In my last post I was ranting about how I hate proposals.
My preferred solution to this is not developing proposals at all. I highly recommend not spending your time generating beautiful documents for every person that says, “send me a proposal”. It’s a surefire way to eliminate your prospecting time and have a sick pipeline.
However, if you have situations where you have to generate a proposal, or a part of a proposal, consider the remaining two options from The 4-Hour Workweek: Delegate and Automate.
If you need to research something for a proposal, or search through internal archives for information, like product details or case studies, consider delegating. Don’t spend precious sales time on this.
If security access to the systems needed permit, consider getting a freelancer to do the work—usually offshore. There are thousands of people willing and eager to do this kind of admin work. Help yourself and help them at the same time by hiring them. Use marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork to find these people.
When hiring offshore freelancers to do work for you, give them very clear step-by-step instructions. Don’t be vague or high-level in your instructions or the work will not be done to your satisfaction. One great way I have found to give offshore teams instructions is by using video recording tools. Use a tool like Loom to show a freelancer exactly how you do this task. Loom will let you record your computer screen and your voice at the same time.
If you are not good at this type of detailed instruction-giving, see if someone else on your team can help, or consider getting a managed sales admin service’s help–ask me about this.
In 2023, every salesperson has their own “intern”. The intern is called ChatGPT (and the intern has a lot of friends—other AI tools.) There are various ways to get ChatGPT to write a part of any proposal.
Consider that ChatGPT’s writing is not brilliant— “middling” is a word I like to use to describe how well it writes. But “middling” is quite good compared to the way many proposals are written. So, if you are forced into a corner where long-form prose is needed you can use ChatGPT.
The main caveat is to always check what ChatGPT writes. AI experts agree that generative AI still “hallucinates”, i.e., makes stuff up.
Sell don’t write
In my experience, it’s not the proposal document itself that sells. It’s your interactions with the people involved in buying that makes the difference.
Gartner’s research shows the number of decision-makers involved in buying solutions is 6-10. Figuring out who these people are, and addressing their issues, is the best way to increase your odds of closing a deal. I’m a big fan of the framework from Miller and Heiman’s classic sales book Strategic Selling (now New Strategic Selling) to get this done.
The key to the Miller and Heiman framework is identifying “red flags” and eliminating them one-by-one. “Red flags” are people that will be involved in purchasing your product that you have not identified, and issues these people have that you have not identified, or not addressed. As you eliminate “red flags” you increase the chances of you winning the deal, as you have addressed and gotten agreement from more of the “buying committee” that your solution fits them personally.
When you talk to the people involved in buying your product or service, document what you discuss together (in bullet point format to save your time). Because you are developing this document with the people in the “buying committee” you are eliminating nearly all the guesswork that goes into a typical proposal. The people in the buying committee are “co-authoring” this document with you…it starts becoming their “baby” too.
Delegate, Eliminate and Automate (DEA) the grunt work in developing proposals and you will have time to actually sell. Otherwise, you won’t make enough money and might be tempted to take on Walter White’s career.