Submitting a proposal could be the last point of communication that a salesperson has with a potential customer—that is unless they know how to create a proposal that is so convincing they win the business!
Unfortunately, too many salespeople miss the mark in their proposals. Though they see themselves as “solution providers,” their sales proposal doesn’t describe the problem or business need that the customer wants to have “solved.” The most critical component in the sales proposal is identifying and communicating the problems the client is trying to resolve.
Consider these 5 questions when writing your next sales proposal:
1. Who will read the proposal?
It’s likely that your proposal will be distributed to multiple decision makers in a company. A proposal written only for, say, a production manager isn’t likely to appeal to an IT manager. That’s why it’s important that you determine which decision makers will review your proposal and the buying criteria that each will use to determine the best solution for their business challenges.
2. What problems are these decision makers trying to solve?
Your proposal should summarize the “big picture goals” that your customer has described for you. Use a short story or actual example to describe their most compelling problem and demonstrate how your solution will help them achieve their goals better than your competitors.
3. Why are those problems serious? What would be the impact of not solving them?
The #1 competitor you face today isn’t another company; it’s the customer’s decision to do nothing, to make no change at all.
To win against this most difficult of all competitors you have to help the customer appreciate the value in taking action. And the best way to do that in a proposal is to describe the gap between where the customer thinks they are now versus where they could be. The wider the gap, the bigger the value they will perceive in making a change.
4. How will my solution apply to this client specifically?
Remember that there is a difference between “buying criteria” and “solution criteria.” Solution criteria describe the types of functions or capability that solution must have to even be considered. Buying criteria are how a buyer chooses between options. Your prospect’s buying criteria will change as the buying process evolves.
In fact, solution criteria become less important closer to the decision because, in many instances, all vendors being considered can meet solution criteria. If they couldn’t, they would have been eliminated sooner. Be sure to place extra emphasis on how you can achieve the prospect’s specific buying criteria more effectively than your competition.
Summarize your differentiators starting with your second strongest point and ending with your strongest. As you talk about each one, make sure you show how it will help them solve a specific need they identified. Be selective in what you decide to present. TMI (too much information) can dilute the impact.
5. What are my competitive strengths and weaknesses? How can I build on the former and diminish the importance of the latter?
Suppose that you were selling for your competitor, against you and your company. How would you as a competitor beat you? The answer is likely your competitor’s sales strategy! How can you defeat that strategy, and win the business?
Summarize your strategy for winning by developing at least three reasons why your customer should buy from you, reasons connected to explicit customer needs. If you can’t come up with three compelling reasons, then you have no right to ask for the customer’s business!
The History of Marketing (Year 1450 onwards)
If you’ve ever taken a business course, it’s likely you encountered the infamous “4 P’s of Marketing.” The 4 P’s, product, price, place, and promotion, break marketing into categories.
These categories are all-inclusive and typically used to define a marketing plan. They can be used to guide holistic social media plans as well. Here’s how you can use the 4 P’s.
In social media, your product is content. The quality of the content will affect your overall marketing goals. Treating content like a product means that a brand should work toward standardization. Ensure content is build around consistent themes, style, consistency, and quality. Customers should know what to expect with your content and why it is worth consuming.
Questions to consider when building content for social media:
- What is the purpose of the content (inform, entertain, explore, etc.)?
- Can content be adapted to serve different networks uniquely?
- Which type of content resonates best with my audience?
Price (in social media) is the cost of accessing and consuming data around your social media efforts. There are numerous items to consider when you are pricing out all of the tools that can make sense out of your data.
When calculating price, here are some questions to consider:
- Which tool will help me meet my social media goals?
- What kind of return can this tool provide me?
Place is all about getting the product to the customer through the best channel for the target audience. The best content in the world will never sell if consumers don’t know where or if they can get it. In social media, place is all about network selection. Do you know where your customers are?
When considering place, consider the following questions:
- Where is my target audience online?
- How much time does my target audience spend consuming content?
- Can I effectively repurpose (share, adapt, etc) content on other networks?
Promotion is more than ads in the social media landscape. Promotion is about everything that can be done to spread awareness of your content, including — but not limited to — ads. For example, two out of three of your friends like a post you publish on Facebook. That post’s affinity edgerank spikes for the third friend, and as a result, that post will show up in their feed. Through engagement, that “product” has been introduced to a wider audience.
When planning promotion activity, here are some questions to consider:
- How do ads fit into my content promotion strategy?
- Can a sweepstakes or contest help build awareness?
- What kind of call-to-action should I use?
Rewarding sales teams with money has long been a motivational tactic used by employers. Whether it’s high salaries, large commissions, incredible bonuses, or other financial rewards, the prospect of riches has long been thought to incentivize sales teams to bring in bigger deals more frequently.
Yet in recent years, this school of thought has been called into question. In a Ted Conference talk, later animated by RSA Animate in the video below (which we originally covered here), Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, discussed what research and experience tell us truly motivates people personally and professionally.
