Featured post

What Do High Growth Businesses Do Differently?

Over the past 5 years the importance of the “High Growth Business” and how this relatively small group of businesses disproportionally impa...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Why Buyers Ask for Proposals to Pick Your Brains More Than to Buy

I have decided to add a guest writer for my latest blog post. It relates to that common misconception that by asking for a proposal a buyer is somehow predisposed to buy from you. Often nothing could be further from his mind.

Sadly, huge effort and intellect is wasted on proposals because the prospect has been poorly qualified. The most important point to recognise is that writing a proposal requires a great commitment from you (the seller), and no commitment from him (the buyer).

To make the most of a sales opportunity a proposal must be an integral part of your sales strategy. The more complex the sale the more important this becomes. Personally I never write a proposal without first having a date in the diary with the prospect to present it, and no I don't send it to him prior to the meeting.

So here it is. Its written by Dan Seidman at www.salesautopsy.com

Proposals are the foundation of business building for many salespeople. How many of us constantly invest precious sales time to draft a proposal, actually pouring years of experience and expertise into this written gamble at acquiring business? Too many of us spends lots of time proposing because we don't employ a qualifying system before designing these documents.

One reason most of us are so quick to accommodate potential clients is that we really do want to please people. Think of how ridiculous it would sound if you refused to provide materials to your prospect! So you and I are very likely to assume that a request for a proposal is a
yes indicator. It reinforces our hope that we've just moved one step closer to closing the sale. There is, however, the prospect's perspective. If we don't understand what might really be going on with that request, we could spend endless hours creating and delivering documents for people who have no intention of buying our products or services. And here's why:

Prospects love free consulting. They give you their biggest smile and drain your brain of all its problem-solving knowledge before you understand their true intentions. And they love it even more in print than in person. If you don't have a strategy for dealing with proposal requests, you're at the mercy of every potential client. Over the past twenty years, I've analyzed many of the top sales training organizations (see some recommendations in the appendix). It's interesting to note that virtually all the great training systems have the wisdom to recognize and teach how critical it is for a salesperson not to give everyone proposals simply because they are requested. To help you understand the dangers of proposal writing, here's a list you'll learn from.

The Top Ten Reasons A Prospect Demands A Proposal (The impact to you is in parentheses)

10. They need to keep their current vendors honest (
what a surprise—you never had a prayer of getting the business)
9. They want a fair range of prices for the type of service you offer (
thanks for the quote, the business is going to the prospect's brother-in-law, at just below your rate)
8. They want to keep themselves up-to-date on the latest business processes and technologies (
thanks for the education, goodbye)
7. They think your product or service simply sounds interesting (
but they have no intention of buying!)
6. They need new and better ideas—to make their own changes (
thanks for your free consulting; that really hurts, doesn 't it?)
5. They just wonder how much it would cost (
wow, you're really expensive!)
4. This request will get you off their back (
oops, you forgot to qualify the prospect, didn't you?)
3. They can look good when they pass your information to the real decision-maker (
did you spend all that time with the wrong person?)
2. They honestly need their problems solved (
too bad you don't know whom the other eight proposals are from, what they charge and maybe what they're saying about you)

And the number one reason prospects make you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into a proposal:

1. A prospect can lie to a salesperson and still get into heaven!

Final Thoughts:

Preparing proposals can offer false hope to all sales pros. Do you really believe that everyone asking for a customized, written solution is ready to buy?

Please, please, stop wasting your time jumping through hoops to design proposals for everyone that nods his head or grunts into your telephone.
Qualify first, and then begin to work with your best potential clients. Your organization should have some criteria for what defines a good prospect. Use them, or immediately create your own to save yourself from sales heartbreak. If you don't quickly sort the good prospects from the time wasters, bad prospects can sabotage your income. Your expectations of who will buy from you will be inaccurate. One good method might be to charge a fee for a proposal. Obviously, a prospect who's not serious won't pay for it. If this works for you, implement it.

However, your organization might not choose to use this strategy, so get a grip on what looks like a realistic buyer and craft your plan without giving away all your solutions.

The lesson here is that you need to set guidelines to determine which prospects are worth investing your time in proposal design. Otherwise, you'll waste lots of time showboating in print for prospects who have no intention of doing business with you. If you don't weed out the weeds, you'll have very little time to find, smell, and pick the flowers.


  1. Laurence, it would also be good to note that there are basically three reasons buyers lie to sales pros;

    1 - they really don't want to hurt reps' feelings and think it's a favor to lie
    2 - they have something else going on and have no intention of sharing it (remember the brother-in-law who's getting their business)
    3 - you, the rep, remind them of their ex-wife, or husband or mother or you get the picture.

    Point is, tell buyers it's safe, it's okay, to tell me the truth. That way we understand where we stand and I won't be chasing you by phone or email and annoying you endlessly.

  2. My own belief, and what I teach on my 'Pricing By Value' Workshop, is that a proposal is a means of recording what was verbally agreed.

    I certainly agree with the writer that you shouldn't waste time on proposals that aren't going to get accepted. When you were in conversation with the 'buyer' you needed to establish their acceptance of all aspects of buying from and working with you. If you didn't you were daft!

    A proposal should contain no surprises for the recipient, and should include space for them to sign to indicate their acceptance.

    While we are on the subject of written proposals, it amazes me how few sales folk bother to note the preferred communication style of the prospect so they can write their proposal the same way. They tend to use a 'one size fits all' proposal template which undoubtedly doesn't!


  3. David,

    Thats a really interesting idea David, how do you decide whats their preferred communication method?