On more than one occasion, I have submitted a proposal to a prospect, only to have him take my proposal to the competition to see if it can beat it? How should I handle this?
Quit doing proposals without an up-front agreement to get the pros-pect's decision when it is delivered. The minute you deliver a proposal to a pros-pect, all your leverage is gone and you find yourself in "chase" mode. At this point, the prospect has all the leverage, and it's very difficult for you to stick to your price.
Only prospects who qualify should get your proposal. To qualify, they must have a problem you can fix. They have to acknowledge that it's their problem and be committed to fixing it. Once they have conveyed their commitment, they must be willing to share their budget with you and be willing to spend the money to fix the problem or incur whatever other sacrifice is necessary.
Finally, prospects must be willing to share their decision-making processes with you and agree to render a decision, one way or another, once you present your solution in a manner consistent with how they make decisions.
Generally, before putting it in writing, I will ask a prospect the following:
"Let's suppose I come back to you with a proposal that presents a solution to each of the problems we've discussed, at a price in the range of $X to $Y. If, after going through my proposal with me, you like what you see, tell me what happens then?"
If I'm not hearing the prospect say he'll buy it, I'm asking the prospect what problem I have failed to uncover that still needs to be addressed, what aspect of his investment he is uncomfortable with, or what aspect of the decision-making process hasn't been uncovered. I will not put in the time to develop a final proposal until I know that a prospect will be willing and able to give me an answer of yes or no at the time the proposal is submitted. Then and only then do they get a proposal.
When in the sales process should I discuss the issue of money?
This question is best answered by asking another question. If a prospect doesn't have the money or isn't willing to spend it on the product or service you are offering, when in the selling cycle would you like to find this out? The answer is obvious.
Most salespeople hold off on the discussion of money until they make a presentation, only to discover that the prospect's budget is insufficient. At this point, they are forced to walk away from the sale or drop their price to fit within the prospect's budget. However, by this time, the salespeople have already committed a lot of time to developing the proposal and are emotionally involved, making it difficult for them to walk away.
However, money should not be discussed until you have helped the prospect discover a compelling personal reason to take action, and the prospect has expressed his or her commitment to doing so. The operative term here is personal. Even within larger companies, you will not succeed in selling your product or service unless someone with influence is going to benefit personally.
Don't get me wrong - you also have to find a reason why it makes sense for the company as a whole. However, unless the decision-maker has a compelling personal reason to buy what you are offering, the deal will not get done.
This is one more reason why it makes sense to call at or near the top of an organization. At the executive level, there is a greater overlap between what is good for the company and what is good for the executive.
Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sales training and consulting firm. Send via fax at (724)933-9112 or e-mail at LTLewistotaldevelopment.com. He can be reached by phone at (724) 933-9110.