Failing to get some level of commitment from a buyer before providing a proposal is one of the biggest mistakes professional salespeople make. Many salespeople will ask a buyer, “Would you like me to put a proposal together for you?” Think about it, what buyer would respond “no” to that question. After all, the salesperson ends up doing all the work and providing free consulting to the buyer. Buyers expect and to some degree deserve free consulting, but the imbalance of time in this scenario is inappropriate.
In my 10 plus years selling services into the B2B space, 3 strategies have emerged that lead to higher close rates on proposals presented.
Find the budget
Think about it – how can you put together a proposal that makes any sense to the buyer unless you have some idea about the buyer’s budget. In my experience, buyers are often illusive about their budgets, but our research suggests that most buyers are willing to share some information. In fact, when we asked buyers about their willingness to reveal their budget, 77% of buyers responded as “very comfortable” and “somewhat comfortable”. Find out more about uncovering the budget.
Get a commitment before the proposal
A problem with many professional salespeople is they fail to establish a peer relationship with the buyer. Many salespeople lack confidence and become subservient to the buyer. This should not be the case. Salespeople should respect buyers for the value they bring to their firms, and salespeople should create value by the way they can solve problems and help the business. In our research we found that buyers value a salesperson’s ability to solve problems more than any other skill. Learning the business, being a trusted advisor and collaborating with the buyer to solve problems and/or enhance the business, are the things salespeople can do to create a peer relationship.
Elite salespeople get a commitment from the buyer before investing time to develop a customized proposal. How to you get that commitment? Ask the buyer…
“If I present a proposal that makes sense to you, achieves the objectives we’ve agreed to, and fits your budget, what will be your next step?”
First, this is a great open-ended question and one that will help you understand your buyer’s level of commitment to taking action. It doesn’t put the buyer on the spot or come across as a pressure tactic. You are simply asking about how the buyer will evaluate and make a decision to the solutions you will propose.
The response you get from this question will reveal a lot about how committed the buyer is to take action. Many buyers will respond by indicating that they’ll think about it. If so, the salesperson’s follow up question should be something like…
“That’s fair. What criteria will you use to evaluate whether or not it’s appropriate to move forward with the proposal?”
Once again, this is another great open-ended question that will reveal more about what the buyer values and what the buyer will do upon receiving your proposal. At that point, a discussion should ensue to understand the customer’s value drivers and his process for making a decision. This is information you can discuss with the buyer to ensure you are collaborating together, rather than being in a subservient role to the buyer.
In our research of buyers, we found that 84% want to be offered options rather than simply one solution. Moreover, 54% of buyers would like to be presented with 3 different options. This makes a lot of sense. Most of us would rather choose from options than be told what to do. People don’t want to be sold to, but they do want to buy.
When it comes to presenting options, we support the ZOPA principle – Zone of Proposal Agreement. Applying the ZOPA principle, we recommend your proposal includes three options in a Good-Better-Best approach. Presenting Good-Better-Best types of options will likely lead to a higher close ratio and a higher average sale. Read more about improving your close ratio by applying the ZOPA principle.
Increase the number of times you get a “yes” to your proposals by getting a handle on your buyer’s budget. Once you know the budget, get a commitment from the buyer about how he will react to your proposal before you invest the time to develop the proposal. Finally, include in your proposal 2-3 options that make sense for your buyer. Apply these three strategies, and you’ll increase the number of times you get a “yes”.