The first of five short articles guaranteed to increase your win rate from your sales proposals, quotations and tenders.
Capture the senior decision-maker’s attention
Do the first opening words and sentences of your sales proposals and quotations introduce your company and what you sell? It’s called ‘We-ing’.
If they do, then most prospective customers, particularly their senior decision-makers, will mentally switch off and head straight for the price page. Then you’d better make sure you’re the cheapest!
‘We-ing’ is an easy mistake to check
In your introduction or executive summary (and yes, you should always write one) highlight all the paragraphs, sentences and bullet points that either start with the word ‘We’ or start with information about your company or your products/services. A red highlighter is most appropriate for this task. Now green, highlight sentences that explain how you enable the customers to achieve their desired outcomes (see the next section). If you have a sea of red on the page, and not a lot of green, you need to read on…
Why senior decision-makers don’t buy ‘We’
Senior decision-makers think differently to you and I. They’re not interested in your company or what you sell, at least not until you give them a reason to want to check you out. What interests them is how you are able to help them resolve a pressing problem or achieve a certain desired aspiration. Let’s face it, what other reasons are there for buying anything or changing your supplier?
Starting with the title page or headline, through the introduction or executive summary, in the body of the sales proposal, what you write must focus on explaining how you will achieve their desired ‘valued outcomes’ It doesn’t matter if you sell nuts and bolts, heart bypass surgery, accountancy services or nuclear power stations, the principle is always the same. Customers, particularly senior executives, are interested in a supplier’s ability to deliver their ‘valued outcomes’ – the way they gain directly or indirectly from what you sell.
Nuts and bolts
Certain valued outcomes are critical to a purchase, others are less important. Make sure you focus on the three that are the most important to the senior decision maker/s.
If you sell nuts and bolts to manufacturers then these may be their important valued outcomes;
- Manufacturing efficiency - every nut and bolt is quick and easy to fit.
- Always available - the customer has the right nuts and bolts for every job, when they need them.
- Zero risk of warranty claims or service calls due to post-sale bolt failures, loosening or seizures.
For an accountancy firm that sells its services to small businesses, it’s probably about keeping more of the money you earn - cutting your tax liability), releasing time for the family - not spending every weekend doing your accounts, and knowing the best way to increase your business earnings. Who wouldn’t want some of that?
For selling a nuclear power station the valued outcomes probably relate to safety/environment, project cost management and timescale.
Planning what to write
A winning sales proposal or quotation must communicate clearly how you deliver the senior decision-maker’s three most-desired valued outcomes. How do you discover what these are? Brainstorm a list of what you think they may be for an individual or a particular type of customer. Perhaps five or six points. Then, when you meet the prospective customer, work your way through the list to establish the customer’s priorities and the priority order.
Here’s an example:
If you sell accountancy services, ask questions such as:
- “Do you personally spend too much time doing the accounts? If you can reduce that time, say by around a half, how important would that be to you?”
- “Do you worry that the tax authorities might target you for inspections or claw-back tax?”
- “Are you concerned that you may be paying more tax than you need to?”
- “How important is it for you to find more money to develop new products?”
- “Are you concerned that you may not have sufficient capital reserves to grow your business quickly? How important is it for you to avoid the risk of running out of money?”
When you focus the opening page of your sales proposal or quotation on achieving the senior executive’s three most important outcome expectations, you create a memorable impression.
If your competitors fail to connect with what the customer wants to achieve, by comparison, they are a risky choice. Isn't that what selling is all about?
Start with a compelling proposal title
Stage one in writing a winning sales proposal or quotation is the title or heading. Most sales proposals, quotes and tenders are never read by the senior executives simply because the proposal title doesn’t seduce them to read on. Some actually put them off reading, like this one;
'Provision of security services for Manchester manufacturing site no. 4'
The title of your proposal should connect what you sell to the primary desired or valued outcome the most senior decision maker wants to achieve. For greater effect, try putting the desired outcome first, like the following examples. If you were the owner of a small business, would this make you want to read the next page?
'Securing higher personal income from your business. A small business accountancy service from Smith Jones Accountants'
Here’s another example:
'Managing your accounts for rapid business growth. A small business accountancy service from Smith Jones Accountants'
Once your headline has compelled them to turn the page and read on, present them with an introduction or executive summary that continues your powerful sales story.
But first you need to consider the overall structure of your proposal or quotation document - that follows in part 2 on the 23rd March.
Coming up in Part 2 & 3
How you structure a winning sales proposal document
Your sales proposal structure must invite and encourage every decision maker, influencer and scrutineer to read the content that is appropriate to them – content that will influence them to buy from you.
How to write a compelling introduction or executive summary
Explore the power of an introduction and executive summary and how you useit to make you the preferred supplier (and kill off your competitors) – all in a single page!