Manage episode 357546686 series 2952524
In Japan we usually need a couple of meetings with the client to get the business. In Meeting One, we build the rapport and trust, we explore their needs and try to understand if what we have is actually what they need. We are tremendously disinterested in slamming any square pegs into round holes and wasting our precious sales time. If we have understood their needs and we can help them, then we set up Meeting Two, right then and there, to come back with our proposal. In some cases, we might have a simple requirement and we can provide the pricing and terms on the spot and try and do the deal while we are in the first meeting. Usually anything with big numbers attached to it needs a proper proposal, because various sections of the buyer’s company will need to conduct their due diligence on the deal, so there are multiple decision-makers involved.
How much detail should the proposal include? Some salespeople in Japan work on the basis that Japanese clients are always hungry to devour as much data and information as possible, to make sure they reduce the chance of making a mistake. So they have a long and very detailed proposal for the client to wade through. This is a very tricky equation. We are in danger of diluting our key points by over-powering them with too much information. On the other hand, as noted, there is always more than one person involved in the decision and some people will be data vampires who want to suck up as much information as possible. So we have a number of audiences for our work and how do we keep them all satisfied?
One answer is to keep the main body of the proposal fairly simple and clean – we don’t bog it down in endless detail. The heavy lifting detail can be moved to an accompanying document or we sequester it at the end of the proposal, as a separate entity for those who need lots and lots of information. We know that the Analytical personality style will be looking for numbers to three decimal places and these types are usually in the technical fields or are to do with the money side of the business and we have to cater for them too. Driver and Expressive personality styles will not be interested in so much detail – they want to get to the point and keep moving, because they either see time is money or they dislike getting into the weeds.
Because we know that our document will get moved around it is a good idea to assume some of the readers won’t know anything about who we are and what we do. So, a small section outlining the company background and the scope of work we cover will be a good little addition aimed at people we will never meet, The people in the room with us know about us of course, but we shouldn’t assume they are going to tell all of the other readers everything they know about us.
We can consider some additions and deletions for the proposal. Additions would be ancillary services or products which the buyer might like to consider. You get this on Amazon and other shopping sites, where they tell you what other similar buyers also bought as a way to add to the shopping cart while they have your attention. We can do the same and add in some additional suggestions which may help the buyer. In our case, we might be talking about a training course and we might add in as an optional extra some one-on-one coaching as well. They won’t have mentioned it in the original conversation, but we put it in the proposal and price it, as a way of stimulating their thinking. If they don’t want it, then they can just take it out and we only price the main service.
A deletion would be scope creep. If we are not specific enough, buyers will agree to our proposal and then assume it also covers a bunch of other stuff, all of which costs us money, but which was not covered in our original pricing. Without going crazy, we need to delineate what we are going to include for the price and what is not covered, but which could be included for an additional payment.
Payment cadence is also a good thing to mention. Perhaps you want to receive payments on the way through the project, is if is stretched out over time and you cannot get paid up front. Some big companies are very happy to screw the little guy and will force you to agree to 60, 90 or 120 day payments. Their CFO has done a calculation of how much they can make extra by not paying us in a timely manner and force us to wait to get paid. It is a good idea to stipulate your payment cadence terms in the proposal and make it clear from the start. Sometimes you just have to suck it up if you want the business, but it is a better idea to try and fight for better payments terms from the get go.
After a while we will come up with some templates which work well and we can keep polishing the process. Some salespeople like to use PowerPoint slides and others like to use a word document – I don’t think it really matters too much. One exception - please, please please, don’t cram all of the information which should be spread over ten slides into two or three slides and make the whole presentation a gigantic mess. There are specialist software packages for proposals, but that strikes me as an additional expense I don’t necessarily need, but there may be some value to them.
We should automate the process as much as we can so that we don’t have to keep building every proposal from zero. There will be some common features which we won’t need to alter. We can build up probably 80%-90% of the content, which will become a set piece for every proposal, as we discover what works best.
I hate having to send off a proposal unescorted, naked, into the world, without any protection. “Send it to me” are nasty words, I never want to hear. That is why in Meeting One, we set the date and time for Meeting Two, because we need to be there to walk them through that proposal. We need to be using all of our ninja level body language reading skills to see how they react to different parts of the proposal. Left to their own devices, they will go straight to the pricing page and decide it too expensive, because they haven’t read anything in the rest of the proposal which justifies the price. We have to be there to guide them through the value, before they get to the pricing.
Take another look at the proposals you are handing over to clients. Are the contents and presentation being maximised or have bad habits crept in and inertia is now ruling the process rather than clever thinking?