Are Too Many Sales Proposals Killing Your Pipeline of Sales Leads?
Getting to the proposal stage of a sale is usually reason to celebrate. After all, the metrics of proposal writing are simple: the more proposals you write, the more sales you are going to close. But many sales people get carried away with producing sales proposals in an assembly line fashion in an effort to keep a full pipeline of business leads. Most sales managers support this kind of high-intensity sales proposal writing, because sales managers and reps thrive on a busy pipeline of sales leads.
The problem with writing too many sales proposals is that proposal writing and rewriting can be counterproductive, especially if too many of your proposals are ending up in the great sales “purgatory” where business leads get stalled between “no” and ”yes.” Simply churning out sales proposals without a larger sense of strategy and discipline in your B2B lead generation is likely to leave you with a full pipeline of sales leads that never get resolved.
Sales teams view writing sales proposals as a form of high-energy lead generation. But too often, in the act of writing proposals, they do not make the necessary effort to customize the proposal to the client’s needs. Without a sense of strategy and listening to the client’s specific needs, your sales team is going to be pitching a pre-packaged system that is not what the client wants or needs.
Don’t confuse “energy” and “action” with “results.” Your sales team might spend all day writing sales proposals, only to close a tiny percentage of deals. This is inefficient and a huge missed opportunity. Instead of using a “machine gun” approach – firing out sales proposals as fast as possible, in every direction – you need to take a “rifle” approach by selecting a specific target, planning your effort and taking your time.
Sales people are often impatient for action, but here is why a bit of patience is so important: even before you get to the point of trying to do appointment setting, you’ve already invested so much time qualifying the sales leads and ushering them through the sales funnel. So why are you trying for a fast deal?
Without careful planning and a clear understanding of the prospect’s needs, the sales proposal is going to need to be resubmitted again and again. (If the prospect doesn’t lose patience and call off the conversation altogether.) Unless your sales people stop cranking out proposals and start asking the right questions to qualify their sales leads, they’re going to find themselves spending all of their time on endless rewriting and resubmitting of proposals.
Excessive proposal writing (and rewriting) is the last refuge of a sales person who doesn’t want to do the hard work of qualifying sales leads and delving deeper into the client’s needs. It’s easier to just keep writing proposals in an effort to “look busy.”
Here’s what happens in a case like this:
>> The client said no to the original proposal.
>> Instead of taking the time to ask questions, listen to the client’s unspoken needs, and flush out the real objection, the sales person gets impatient (“But I can TASTE the sale! It’s that close!”)
>> Fueled by impatience, the sales person starts rewriting the proposal, throwing more systems, services and products at the client in the hopes that something would stick this time.
>> In the process of trying desperately to reel in the sale, you’re simply pushing the client further away. The sales person might be thinking, “They’re close to making a buying decision…but I guess they just don’t get it.” Meanwhile, the client is thinking, “This sales person just doesn’t understand our needs. I’m going to go talk to one of their competitors instead.”
Why do proposals end up in sales purgatory? Too often, it’s lack of effective follow through, and no clear commitment being requested from the prospect.
If your sales team is simply sending proposals (by e-mail, fax or mail) to the decision maker in the hope that the prospect is going to call back and buy, you’re going to be disappointed. When was the last time a client immediately called back and agreed to buy, based simply on a few words on paper? And no matter how persuasive your proposal, it isn’t going to be able to answer any questions that weren’t anticipated when it was written.
Never send a sales proposal without first conducting an appointment setting call to arrange a time to discuss it in detail. Without a sales person attached to the proposal, nothing will happen. If you simply put a written proposal in front of a decision maker, most of the time he will simply look at your price and overlook the important details of what you are really offering.
The best selling moments arise from a sales person, in person, presenting the proposal. Instead of a dead piece of paper or numbers on a screen in front of the prospect, the proposal becomes the centerpiece of a face -to-face exchange between you. Instead of passive information, the proposal becomes a dynamic process between two people.
Instead of a “yes or no,” (and it’s all too easy to get a “no” when you simply send a proposal with no additional context), discussing the proposal in person creates a dynamic of “What-if and why-not?” Most deals are closed at these types of specific, focused meetings, not by hoping for sudden results from “deals in the pipeline.” If you rely too much on written proposals and regularly miss these “live” selling events, your sales cycle will be twice as long as it has to be…if it doesn’t break down entirely.
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