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Fed up chasing quotes and proposals? Part 1


One of the most frequent challenges I hear from my contacts is getting commitment from prospects. I suspect what is happening is that they are chasing quotes and proposals. So much time is wasted in chasing prospects who then don’t become clients. I frequently hear that considerably less than 50% of proposals become signed contracts. But that means an enormous amount of resources have been used up on contacts who will never do business. This is considered to be the “cost of the sale”, it is just the way of business, there is no alternative.

However, there is an alternative. If the prospect had already committed to the costings on that proposal, before it was sent out, the chances will be so much higher. Far too often the first time the prospect gets to see the price, and what they’ll get for it, is when they receive the quote. So no wonder they are going to sit on it or compare it with alternatives or just plain decide to do nothing at all. It is not fair or reasonable to expect any other reaction on their part.
If you want a different reaction from your prospects, you’ll have to do something different first. We at Sandler suggest you get agreement in principle before you get in to all the hard work of a proposal and chasing it. However, for that to happen you have to master the one area that most salespeople shy away from. They avoid it like the plague. I can say that with such feeling because I used to be just as bad, if not the worst! Yes, you guessed it, you’ll have to get them to identify what they are able and willing to invest in a solution, in terms of time, money and resources.

Why is it so ridiculously hard to find out that all-important piece of information?

Well, it could be you don’t want to hear bad news. You don’t want to learn that the prospect is not prepared to spend the right money or time; you would rather hope your wonderful proposal or demo will convince them. This is not a sensible way of looking at it. Why would your wonderful solution convince them of spending more than they intend or are able? It is so arrogant to think that you can charm them with your beautiful offering. If the prospect really wants or needs it, then they might be prepared to pay a bit extra, but they will have to admit that first. So it is up to you to get them to tell you that their want or need compels them to spend the right money or time. In other words, they have to tell you what they are prepared to invest.

Another reason why salespeople find it so hard to discover budget levels is because they are afraid the prospect will tell them they are not happy to divulge it. Let’s be honest, if the prospect won’t tell you it is probably because they don’t trust you. That is a hard thing to hear. If they don’t trust you it strongly suggests they don’t like you and that is even more painful. So you’d rather not risk learning that truth and just send a proposal instead.

A third reason why finding budget is so hard is because the whole question of asking about money can be emotionally tied-up with childhood experiences. If money was tight in the family home, discussions about finances were probably either fraught or avoided as being too painful. And that fear and caution is still rumbling on into the current conversation. On the other hand if money in one’s childhood past was plentiful then a complete disregard for how others might not find spending money easy can lead to a strained atmosphere in the sales meeting in the present.

Those reasons are all emotional, conceptual reasons salespeople find it hard to find the prospect’s level of investment. However, it could be that the reasons for not finding it are instead purely technical, non-emotional reasons.

For example, perhaps the prospect cannot tell you because they haven’t thought about what they are prepared to invest. Or they have a policy of never telling any provider or partner what they will spend. There are strategies for dealing with these, but suffice to say here, if you can’t solve these to a decent degree, then you can’t proceed with the sale. What would be the point of sending something out (like a message in a bottle) in the hope of getting a positive response in a timely fashion?

Other technical reasons are easier to deal with. It could simply be that you haven’t figured out the best, most effective, least pushy, ways of asking for their level of investment commitment. We have a number of techniques to share with you. The first, most obvious, is to straight forwardly ask “Do you have a budget set aside for this project?” We would suggest you are more nuanced and ask using a negative reverse, something like “I don’t suppose you’ve got a level of investment in mind for this, have you?...Not unusual if you haven’t…” But we still have to go from there with more questions to get that all-important commitment. Other ways you can use include Third Party Stories, Bracketing, and Expectations. If you’d like to know more about these methods, let me know.

Ultimately the reasons for not finding the prospect’s level of commitment to invest can be a mix of any of those described above, and quite often are. So you have to deal with emotional barriers as well as weaknesses in technique. It is not surprising, therefore, that this step in the sales process is considered to be one of the hardest and the one where salespeople most consistently fail. There is plenty you can do to address all of these, but it needs effort. On the other hand, if you don’t get this right, you are condemning yourself to look like a salesperson, just like all the other vendors and therefore condemning yourself to chasing proposals. This chasing is not an inevitable cost of doing business. You can learn to avoid it.

For more insights into how to stop chasing quotes and proposals, look out for more in my up-coming blogs.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer