Using "Proposals" to Close Sales...
Should you use a handwritten or typed proposal or generate a proposal using a laptop-based presentation?
First things first: There are NO proposals in professional sales. “Proposals” are sales tools used after you close the sale, not to close the sale. The document to which you refer is a sales agreement. I call it a Home Environmental Solution Agreement and the salespeople I work with use a check off the box fill-in-the-blank form that is ONLY written up when the customer and the salesperson agree to the scope of work, investment and terms. Prior to that, the salespeople work out of a presentation book and flat-rate investment guide.
Secondly, 60-70% of the sales calls are a two-call close or get closed in a follow-up phone call or subsequent visit since approximately only 20-30% of the people will make a decision on the initial visit.
Recently, I had a successful salesperson ($1.8m last year at 55% closing ratio with 60%+ GM) tell me he closed 50% of the 42 leads he ran one month and that he closed 80%, or 17 of his sales, on the first visit and only 4, or 20%, in a second visit or follow-up phone call. He wanted to tell me that my expectations were incorrect and that he was performing better than average.
I pointed out to him that he actually closed only 40% of ALL the leads ran on the first visit and 10% more thereafter. After careful evaluation of each call, he realized (and kicked himself) that he mistakenly tried to one-call close almost all of them and probably could have had a 70% closing ratio had he made presentations at the right time with the others that took his information that he graciously educated them with and used it to shop and buy for less elsewhere.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the customer, they thought they were getting the same thing for less. As it turns out, the customers were getting comparable equipment with a lower quality installation, less warranties and guarantees, no maintenance, and an installation from companies that were not set up to provide ongoing service after the sale.
The following month he changed what he was doing and closed 72% and has been consistently closing over 60% since.
Make sure you have a customer’s commitment and professionally courtesy to get a decision before you make a presentation.
If you make an inappropriate presentation and fail to get a decision afterward, leave a professional looking document with a brief handwritten description on the scope of work they stated they wanted (no manufacturer names, models, capacities or ratings). Generically list warranties, guarantees and other promises without details. Include the monthly investment and net-out-of-pocket after energy and repair cost savings of the Ideal Solution you discussed.
Also, include a basic lower priced Alternative Recommendation that you did not discuss and schedule a follow-up visit to get their final decision and take care of the more detailed agreement paperwork should they wish to move forward or to pick up your documents if they decide to proceed in another direction. At the very least, schedule a follow-up phone appointment (date and time) to determine how they’d like to proceed.
Typed proposals and laptop presentations are crutches for weak salespeople or sales processes. If we are all looking at the computer, it may seem slick and impressive, but we are not looking at each other and the focus is not on the people and the relationship.
Sales is about establishing trust and respect and building a relationship. You may think you are impressing the customer with your technical knowledge and professionalism with a laptop presentation or typed documents and a glossy presentation folder, but you are really working on the wrong end of the problem and some of those things matter to some people ONLY because the salesperson or other companies did not establish trust and the relationship and the customer is left to make a distinction and decision on things he or she perceives to be similar.
Trust and a relationship is built by people talking with people, nothing more or nothing less. The ancillary things such as proposals and laptop tools can enhance your credibility and may help to differentiate you if relevant and remembered (unfortunately, it may be all for naught and worthless if another salesperson does secure the customer's trust and respect), but they cannot build trust and the relationship – there is no debating this simple fact of life.
In fact, this is so true there are two clichés for it: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And, “People may forget what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
If you are the only salesperson to establish a deep level of trust, then the document does not matter since the customer feels that they’d have to be fool to buy from anyone else regardless of price. That is the goal.
Beyond that everything else is irrelevant. However, most salespeople are company and product centric in their sales approach and that’s why these issues come up to begin with. Make your approach customer centric and the paperwork is simply an extension of the relationship and agreements established.
This is my professional opinion based on my training and my philosophy. Make your tools and resources compliment your training, belief system or philosophy and sales process. You will have more success when you have consistency with your overall culture versus adapting to all the opinions conveyed here.
In other words, pick one methodology and embraced it fully instead of taking ideas from everyone and creating a hodge-podge convoluted mess. If you want to go the laptop route, embrace it fully, but don’t try to do both.
When you try to be all things to all people, don’t be surprised to wake up one day and discover you are nothing to no one.