I was reminded the other day of one of the “classic” problems that is experienced by so many people during the sales process – proposals that have “gone to Neverland”.
The scenario goes like this…you meet with a prospect and they ask for a proposal; you spend a considerable amount of time developing a proposal (I have frequently seen IT solution sales people spending two days out of their selling week just developing one proposal); you send them a proposal and now…your prospect does not return your follow-up calls…What’s up?
Nine-times-out-of-ten the problem is the process you used for selling your product or solution. Whether you know it or not, you have not sold all the key players in the decision-making process on your solution. It is too early for you to write a proposal. Prospects often ask for proposals when this is not the appropriate next step in the sales process. It is up to you, the sales person, to take control of this situation and guide the prospect to the correct next step.
My general advice on proposals is to steer clear of them as long and as often as you can!
Try to avoid writing “proposals” and focus on writing “statements of work”. In other words, only put the time in to write such a time-consuming document when you are 80-90% sure the deal is sold (and has been sold to all the key people). Up until this time, only offer the prospect the minimum amount of information they need to advance the sale – try to minimize your time developing documents.
Part of sales is about good time management. Don’t spend your time writing proposals, spend it selling and minimize your time in “Neverland” (unless of course, you really, really like Captain Hook, Michael Jackson or Johnny Depp).