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

Image courtesy of Scott Chan at

sales tips for handling proposalsIn my experience, most proposals are issued prematurely. Sellers view issuing proposals as a step toward the ultimate goal of obtaining orders. Proposals should provide buyers the information needed to make buying decisions. If the seller hasn’t had access to the decision maker, proposals can be a poor way to get those levels onboard.

Prior to buying, decision makers want to know:

  • Business outcomes that can be improved
  • Why those outcomes can’t be achieved without the offering being considered
  • What specific capabilities the offering provides to allow achievement of desired results
  • The cost vs. benefit (value)
  • Implementation efforts and support (if applicable)
  • Pricing and terms

Issuing proposals before these areas have been addressed often causes opportunities to stall. Many ultimately result in buyers making “no decision.”

Buyers don’t like premature closes because they feel pressured. Here are two suggestions before you issue proposals:

  1. Ask if the buyer is ready to buy. Proposals amount to asking for the business. Unless you’ve addressed all the issues listed above, you’ve got more work to do. This also provides a “sanity check” to validate that the buyer is ready to receive a proposal.
  2. See if buyers will agree to review a draft proposal to provide an opportunity to ensure the proposal reflects what they buyer wants/needs to see and make any necessary changes or additions.

Unlike fine wine, proposals don’t improve over time. After a month or so has passed, the chances of getting orders begin a slow fade. Months later sellers remove them from their forecasts. Having the patience to issue proposals when buyers are ready to buy can minimize the number of stagnant proposals in a seller’s pipeline.

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