The Role of Proposals in a Winning Pre-Sales Process
How long is your pre-sale process and how much value do you attribute to it? The truth is, it is by far the most important variable in acquiring new clients. To put it in simpler terms, the pre-sales process is the main course and the actual sale is the dessert.
In this article, we’ll explain the importance of the pre-sales process and show you tricks on how to improve your strategies and wrap up more sales and acquire more revenue.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A PRE-SALES PROCESS
We could very easily describe the pre-sales process as a set of activities one would engage in before a client has been acquired. Every business has a different approach to this process, but all successful companies and salespeople know the importance of pre-sales activities.
According to Harvard Business Review, companies with stronger pre-sales processes achieve 40-50% of new businesses and 80-90% of repeat businesses. With such high numbers, the value of pre-sales is clear and if you’re wondering where to start, we have you covered.
The pre-sales process should include prospecting i.e. creating the buyer persona, market research, content preparation, lead qualification, email marketing, and account-based targeting.
Creating the buyer persona
Creating and defining the buyer persona will help you create content that will better find and engage your target audience. A buyer persona is a description of an ideal customer. However, this is not a real customer, but an embodiment of characteristics your best case scenario customer would have.
With that being said, creating your buyer persona should be done in regards to actual data. Do thorough market research and find out everything you can about the companies you want to go into business with. If you can, find out who is the decision-maker when it comes to acquiring products and services in their firm.
Having a fleshed out buyer persona can help you create content and marketing messages targeted specifically to their liking. If you’ve figured out what kind of approach they respond well to in regards to content, you can easily find the brand voice that will feel natural to your prospects. You don’t want to use jargon or buzzwords that will confuse them or feel out of place.
Creating a buyer persona will help you attract prospects that are more likely to convert to clients.
This step will help you greatly in your discovery meeting, which we’ll discuss in grated detail in the next chapter. Market research is essential since it guides all your marketing and sales decisions.
Market research helps you better understand your prospect’s market, figure out who their audience is, discover their competitors, understand the issues their clients face, unveil emerging opportunities, find your weaknesses, recognize how you stack up against your competitors when it comes to your price, explore what customers are looking for and more.
Use the results of your research in your pre-sales process and show your clients that you truly understand their needs, their standing in the market, and future problems they may face. It will assure them that they are in capable hands.
Being at a loss of words in front of your potential client is a bad way to start a business relationship. This is why it is important to prepare all your marketing and sales materials in advance. This process will help you think critically since it is important to put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
Think about what questions they may ask you at different stages of the sales process and what type of content they would engage with at the end stages rather than the beginning. If there are still some loose ends that need tying up, prepare your arguments in advance and test your approach on your colleagues. Once you’re certain you have a bulletproof strategy, you can confidently walk into your discovery session.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A DISCOVERY MEETING
Once all your hard work pays off and you secure a meeting with a potential client, you’ll be glad you’ve already done a huge portion of the work, and you won’t feel a great deal of pressure.
As the name suggests, the discovery meeting is, in fact, a one-on-one gathering in which you get to know your client, their actual needs, the time frame in which they expect you to deliver your finished product, and more.
Our best tips on how to prepare for your meeting are – make sure you are the one that chooses the place of the meeting. Avoid their office and go somewhere neutral, like a restaurant or a hotel lobby. Why you may ask? Well, it’s important to get them away from any distractions like coworkers or phones.
The location of the meeting also sets the tone for the said meeting. Since you chose the place, it’s you who’s running the show. Evening out the playing field like this gives you a chance to stand out and really impress your potential client.
Prepare a list of questions you would want to ask, like why did they choose you over your competitors, did they already work with someone on fixing the problem at hand, how long ago they realized they have a problem that needs fixing and whether they have a budget.
There is a sequence in which you can ask questions based on the result you want to accomplish. If you want your potential client to come to a realization about how much money they’re losing by not fixing their problem sooner and subsequently have an easier time accepting your price, ask them what would happen if they don’t do anything about their problem for the next 6 or 12 months.
While they’re thinking about how it’s prime time to fix their problem, transition into the question of what difference it would make if they had fixed it 6 months ago and why wasn’t it fixed until then. With this sequence, the transition to budget questions will be seamless.
Once the meeting is done and they ask for a proposal, get right to it.
The importance of a well-written proposal
Having done a lot of work already, writing your proposal will be a breeze, especially if you’re using a template.
With your proposal being the last piece of content in your sales process, it should be as close to perfect as it can be so that you can get it signed, get paid and start working on your project as soon as possible.
An excellent proposal that is clear in its attended purpose and works as a legally binding contract that can be signed by both parties without the need to print it and send it through snail mail not only speeds up the process but helps you win more business. Let us explain.
