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VOL. 129 | NO. 94 | Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lori Turner

Lori Turner-Wilson

Why Most Sales Proposals Fail

By Lori Turner-Wilson

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You put so much time and energy into getting a prospect to agree to a meeting, preparing for that meeting, pitching your services and gaining agreement from the prospect to consider buying. So why, all too often, is so little time spent on the sales proposal itself? It’s like running the ball to the 10-yard line and then sitting down on the field.

Consider these top reasons most sales proposals fail.

Many salespeople procrastinate proposal development because it isn’t a task they love; in fact, it can be counterintuitive to a salesperson’s innate love of getting out of the office and building relationships. Ironically, the more you procrastinate proposal development, the more proposals you’ll have to draft.

Numerous studies draw correlations between the timeliness of proposal delivery and higher close ratios. When you strike while the iron is hot, you’re putting a proposal in front of your prospect when they’re most enthusiastic about your conversation. So, draft your proposal as close to the meeting as possible. An added benefit is that you’ll cut your proposal development time by at least 20 percent, as the conversation will still be fresh on your mind.

No matter how well written, proposals that feel like a template get tossed. Show that you understand your prospect’s unique challenges and what they need from you, and you’re more likely to earn their interest. Demonstrate your desire to put them first by leading with their needs before covering your qualifications and offerings. Like anyone, they seek to be understood.

After outlining your prospect’s needs, cover the project objectives, your proposed approach, the expected value, and lastly your capabilities. Never use boilerplate capabilities language. Customize it based upon your differentiators that have resonated most with your prospect.

Many proposals stall due to a prospect’s delay in decision-making. Most prospects are overwhelmed with just operating their business day to day. Making a decision on your proposal likely isn’t at the top of their list, so outline in your proposal the consequences and risks of not taking action quickly.

Determining the right level of detail can be challenging, and one size doesn’t fit all. Consider the audience that will be reading your proposal. If they are analytical and get mired in the details, then spell it all out. For big-picture visionaries, avoid the weeds.

Typos are a death sentence for any proposal. Get one or two other sets of eyes on it to both proof and poke holes.

To develop a sales proposal that gets read, inspires confidence and advances the sales process, take the time to develop a personalized proposal that’s focused on your prospect’s needs.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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