If you work in sales you know that presenting proposals too early in the sales process is bad. As a sales manager, it’s your job to discover if your sales reps are making this vital mistake, and figuring out how to fix it. Because even if it may not seem like it, I guarantee you if you start peeling back the layers you’re going to find more than a few reps proposing earlier in the process than they should. As always if you have any questions please schedule a free 30-minute consultation and I will do my best to help in any way I can.
What we’re going to cover:
- Too early is bad
- Do you know?
- What to do about it
“What happens with a lot of salespeople is they get in these opportunities, the customer or prospect gives them some information that they feel is beneficial, the rep feels like they have enough information, and they jump right into the proposal.”
So, what happens after that?
“Absolutely nothing. It happens to all of us so doesn’t feel like you’re alone on this. If I said I didn’t make mistakes you wouldn’t believe me because I do, we all do. But you have to recognize that once you give the pricing away there’s nothing left if you haven’t don’t your homework.”
Why does this happen? Inbound leads.
“When sales reps get a lead often times the person on the other end of that conversation is asking for prices. It’s hard enough to get an inbound lead to respond to you and once they do, they give you some basic information, they think they can ask for pricing, they think that’s fine. And the sales reps are so afraid of losing them that they oblige and they provide that pricing.”
“Well, how do we know what’s in their budget?”
“No one has the budget if you haven’t done your job. Because there’s a lot that has to happen before someone will accept your pricing. It’s not very often that somebody calls, asks how much it’s going to cost, and when I give the price right away they say, ‘fine send me the contracts’. It doesn’t work that way, it never does. And if it does it’s too good to be true.”
Too early is bad
Respect the buyers’ process
“You should be lining your process to help your buyers buy, you should know how they buy.”
‘Well, the buyer is in charge!’
“Nobody is in charge. The buyer is living in a different world today than they were 15-20 years ago, they have answers at their fingertips. Don’t you think they could find answers to their problems based on the products and services you sell? It’s not that they’re in charge it’s that they have all this information in front of them and the last thing they think they need is a price.”
“Often times people sort of know what they want, they have a good idea what they want, but is it what they need? Is it really going to solve their problem in a way that actually works?”
“Here’s the thing your sales reps are not selling commodities, they think they are selling commodities in some cases, but they’re not. They’re selling the value of their wisdom. They’re selling how your company can help them solve a problem beyond just the product. They’re a trusted advisor. And you don’t become a trusted advisor by providing pricing up front. You become a trusted advisor by asking the right questions, by taking a deeper dive and in some cases saying no I can’t sell you my product because I don’t think we’re a good fit.”
‘You have to get to the decision maker!’
“Rarely, today, do you find a single decision maker, especially for the complex sale. Somebody is going to somebody else and meeting with a number of people to make a decision because people are empowered today in most companies. Most organizations aren’t run like dictatorships, they get a lot of input and feedback.”
Respect the sales process
“You need to understand how they buy, they need to understand their own sales process and if you don’t have a sales process or you’re not adhering to your sales process or your sales process is broken that’s how proposals get presented too early.”
Hard to recover
“Once you provide a proposal early it’s hard to recover, it’s hard to come back from that. It can be done and it’s been done, but your reps aren’t getting as many deals as they should get. If they’d done it the right way they still would have gotten that deal but they most likely lost 4 or 5 other ones because they didn’t follow the process. Because it’s near impossible to recover in certain situations.”
Where’s the problem?
“The lack of understanding on how to sell in today’s world. They go from problem identification to present. You can’t have that. It’s this progressive qualification that moves into a collaborative effort to making a decision. Because you’re having a conversation and you’re qualifying them to the problem and you’re making decisions along the way, both of you.”
Are we a fit?
“Is this a fit for them based on what I know now? Yes, let’s keep going. Or maybe not, I don’t think we’re a right fit for you, then you get all the way through that and people start to present. No, take a deeper dive, summarize the problem, figure out exactly where the pain points are, how they are going to solve them if you’re not around. What bad thing happens if they don’t do it?”
Working towards a solution.
“Together you’re working towards a solution, eventually to a point where quite frankly the prospect takes ownership not only of the problem but of the solution. They are the ones risking their necks, not you. They are the ones that are going to their company and saying spend this money on this problem they can help us solve it.”
The prospect needs to take ownership.
“If they take ownership of the problem, they truly believe it’s a problem, and then they work with you, you have good conversations and you begin to collaborate on a solution and they take ownership of the solution, bang that’s presentation time. That’s when you step in and you begin to present.”
The final steps
“Okay, you take ownership of it, this is what it’s going to cost for my services. Do I get the deal every time? No, but my odds are pretty high and I’ve increased them. That’s what you need to do with your reps.”
Do you know?
“Do you know your team well enough? Do you know when they’re presenting in the sales cycle?”
“Don’t tell me a number one, start person, doesn’t need that kind of discussion. Because just think maybe somebody is at 150% of quota and they are tearing it up, would you take 20% more from them? I know I would, I’d want to know my team.”
Do they follow the process
“Do they follow a sales process? Do they follow our sales process? When do they present the proposal in the process? Track all of it.”
“Don’t give me this stuff that you don’t have a way to track it. “I really don’t use a CRM” Okay, I don’t care. There are companies out there that don’t have CRM’s or they don’t follow it, I don’t care. You can track anything these days. Sometimes you need to do it manually and that’s okay. Just track it.”
“Figure out when they’re presenting. If you can just make a tweak or two, get them to do a little more qualifying, and a little bit more ownership to the prospect, and you get them to do that you’re going to increase their win rates. Mediocre is going to get better. Really good reps are going to be the best rep, and the best is still going to be the best but with a little more money in their pocket. And you know what to do with the low hanging fruit.”
What to do about it
“Start with your sales process. You want to make sure you’ve documented it and if your sales process is broken and you’re presenting too early in that process, move it.”
Sales Forecast meetings
“Zero in on those sales forecast meetings pay close attention to when the proposals are being done. If you have a weekly sales rep one on one meeting and a coaching session, these are the ideal times to extract that data.”
“I would get knee deep in this thing and I’d make sure that I take a real hard look at the sales process and have deep conversations with them about specific forecasted opportunities, where they are in the process and when they’re presenting.”
When does this happen?
“All of this happens during one on one meetings and while you’re in your coaching sessions. Whether you’re on a ride along and you’re spending your day in the field and you’re coaching them, these are the things you talk about.”
“Tell me about when you think a good time to present the proposal is? When do you do it? Let’s talk about the last two deals. Give me some information about that. Start to extract that data.”
“Then sit down and formalize it yourself. This is what I want to do and this is how I want to move it around the process. Then present it to them as a group and then implement it one on one.”
“I don’t want to do the group thing yet.”
“That’s okay, back up a little bit and test case it. Then find one person you think you’ll get the most movement out of, work with them, get it done, show that as a success, hold that up as a success and then drive it out to the rest of the sales force.”‘
Keep Filling The Funnel
We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think about this episode. Please feel free to reach out to us if there is a specific sales topic you would like me to cover. You can find me on Twitter at @Sheajohnr or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you get a chance, please feel free to review us on iTunes.