Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada
Imagine that you’re at the end of discovery with your prospect. You’ve uncovered compelling, emotional reasons for your prospect to take action, quantified those reasons, confirmed your prospect is willing and able to invest and will select a vendor in a reasonable time frame.
You’re feeling pretty good about your chances of earning this prospect’s business when your prospect says, “this is all good. How about you send me a proposal and I’ll get back to you.”
At that moment you have a choice, acquiesce to your prospect’s request and be shoved into the “commodity” pool along with every other salesperson that prospect speaks with or assert your rights as an equal in this process with one of the following.
Prospect, “how about you send me a proposal and I’ll get back to you.”
Salesperson, “I’d be happy to do that, Prospect. My biggest fear in going away and sending you a proposal is that I’ll either a) miss the mark on what you were hoping to see in the proposal or b) you’ll have questions after I send the proposal over and you’ll feel like it’s too much effort to get those questions answered so we never speak again. May I make a suggestion to avoid both?”
Prospect, “sure, what?”
Salesperson, “we’ve got plenty of notes up on the whiteboard right now so let’s use those to draft out what it would look like if we work together. You still might select someone else so once we’re done you can either tell me that it won’t work or, knowing that you’re speaking to a couple of other companies, we get a date in the calendar in the next two weeks to reconnect and confirm if we’re moving forward with what we whiteboarded out. Fair?”
Prospect, “so if I do this it doesn’t mean that I have to pick you?”
Salesperson, “nope, but we’ll save each other a lot of time and make sure you get all of your questions answered in real time instead of 45 emails back and forth. Should we start now or set up another time?”
Prospect, “I have another 30 minutes. We’re at least halfway there already so let’s get started. How would you solve the issues I told you about?”
The “co-build” approach works if you’ve 1) built up a strong rapport with your prospect so they trust you’re not going to whip out a contract at the end of your whiteboarding session, 2) you’ve properly qualified the prospect and 3) you give them two outs – that they may choose to work with someone else and they may tell you you’re out of the running at the end of your whiteboarding session.
Review a draft
Sometimes whiteboarding out a proposal isn’t a fit. If you’re in an enterprise selling environment you probably have to go back and get support from another functional area, like engineering, before you craft the proposal.
In those cases calling your prospect and saying something like, “I’ve got your proposal in hand, it’s about 90% done, but I thought you’d appreciate looking at the draft to make sure that we’re on the same page.”
A client of mine sells safety monitoring systems to governments and large corporations and, using the “draft” approach, they are 100% successful with getting face-to-face with their prospect after “send me a proposal.” Their closing percentage has gone from 20% when they emailed proposals to over 50% using the “draft” approach.
Don’t let your fear of losing something you don’t have override your right to maintain control of your sales process.
People buy from people not paper. Co-build proposals with your prospect or deliver them in person and enjoy a bigger book of business.
Until next time… go sell something.