Early in my career I learnt a very simple tactic which made a significant difference to my sales – and I noticed recently that I had stopped using it. So as well as restarting its use for myself, I thought I'd share it. It's most appropriate for consultants or other professionals who have to prepare proposals to sell what they do.
Here's the tactic: when someone asks you for a proposal, instead of meekly agreeing and heading off to do it; set a meeting date with them then and there to review it together.
Simple and obvious, and as old as the hills. But easily overlooked.
When you're in a sales meeting with a client and you've talked about what they need and what you can do and they pop the question: “can you write that up as a proposal for me?” – it's so, so easy to agree and to rush off to do the proposal just as they've asked.
Assuming doing a proposal is actually the right thing (often it isn't – often the problem itself requires further exploration with the client – but assuming it is); as we all know, our chances of selling something increase exponentially if we present the proposal personally rather than just sending it in.
However, calling after you've done the proposal to set up a meeting very often results in the client asking if you can just send the proposal in for them to read first – then they'll set a meeting if needed.
Of course, without you there, the proposal doesn't have the same impact, the meeting never happens, and the sale is lost.
But if you ask for the meeting then and there you're leveraging three things:
- It's harder to turn someone down face to-face
- You've built up a degree of rapport in the meeting
- They've just asked you for a favour – so they're likely to reciprocate by agreeing to a meeting
It's an obvious and pretty easy thing to do – but very, very often it's not done.
There are many reasons for this. I've seen sales people simply forget in the heat of the moment. But more usually, there's an underlying fear preventing them asking. They fear that the client may say “no” – and then they'll lose the chance of proposing and of winning the sale.
But if a client is going to say “no” to a simple request like a meeting – how likely is it they're going to buy anything? In reality it's much better to get a “no” right now than it is to waste time on the proposal.
Another problem some salespeope have is that they put themselves in a servile position relative to the customer. They take the “customer is king” philosophy too far and feel that they must do just what the customer asks with no reciprocal obligations. They don't feel it's right to push for anything, but instead just jump through whatever hoops the customer asks them to jump through, hoping that they'll be rewarded with a sale.
That's not the right positioning for most sales – and certainly not for selling professional services where what the customer needs is a real business partner. A peer who can advise and guide them – not just do what they ask slavishly.
So next time you're asked to prepare a proposal, just take a deep breath, and say “sure, that would be great. Let's set a date for a meeting together to review it……”