A professionally prepared proposal is an essential part of the overall sales cycle – and is often the only way some members of the customer’s decision making unit (DMU) find out about you, your company and your proposed solution. If you fail to adequately represent what you have to offer, all of that time invested in first locating the opportunity, initial meetings, qualifying, etc. will have been totally wasted.
Here then, are the essential ingredients of a professional proposal.
A well laid out Contents page shows how your thoughts are organized and supplies a ready guide to your in-depth review of the selling argument. If your document is so short as to not require a contents page, then you are showing how little information you have…
• The objective
• The current situation
• Current constraints
• Recommended benefits
• Recommendation of products
• The final justification
• Supporting documentation:
– Product guarantees
– Service information
– Cost breakdowns
– Third party references
– Timetable for implementation
An objective is a statement that can be looked at, in terms of measurable change, once the decision is taken. If your objective offers no change from the present situation, then this is not an objective at all!
The Current Situation
A clear statement of what is currently taking place within the prospective customers own work environment. This should cover equipment, volumes, work practices and anything to do with the department – or departments – that are involved.
As with an explicit need, a clear statement of desire to solve a perceived problem, the listed problems should be the statements of the decision maker – and not your own. You must gain the agreement of the decision maker, as to the exact wording of the explicit need, so that it is their statement – and not your interpretation.
This is not the products or the service! It is what the total package will do to resolve the existing problems. It is more than likely that issues such as service and finance may play a major role, perhaps even customer training.
Recommendation of Products
This is the product – or products – that match the criteria that you have set, for the solution to be effective, and should describe clearly the facilities that match the solution.
The Final Justification
The total cost of the recommendation can be summarized first, followed by a statement of what is being offered into that overall cost. It may be helpful to then break down, in simple terms, how that cost is arrived at. Unless you have previously agreed the terms and cost of trading, it hardly seems worth the effort when the customer might object. Agree terms that will satisfy the decision maker, before you put your selling argument at risk.
Back up your arguments with any guarantees or third party references that support your claims. Remember, it is likely that other people will be consulted in the decision process and your document will become the sight-seller in the hands of an inexperienced salesperson. Give them as much support as you can to back their case.
What Functions Do Proposals Perform?
• An organizational tool that provides a complete listing of all buying reasons – Full justification
• A statement of your professionalism – You are a consultant
• Written support of your verbal claims
• A selling tool – A proposal sells when you are not there
• Provides firm price commitment
• Proposal = A Closing Tool
Have Proposals Become More Important Over The Years? Yes, Yes, Yes!!!
• Internal justification process is more complicated
• The decision maker usually is not the primary contact person
• Increased professionalism (O + M, Purchasing, Financial Managers)
• Shift in competition
• Volume – Segments
In Summary – What Should Good Proposals Contain?
• Covering letter
• Current system – Constraints
• Recommended system – Benefits
• Proof – Current system costs and proposed system costs
• Investment and pay back periods
• Timetable for implementation
• Summary and conclusion
• Quotation and enclosures