I believe that the prospect has to earn the right to get a proposal from the salesperson. The Optimal Salesperson® will only write a proposal to a prospect who has completely met all of the elements to be considered a qualified prospect. Most salespeople spend entirely too much time writing proposals. They do a cursory job of qualifying the prospect and then they either volunteer to write a proposal or are asked to write one which they eagerly agree to do. There are several possible factors which can cause this to happen.
- The salesperson does not have or does not use an effective sales process
- The salesperson knows how to qualify a prospect but is unskilled at executing the process
- The salesperson has a belief that they must quote when asked
- The salesperson has a fear of rejection so they won’t ask the tough questions
- The salesperson believes that they can’t win if they don’t quote so they quote everything that moves.
- The salesperson thinks that writing proposals with low probability is a good way to avoid prospecting which they hate worse than writing proposals.
In this article I would like to address items 1 and 2 in the list above. Only about 15% of the salespeople we test admit to using any sales process at all. One large company I worked with had a documented sales process that management swore was being used extensively. I could not find any evidence that the salespeople actually used it when I debriefed the sales team on various sales opportunities. Most salespeople just “wing it” and default to presenting features and benefits and then hoping for the best. An effective sales process will be centered on the prospect and include a detailed criteria for what constitutes qualified prospect. So when do I believe you should quote? You should only quote or propose when all three of the following criteria are met:
- The prospect has a compelling reason to proceed and we understand what it is from an in depth discussion with the prospect. We must understand the personal pain of each of the decision makers. Reading about it in the RFP does not count.
- We have had a detailed discussion about money with the prospect and enough has been found to execute the project.
- The prospect has agreed to make a decision upon delivery (or shortly thereafter) of the quote or proposal.
If you don’t have at least this much information you don’t have a qualified prospect and you should not quote the project.
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Dan Caramanico is a salesforce development expert and he is the author of The Optimal Salesperson® One of Selling power’s top ten books for 2010 and Optimal Selling, Sales Conversations of the Optimal Salesperson.