“Never let the final proposal be the first proposal they see.” This is advice that I have given many times in Engage webinars and at sales training sessions to salespeople in organizations both large and small, and I’m often asked to explain in more detail what I mean by that. I’m pleased to do so in this article, because what I have to say in that point is absolutely vital for salespeople who want to improve hitting and surpassing their sales targets.

The real mastery behind closing more business in less time has far less to do with closing skills than it does with having great command of everything that leads up to the point where you and your customer are ready to seal a deal.

Yes, this means more work for you. Let’s face facts: it is a mistake to assume that closing more business hinges on simply persuading people to make the commitment to buy from you at the very end of a sales process. I’m going to be blunt with you. You are not doing your job if you think that way.

What I have learned from experience is that to increase your win rate on proposals, you need to present each one as a draft to every customer. By that, I don’t just mean you should just think of it as a draft: you should literally stamp the word “DRAFT” in big, bold letters on every proposal. Doing this opens up a very important door that leads you to the success that you’re looking for in business. 

Stepping back to get ahead

Success coach Tony Robbins reminds us that: “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” He’s absolutely right. Don’t take the risk of asking a customer to make a decision on a proposal without having taken the time to ask a lot of questions first.

Before you send any proposal in hard copy or email, start by asking two key questions…

Question 1: Can I make a suggestion?

A great way to initiate dialogue with your client on that draft business proposal is by asking: “Can I make a suggestion?” In doing so, you can then explain that you want to make sure that you don’t miss anything. That’s a request that’s pretty hard to turn down. In fact, I have never met a prospect in 20 years of selling who has said no to that simple yet highly effective question.

Question 2: How about we agree to review a draft of this proposal on…?

You must secure a specific date and time to review the draft proposal with your customer This gives you the opportunity to gauge their reaction, and respond to it while they are still engaged. Doing so, you will gain a golden opportunity to review the investment options with your prospect and handle any pricing or terms objections in a live selling environment, and make changes to your proposal where necessary. 

Compare that approach with blindly sending a proposal to a client without reviewing with them first. If the client doesn’t like what they see, they are likely to toss the proposal aside and ignore your calls. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true. The reality is that if the prospect doesn’t like what they see it’s easier for them to ignore you than it is for them to have a conversation. In their mind, they got your proposal, didn’t like it and are no set to move on. You are the only one who can avoid this from happening, and that’s by engaging in that much-needed conversation first.

Sure, I am suggesting adding a step to your sales process—and for good reason. When you are able to talk to the client directly about their concerns (especially about pricing) your chase for answers stops, and the number of closings you will do every month grows.

As a bonus, your draft presentation/proposal review gives you a front-row seat into the mindset of your customer. For example, if you sell software and you know that your customer is comparing your draft proposal to those of two competitors, the extra time you’ve spent in drafting mode gives you the opportunity to ask questions. For instance: “how are you going to decide which company is the right one for you?” Listen carefully to the answer you’re given. It will give you a clear indication of whether you need to make changes to your proposal.

Why this matters

So why do smart questions, thorough responses to objections and presenting a draft proposal first matter so much? I have three answers for you.

First, because the time you invest into these elements means less risk of there being unwanted surprises at closing time. Second, it matters because people like to be treated well, and spending the extra time on opening up a dialogue with them demonstrates that their input is valued. As a result, they are more open to share with you what’s important in their decision-making criteria. There’s one more reason why investing in the draft approach matters so much—and this is the most important one of all. You can be sure that taking this extra step is something that a lot of your competitors simply aren’t bothering to do.

So plan ahead. Take the time to adopt the draft approach in building a great business proposal. You’ll be amazed by how much easier it gets to close more business while building a great rapport with your customers and entrenching your winning edge against competitors.

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Nonstop Sales Boom by Colleen Francis Make sure you check out Colleen's latest book, Nonstop Sales Boom for powerful strategies to drive consistent sales growth quarter after quarter, year after year.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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