I joined a salesperson on a sales call. A few days after the call, she asked me to review the proposal she developed for the customer.
As I reviewed the proposal, a light bulb went off. As many good salespeople do, she developed her proposal based on a “boilerplate” which, to her credit, she customized. As I read her work, I saw a lot of good information but also felt something was missing. In analyzing what it was, it was clear that she had started with the boilerplate and that set the foundation for the proposal.
While boilerplates can be great tools and time savers, and while good ones have customer benefits in them, they are the voice of your company. They should be leveraged, but not as the first step.
Proposals that win are proposals that speak the customer’s language and, therefore, resonate with them. Getting the customer’s voice in a proposal starts when you engage him or her in a deep needs dialogue AND listen and take great notes during the call. Notes let you capture your customer’s thinking and language.
The key then is to use your notes to write the objectives for your proposal before looking at the boilerplate.
As you write the objectives, check off each point in your notes as you incorporate it into your proposal to make sure you miss nothing. Then build your solution around that, and then grow from the boilerplate — but even then be sure to customize every word from it.
Make your proposal easy for your customer to say yes to, making sure it reflects and illuminates what your customer wants to achieve. From your notes, replicate your customer’s perspective, language, and needs so that your customer knows you heard him or her.
Unless you have a really fabulous memory for details, when it is time to customize a proposal and win deals, nothing will be more useful than the notes you take in deep need dialogues.