In a report analysis that covers over $1,480,000,000 of closed deals won through Better Proposals, we discovered that allowing your partner to print your proposal decreases your chances for conversion by 84%. And that’s just one example of how integral it is to have an all-encompassing proposal that lets your client sign it and pay the first fee before exiting the proposal.
With that in mind, let’s go over the writing process. The best place to start would be with an outline – divide your proposal into sections. Your proposal should have an executive summary, an explanation of your process, some type of social proof, precise timescales and a pricing table.
Your executive summary, contrary to popular belief should be short and get right to the point. This is the chapter in which you explain to the other party the problem they approached you about and what your process will be for fixing it with a precise goal and finish date.
This is the place where you can reiterate your client’s words, without the need to butter them up and especially without placing blame or once again asking them why didn’t they fix the problem at hand sooner.
Another thing to avoid here is writing about you and your company’s achievements. We’re sure they already researched you before they chose to approach you about working with you so there is no need to revert back to the first point of communication.
Just describe the problem and then get straight to explaining how you’re going to fix it in a selected time period.
In your next section, you can go ahead and talk a little bit about yourself. Pull up a few customer reviews, or a case study that shows how you worked on a similar project before and let your clients speak for you.
People love hearing about other people’s experiences with brands, so your potential clients will want to know how successful you’ve been in the past and how quickly did your clients reach their ROI.
Next up is a section on the timescales. Present a clear table in which you’ll explain how much time you’re going to allocate to each part of your process and the end date for your part of the project.
The second to last part and the second most important part is the pricing. If you’ve talked about a budget in your discovery session, you’ll know where you stand and you can easily make an offer that will align with your client’s expectations. After that all there’s left to do is close your proposal with a CTA.
Let your new client know what your next steps are and good luck!
TIPS ON HOW TO PERFECT YOUR PROPOSAL
We already mentioned a report analysis that covers over $1,480,000,000 of closed deals won through Better Proposals, now let us share some tricks on how to perfect your proposal using real data.
Starting with the number of sections you should include in your proposal. Our analysis shows that the best number of sections is 7. Just enough to cover your bases without your proposal being too long to read.
The best name for your pricing section is shown to be investment since in the last year more than half of all signed proposals had a similar name.
The design of your proposal is also an important factor to consider. Your proposal should be easy to get through, with a clear structure and original photographs that divide the text into smaller, easier to read sections.
Try to stay away from using stock images and instead use your own original photographs, designs and content. The whole proposal should feel on-brand and tailored to your client. Also, make sure it is optimized for both desktop and mobile viewing.
The cover photo is one of the first things your clients will see upon opening your proposal so make sure it’s eye-catching.
If you’re still on the fence about using proposal templates, with integrated payment, let us show you the average time in which our client’s get paid their first fee.
LET’S TALK ABOUT MONEY
There are a number of ways you can price your services and that greatly depends on your industry, business model, and the number of clients.
Keep in mind that if you’re creative with your monetization strategies, you can make content platforms like YouTube or blogging a profitable endeavor as well which will diversify your company revenue beyond clients.
But, in terms of your potential customers, our advice is to avoid charging by the hour, by cost and markup and a retainer if possible.
The reason why can easily be explained by comparing two people that do the same job at different seniority levels – let’s say, programmers. If they both charge by the hour while delivering a different scope of work, the one with more experience, training, and a larger portfolio is underpricing himself, since it will take him a considerably less amount of time to finish his work.
That is why the best models of pricing are charging by the commission and value-based pricing. The trick about the commission is not to charge it if you can’t control every part of the deal.
While the value-based model works best, it does require you to put your finger on the exact kind of value you provide to the client. In order to do so, you need to know their current state of affairs and how much revenue a single unit of your finished product or service can gather. You also need to know the average value of a transaction and the average profit per sale.
The other big question about pricing is should you have a single offer or try to upsell your customers? While putting your pricing in packages in ordinary sales lets you increase the value of your base offer and make more money off a single customer when it comes to business proposals, single offers fare better.
Our analysis shows that if you present your clients with one choice without bundle deals, you’ll sell for a 16.3% higher fee and for a fee that is 28.5% higher with monthly fees.
Your business proposal is the heart of your pre-sales process and the work you put into it will be reflected in the percentage of your approved proposals, the speed with which you get paid, and the overall sentiment you invoke in your clients.
With the layout of the way you should construct your proposal, the tips and tricks on how to perfect it, and advice on pricing your services, you’re sure on your way to create amazing business proposals and close more deals.
Petra Odak is a Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals, a simple yet incredibly powerful proposal software tool that helps you send high-converting, web-based business proposals in minutes. She’s a solution-oriented marketing enthusiast with more than 5 years of experience in various fields of marketing and project management.
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