Featured Article12 Questions to Get a Jump Start on the Year Ahead
Each December, like many other people, I reflect on the year past and the year ahead. I focus this reflection with 12 questions. I note highlights and lessons learned; how I have evolved; the memorable moments and the various goals I’ve advanced towards – and more. Often, I’m surprised by how much I achieved. As we trudge through our busy lives we are often thinking about all we have not done or achieved. So I invite you to use these questions to take stock and consider your intentions and aspirations for 2013.
The Year Past:
1) What went well?
Read More >>
Winning Sales Proposals
|Sales Tips - Sales Tips|
|Written by Jeanne Buchanan|
Writing sales proposals is one of the most time-consuming activities in the selling process. While they’re a lot of work, they're also key to closing big-ticket deals. So if you're going to take the time to write a sales proposal, make sure you get it right. These suggestions will help you write a productive one.
• Give them what they need. Jointly develop your sales proposal with your customer. Collaborating with your sponsors to build your proposal ensures that you include everything they need to take it to their team to make a decision. Help them address what the rest of the decision-making team needs, too. In determining the range and level of detail, keep in mind that it needs to be on target for the decision being sought.
• Address each of your customer’s stakeholders. One of the most potent parts of your proposal is clarifying your solution in terms of what it will mean to your sponsor’s stakeholders. What’s in it for them? This involves describing how it will address each of their needs, objections, fears, and alternatives.
• Capture the reasons for making an investment. What does the business case for investment need to look like? Let’s take a look at four essential elements.
• Costs. In addition to itemizing the obvious expense and capital costs associated with your solution, this section describes the cost associated with any business transformation required by your solution. Will your option mean new or changed organizational units, business processes or staffing levels to your customer? If so, what are those associated costs?
A reminder: Give them a range of investments they could make, from conservative to aggressive. This will increase the credibility of the business case.
• Benefits. This section captures information like the details of the benefits to be achieved, how they will be measured, key assumptions, and key project activities necessary to realize the benefits.
For most customers, projected positive financial outcomes from an action or decision, or “hard benefits”—such as cost savings, cash inflow, or increased profits—are readily accepted as business benefits and easily measured. Again, provide a range of benefits from conservative to aggressive and identify who in the organization helped frame and validate the range.
Don’t forget to itemize the “soft benefits,” too, even though they are often defined and measured in non-financial terms. Show why or how soft benefits such as improved customer satisfaction, reduced risk, or improved service delivery would contribute to an important customer business objective. Sometimes these are the reasons they want to buy. The hard benefits help them get to “yes.”
• Timing. In this section, provide information like a broad schedule linking the major cost elements and showing the significant external influences that could affect the schedule. How long will it take for each option to be fully operational and deliver the planned benefits?
For the hard benefits and costs, follow the money. When will they invest and when will the benefits stream be realized?
• Financial Impact. Your customers are especially interested in where they will see the impact of your solution—on their income statement or their balance sheet or both? How will it impact their cash flow?
• No surprises allowed. Your proposal is a document to help your customers make the case that your solution is a great investment compared to other investments that are available for them to consider. It affirms conversations you’ve had with your sponsors and getting agreement that you can solve their problem. Don’t include any information that you haven’t discussed and vetted.
• Preview your proposal. Run a draft past your sponsors for their reaction. Get their fingerprints on it. Use their language. Ask them if they feel like it’s something they will be proud to support before you submit the final version.
• Presentation protocol. Proposals that are presented result in higher win rates. But what does the accompanying presentation need to look like? Consider your audience—who’s going to be in the room? The best presentations create an enticing and compelling story that addresses your customer’s need, followed by a solid recommendation. Engage them. Make it about them.
A reminder: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Ask for agreement. Then tell them. And ask for agreement. Then tell them what you told them and ask to proceed.
Proposal Development Framework
At Critical Path Strategies, we recommend this framework for creating and delivering winning proposals. We developed it for a client who wanted a consistent model for his salespeople to use. Our client found it to be helpful in many ways, but especially when the salesperson was seeking guidance from their sponsors on what they believed the proposal might include.
• Executive Summary - Decision makers might only read your Executive Summary, so rather than summarize your entire proposal, focus on their problems and the benefits of your solution. Think of your Executive Summary as your proposal’s Cliff’s Notes. If your customers read nothing else, they should still be sold on what you’re selling.
The balance of a good proposal answers these three key questions:
• Why buy? – Your understanding of your customer’s situation, needs, objectives.
o Business Need – Demonstrating your understanding of your customers’ business drivers, challenges, and objectives is the guts of any proposal.
o Technology Need – What does the solution need to look like so it will fit into the customer’s environment? What are the components? What are the interfaces? What is not working today?
• Why buy now? – This section creates urgency.
o Stakeholder Value – Many salespeople say how their product will help a customer, but the most successful define how the benefit is measured. Articulate how the advantages and features of your solution will result in value-add benefits accrued to different stakeholders.
o Business Case for Investment – This is the background and the numbers answering the four points above: Cost, Benefits, Impact, and Timing.
o References – When providing your customer with references, select them because of their relevance to your customer’s current situation.
• Why buy from your company? – The tangible impact of your solution compared to other alternatives they may have.
o Solution Overview - This section provides specific details about your recommended solution and how it will work for them.
o Solution Value - Most businesses differentiate themselves from the competition by the overall value their solution provides. Focus on what makes your solution unique in the marketplace so that it truly differentiates your company from the competition.
o Commercials - Outline your terms and conditions and pricing. This section may also include governance guidelines like implementation and milestones or KPIs to assess progress.
o Implementation Plan - How will you implement it together, how long it will take, and what resources do you both need for implementation? Don’t forget about staff training, product testing, and any other components that show the value your company brings with your solution.
The secret of a successful proposal is to focus on what your customers want to hear. They want a solution to their problem, realize benefits from making their investment, and most of all, they want to be convinced that you understand what they need and expect of you.
Write a comment