Are you hitting the right note with your sales proposals?

Contributor - Andy Bounds

Are you hitting the right note with your sales proposals?

It's not easy to get people to do what you want. And it's even harder if you aren't there to persuade them in person

This happens when you send someone a proposal or a business plan. They'll read it at their leisure, probably skim-reading it. If they have any questions - which they will - you won't be there to answer them.

So how can you make sure your documents impress and persuade? Here are my golden rules of sales documents.

Confirm, don't explore

It's harder to sell in writing than it is verbally. So your best chance of convincing someone is to agree everything verbally first, and then your written document confirms what you've already agreed.

In other words, don't explore new ideas in the document. If you can write "as discussed" before every sentence you're getting it right - but don't actually do this, as it might get a tad boring.

Now include these five elements:

1. Why it's needed

Build the need for what you want to sell. This will either be a bad situation that needs fixing; and/or a great opportunity to take advantage of.

2. Objectives and measures

Paint the picture of the desired future state. In other words, what things will look like after you've completed the thing you're proposing. Be clear on:

  • what everyone wants the future to look like - the objectives;
  • how we'll know we've achieved this - the measures; and;
  • the value this will bring to the business - why it's worth doing.

3. How we'll get there

Show the detail of how you will get from A to B. This will probably be a simple timeline, showing all the key deliverables, who's doing what and when. As with everything else in the proposal, you'll have already agreed this timeline verbally.

4. Price

Always put the price towards the end. Why? Because it's important you build the value first, before saying how much it costs. When discussing price, always relate it back to value. In other words, show how they are investing money to get valuable outcomes. They are not paying for deliverables (which are just the mechanism by which they'll get their outcomes).

5. Immediate next steps

Always finish by confirming what the next steps are: "As agreed, I'll call you at 10am on Wednesday to discuss how we progress this quickly," for instance. If you don't include this, you have to wait for them to reply to your proposal. Which they might not do. This leads to the dreaded dilemma: do I chase (and pester) them; or do I wait (and feel powerless). Neither is particularly pleasant - nor useful.

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Andy Bounds

Awarded the title Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year, and described by AstraZeneca’s Global Communication Director as “a genius, whose advice can’t be ignored”, Andy’s insights stem from the fact his mother is blind.

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