Many selling organisations are submitting an increasing number of proposals, in the hope that this will lead to an increased number of sales. But, proposals don’t always close. So, how can you fix a low propose to close ratio?

Don’t rely on the proposal document

Relying on the proposal to do the persuading is inherently flawed. The client has to want your solution before the proposal is submitted.

Back to the funnel

Our Funnel Management thinking maps buyers at 3 stages in the sales funnel:

  1. Defining the problem;
  2. Determining available solution types; and
  3. Choosing the best supplier.

So, at what stage should the seller be submitting a proposal?

1. Never submit a proposal to an unqualified prospect

The written proposal should never be submitted until stage 3, and ideally towards the end of stage 3.

In BBC’s courtroom drama ‘Rumpole Of The Bailey’, one of Rumpole’s famous lines was, “Never ask the witness a question until you know what the answer is going to be.” In sales this becomes: never write a sales proposal until you know the client is going to accept it.

Propose as late as possible without losing the opportunity. By this stage, the prospect should already know what the proposal document will contain.

2. Proposal as reiteration, not new information

The client must be fully aware of what will be in the proposal. Where possible, invite them to collaborate with you to write it.

When you submit your proposal your client should have already decided that they want to do business with you. It is simply a device that allows them to communicate this decision to others.

3. Don’t use up your resources on the proposal document

Progress the buyer through the sales funnel first. Simply focusing on the quality of the proposal document distracts us from selling. It is unlikely that even the best of written proposals would be successful without any ground work. Don’t bog resources down with printers, copywriters etc. at the expense of progressing the buyer through stages 1 and 2 of the sales funnel.

Be more selective about who gets a proposal. If you’re not sure that a client has actually gone through stages 1 and 2, resist the temptation to submit a proposal. Instead, do more probing to determine how the client is defining the problem and what solutions they have eliminated. This may not be what the client has asked you for, but an intelligent inquiry could help the client’s thinking and position you as a more credible solution.

4. Propose only when you’ve finished selling

Because the decision making process is confusing, clients will often ask providers for a proposal before they’ve actually defined their problem or solution type.

Furthermore, once a proposal is submitted they often perceive this as the end of the selling journey. Their appetite to engage with you is higher before they have received the proposal.

So, guide the client in their buying process and only submit a proposal when they are ready to accept it. Do this, and you’ll be a lot more likely to close it.

Eddie Smith is the Founder of Sales Schematics Australia, and an accredited Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the SSA Technical – Sales Insights blog.