking as a Canadian, I can tell you, we are too nice. We’ll do everything we can to avoid saying that ugly word. “Send me a proposal” is the classic kiss-off.
It’s a nice way to get a sales rep off the phone. It doesn’t cost anything to say, “Send me a proposal.” And it makes the salesperson feel good. He thinks he’s done a good job, and scurries back to his desk to write a thirty page document.
Meanwhile, once the proposal arrives all the customer does is scroll down to the pricing page.
Why even bother writing the other 29 pages?! The sales rep could’ve just given the price on the phone, confirmed buying intent, and known exactly how to proceed.
Before I go further. If you are batting 1000 on your sales proposals, then keep doing it. Your process is working. But if like so many people, your win rate is less than 50% it’s time to rethink how and when to send sales proposals.
A proposal is a sales crutch. You shouldn’t really need them.
An effective sales process is based on creating a set of agreements. The salesperson is helping the customer navigate the buyer’s journey, evaluate the product or service, compare their options, and make a decision. If executed well, the salesperson’s questions will qualify if a customer is a fit for the service.
If at any point the salesperson discovers the customer isn’t a fit, they can quickly shut down the sales process and focus on more appropriate customers.
Instead of presenting a sales proposal, offer your customer a service agreement. You will know right away if the customer is interested in buying or not.
A contract has very different implications than a proposal. It means you’ve come to an understanding with your client. You understand their needs, and they understand what your firm will offer, how the service works, what they will receive, and what it costs.
There are no surprises. The contract simply states the facts:
- Terms of service
There are no benefit statements or value propositions in a contract. It only presents the cold hard reality of your services.
If a customer isn’t ready to receive a contract, they are not ready to receive a proposal either. And this can mean several things:
- The customer doesn’t understand what your firm does and what it will deliver.
- The customer has doubts in your firm’s capabilities.
- The customer isn’t ready to buy, or may be leaning towards another option.
Wouldn’t you rather know the customer has doubts and tackle those head on versus writing a sales proposal?
This isn’t a challenging exercise to try. You can validate the effectiveness of your sales process right away. The next time a customer says, “send me a proposal,” ask if they are ready for the service agreement. See how they respond.
If you get a “no,” shift gears and do some more discovery work. Ask them what’s not landing right or what they need. You will likely learn one of three things:
- They don’t get it, and you need to help them understand.
- They’re not the buyer, and you need to start selling to their boss (or another person).
- They’re kicking tires, and they’re not a real buyer.
Either way, you will have taken a huge step forward to getting to “yes” with the right customers.
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