Pink discusses a study conducted by researchers at MIT in which they looked at the correlation between financial reward and performance of cognitive functions. The results repeatedly showed that when large financial rewards are at stake, performance on complex tasks is consistently poor.
Instead, Pink points to three keys which will help you get the most out of your workforce:
This is the desire to be self-directed and direct our own lives. In many ways, Pink says, traditional management runs afoul of this. Traditional management is great if you want compliance, but if you want engagement, self direction is better. One example is the company Atlassian, which each quarter gives developers 24 hours to work on anything they want without any supervision. That one day has led to a whole array of fixes to existing software and new products that would not have otherwise emerged.
Mastery is the urge to get better at stuff. This is why, Pink says, people play musical instruments on the weekend. It’s irrational; it’s not going to make them any money, so why are they doing it? Pink says that it’s fun, and that you get better at it, which is satisfying. He also gave an example of people doing highly skilled work around the world, volunteering their time to a cause that would give away a product rather than selling it. It may have seemed crazy 30 years ago, but examples like Linux and Wikipedia fly in the face of conventional wisdom run by people who have other jobs. Challenge and mastery, along with making a contribution are powerful motivators.
This all leads to what Pink calls the “purpose motive.” Organizations want to have a transcendent purpose. This is partly because it makes coming to work better, and party because it attracts better talent. When the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive, Pink says, bad things happen. You might get ethical problems, bad products, lame service, and poor work environments. Companies and organizations that are flourishing are animated by these purposes, such as Skype (being disruptive but in the cause of making the world a better place) and Apple (want to put a ding in the universe).
When a potential customer agrees to a discovery call or first meeting, it is paramount to maximize that time. Are your discovery calls launching a business relationship, or failing to connect?
The best discovery calls build rapport, generate trust and help buyers make informed choices. The key to a perfect sales discovery is excellent preparation. Here are eight items to focus on:
1) Do Your Homework
Zero in on what sparked their willingness to speak with you, and review your lead tracking system for all related data. Spend ten minutes exploring their company website, community forums, and social media channels.
TIP: Research four names of people in your prospect’s department on LinkedIn prior to your call.
2) Focus on Their Needs
Put the spotlight on your prospect’s issues and establish yourself as a valued resource to help them make the right decision when they’re ready to buy.
TIP: Let them do 80% of the talking. Favor listening over pitching.
3) Ask Upfront Questions about Buying Ability
Get to the bottom of timeframe to purchase and decision-making while steering around budget allocation questions. If they need it, they’ll find a way to pay for it.
TIP: Directly ask questions like, “When are you looking to have these improvements in place?”
4) Share 2-3 Benefit Statements
Make a direct impact with 2-3 benefit statements relevant to your prospect’s pain points. Select specific topics based on what you’ve learned.
TIP: Think “how,” instead of “what,” in your delievery. List the steps in your process of working with clients to explain how your company helps customers.
5) Get Your Prospect to Elaborate
Enable dialogue, and avoid dominating with a presentation. Think two-way conversation, and ask, “why?” to learn the true meaning of their needs.
TIP: For every statement they make, ask three questions to expand on the topic.
6) Provide Solutions to Objections
Know the difference between an objection and a question that’s a desire to learn more. Clarify issues and illustrate how your product or service will address their concerns.
TIP: Regularly rehearse up to twenty possible objections and handling tactics. Anticipate possible objections prior to each discovery session.
7) Establish Understanding and Agreement
Restate details of your prospect’s needs and understanding of how you help their business. Use notes jotted down during the call.
TIP: Outline expectations, outcomes and a timeframe for moving forward in a concise Letter of Understanding (LOU) as a follow up message to your prospect.
8) Measure Success!
Create business metrics that allow measuring the time between sales stages. Generate customized pipeline reports based on discovery call criteria.
TIP: Add checkboxes in your account records to get more specific in filtering information in reports.
Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave your website.
For most websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach the 98% of users who don’t convert right away.
How Does Retargeting Work?
Here’s how it works: you place a small, unobtrusive piece of code on your website (this code is sometimes referred to as a retargeting pixel). The code, or pixel, is unnoticeable to your site visitors and won’t affect your site’s performance. Every time a new visitor comes to your site, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie. Later, when your cookied visitors browse the web, the cookie will let your retargeting provider know when to serve ads, ensuring that your ads are served to only to people who have previously visited your site.
Retargeting is so effective because it focuses your advertising spend on people who are already familiar with your brand and have recently demonstrated interest. That’s why most marketers who use retargeting see a higher ROI than from most other digital channels.
When Does Retargeting Work?
Retargeting is a powerful branding and conversion optimization tool, but it works best if it’s part of a larger digital strategy.
Retargeting works best in conjunction with inbound and outbound marketing or demand generation. Strategies involving content marketing, AdWords and targeted display are great for driving traffic, but they don’t help with conversion optimization. Conversely, retargeting can help increase conversions, but it can’t drive people to your site. Your best chance of success is using one or more tools to drive traffic and retargeting to get the most out of that traffic.
The following images will also give you an overview of what is it and how does it work.