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Bad Assumption #5 – Proposals Sell

Sales Training Article: Bad Assumption #5 – Proposals Sell

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” [This is a continuation of the Bad Assumptions series. Read Bad Assumption #1 here and Bad Assumption #2 here and Bad Assumption #3 here and Bad Assumption #4 here.]  

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My definition of closing is asking for the business. Of all the closing techniques I’m aware of, the least effective is issuing proposals to non-decision makers who will then distribute it to members of the buying committee. This is a recipe for disaster for many reasons:

  • In their rush to move transactions along, many proposals are issued too soon.
  • Sellers lose a great deal of control once proposals are issued. Many prospects “go dark” after receiving proposals.
  • For fairly complex B2B offerings, few executive buyers will take the time to read proposals. Instead they’ll fast forward to the pricing and with no idea of potential value, are likely to conclude the price is too high.
  • Executives that try to read proposals will often give up if/when they don’t fully understand what they are reading.
  • Much of the potential value of making purchase decisions must be gotten from executive buyers.

While most sellers view proposals as a step that gets them closer to orders, my belief is that proposals do not sell. Rather, they should provide the information needed for buyers to make buying decisions. Therefore proposals should document and confirm:

  • Desired business outcomes
  • Reasons the outcomes cannot be achieved (without the offering being considered)
  • The specific capabilities that address the reasons uncovered
  • Implementation activities (if appropriate)
  • The potential value
  • The total costs

Prior to issuing proposals, sellers should consider asking the highest level they’ve called on to review a draft of the proposal before it is issued. It is a way to ensure that it accurately reflects what they wanted to see and that there are no surprises in the proposal. If the meeting to review the content of the draft proposal goes well with a person that can make a decision, sellers may be able to close at that point in time.


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