Early in my career there was a sale I never made that, after 15 years, still drives me crazy. It was a six-figure deal where I “felt” I had done everything right. But when phone calls suddenly weren’t being returned from a client with whom I had a “great relationship” (after all, we had a fantastic lunch with lots of laughs a few weeks earlier) I had a panicked feeling in my stomach. I realized I had done many things wrong. Instead of spending enough time learning about his business, I spent too much time developing the personal side of our relationship. Instead of developing a customized solution, I developed a proposal that focused on why my company was a great fit. The reality was I never had a shot, and what was worse I didn’t realize it until it was too late. The day the contract came rolling into my competitor I vowed I would NEVER put myself in that situation again with this client or any other client.
7 Questions to Ask Before Submitting a Proposal
To this day I tell this story to clients I consult. I ask them, if they are really honest with themselves, are they ready to submit a proposal. If they can answer “YES” to seven questions they are good to go. If not, then they should go back and get to a point where they can answer “YES” and then submit the proposal. These seven questions are:
1. Does your proposal clearly demonstrate that you understand the client’s needs and that you’ve built your recommendations around those needs?
2. Does your proposal rest on a custom-tailored idea/plan? If it is built upon a pre-packaged offering, have you customized where necessary?
3. Does your proposal give all the information the client needs in order to make a high-quality decision? All the information he/she needs in order to say yes?
4. Does your proposal give enough comfort to the client for him/her to feel that they will be taken care of even better after saying yes than they were before they said yes?
5. Does your proposal address and resolve every concern that seemed important to the prospect in your previous discussions, or are some left out or glossed over?
6. Would your proposal be entirely understandable and actionable if it were read by someone who was not in attendance at the meeting where you made your oral presentation?
7. Most importantly: does your proposal call upon the prospect to make a decision about the plan you are recommending, or does it call upon him to make a decision about your product?
After three months had passed I was fortunate enough to have another opportunity with the client. This time I focused on asking great questions, understanding his business and creating solutions to help him reach his goals. I was able to say “YES” to each of the questions and I never lost a sale with him again. Additionally, I was able to uncover other areas in his business I could help and secured additional dollars. Losing that sale was a very difficult lesson, but truly was the greatest sale I never made.
Download The Art of Asking Questions and learn about the types of questions to ask your prospects and how to address each one.