Writing business proposals: do you send yours out uninvited?

Business proposals,sales,sales funnel,writing

Sending biz proposals out cold? Think again…

Do you – or does your company – get stuck submitting written proposals to prospects before they’ve asked for them? Is this the right way forward in your business, or is it likely to a) irritate the prospect and/or b) get your ideas stolen?

Pam Mannell’s excellent article here on HTWB on Tuesday has caused some valid points to be stirred up in blogversations in various social media.

One blogversation in particular became such an interesting epic that I decided, with the other party’s (Phil Shipperlee from Performative Ltd) permission (it was in a closed group on LinkedIn) to share it with you here.

Here’s how the blogversation went…

Does the thought of writing a proposal bring you out in a rash?

Here’s a very useful guest post by expert Pam Mannell of CRM Essentials Ltd – handy tips to make the process more effective AND easier…

Phil Shipperlee FIoD
Working with MDs, CEOs, FDs and business owners; delivering sustainable improvement in sales results, revenue & profit

This is good but knowing Pam’s work I would expect nothing less.

I do have one thing to add gathered from our experience working with customers and their bidding processes. All too often suppliers write a proposal because they have reached that stage in their selling cycle and they then wonder why the prospect is no longer contactable, simple; they did not want a proposal as they did not consider themselves to be a prospect whereas the hopeful supplier wants/needs them to be a prospect.

The lesson is; bid according to the prospects buying cycle not your selling cycle. BTW, this also makes writing the proposal much easier and less of a chore.

One thing that Pam said that I cannot agree with was “You may have met some of the decision makers”. Do not bid until you have met all the decision makers and the decision influencers otherwise you are just throwing darts in a darkened room.

Suzan St Maur AMIPA
Best-Selling Author | Writer/Blogger, business & social media | Founder of popular resource, HowToWriteBetter.net

HTWB BlogversationThanks for sharing that, Phil. What you say about the “sales cycle” versus the “buying cycle” is very true not just in this instance but across almost all aspects of sales – wouldn’t you agree? It’s along the same lines as “acting when the customer is ready to buy” versus traditional selling.

I’m not an expert when it comes to writing proposals without having met all the decision makers, but certainly I can relate to that in terms of the decision making process regarding text for websites, articles, brochures, etc.

I couldn’t count the number of times a very effective piece of writing has been totally mangled after being “edited” by various decision makers further up the Totem Pole. Usually when that happens I reserve the right (and the paid hours) to re-edit the text after everyone else has finished playing with it, and usually client companies accept that!

Phil Shipperlee FIoD

I do agree Suzan “acting when the customer is ready to buy” is the name of the game.

Another symptom of this illness of sending unwanted proposals is people who say something like “we have sent the proposal so it is now a 60%, 70%, whatever% opportunity”. We call this action driving status when it should be status driving action – don’t send the proposal until your qualification and quantification criteria for a proposal have been met. So, you need a mechanism for calculating weighted probabilities which you then use to trigger actions; involvement by your technical people, site visits by the prospect, presentations, proposals and whatever else constitutes your prospecting process.

Suzan St Maur AMIPA

Phil, I find all this pro-active sending of proposals quite alien, because in my business we (or at least I!) never submit proposals unless they’re asked for by a prospect or client.

I grew up in the advertising industry whereby clients asked for proposals and pitches at the drop of a hat and often took shall we say, er, liberties by using elements included in the creative proposals and then swear blind that their usage of same was sheer coincidence…!

However that was all part of the game, not only in advertising where I worked as a youngster but later in corporate communications and business theatre – pitches and repitches ad nauseam.

You always knew when one key decision maker had moved on and another taken his/her place. The first thing they wanted was a repitch from their advertising and other creative agencies, if only to invite earlier contacts of their own to pitch in competition. This enabled them to be seen to be making waves soon after getting their feet under the desk – as well as getting their old contacts into the fold and kicking out the incumbents they didn’t know.

Please teach me here: is the submission of un-asked-for new business proposals commonplace in other industries now?

Phil Shipperlee FIoD

That is a different matter Suzan; we rarely send proposals but it is common practice in a lot of industries. However, just because it is common does not make it right; it is simply that a lot of people do not structure the way they approach prospecting and quickly run out of things to do to keep the engagement moving forward so they send a proposal to fill the gap.

blog,writing,news,blogging,businessThe problem then is that the proposal has been sent (rarely presented) out of step with the prospect’s buying process so they are not ready to consider it or make a decision. However, the information provided does empower the prospect to consider other suppliers. I am often told “we said to the prospect would you like us to do a proposal – and the prospect said yes” why wouldn’t they, it is free research after all!

Free research? Is this taking the wee-wee?

Pam Mannell – and everyone else – what do you  think?

And many thanks to Phil Shipperlee for sharing his views with us here on HTWB, as well as on LinkedIn.

But now, what do the rest of  YOU think? Please share your views and join this blogversation…
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