"Send Me a Proposal"
By Chris Lytle

Wow, they must be serious -- they want to see a proposal. You'll think differently after you check out this advice.

Here are four words you really don't want to hear: "Send me a proposal."

If you have made a good presentation and the prospect has a problem you can solve, then you want the prospect to write you a check. That would be a better outcome than going back to your desk and writing a proposal, wouldn't it?

Too many salespeople stop selling as soon as a prospect says, "Send me a proposal." They take it is a buying signal and believe they have had a "great call." Whenever a salesperson tells me, it was a "great call," I know instantly that he didn't get an order.

"Send me a proposal" is either a buying signal or a stall. In either case, a prospect's saying those four words is not a reason to abort the conversation, pack up your briefcase and drive back to your office. Not without asking a few more questions.

How I saved myself from a writing assignment
I sell sales training. I am on the phone with a person I haven't done business with for ten years. I have just shown him my latest plan for developing his team of salespeople. He is excited about The Automatic Sales Improvement Process I have just presented to him. It's a way for his sales managers to run more powerful sales meetings. His top sales guy is on the conference call and is also supportive.

I should add that it's a $4860 decision, which in this prospect's world is relatively minor.

But then, my prospect says, "Send me a proposal on this."

"That's not a problem," I said. "I can lay out the terms and conditions in writing. You have seen everything I offer. Do you think it will help?"

"Yes, it definitely gives us some consistency in developing our team."

"And you have, or can find, the money?" I asked.

"If you can give me a couple of payments in the $1,900 range, I can keep this off the corporate radar. I can sign off on it."

"Then, do you need a proposal or should I just send an invoice?" I asked.

"Send the invoice. We'll go ahead with it," he said.

With three more questions, I saved myself another writing assignment, solved my prospect's problem and closed a sale.

Have you ever written a proposal you didn't have to write? Worse yet, have you ever worked for hours on a proposal and, then, had the prospect quit taking your calls or responding to your e-mails?

"Send me a proposal" are four words that you don't want to hear. If you do hear them, ask enough questions so you know what they really mean.

The one that got away
I believe you learn as much from your failures as your successes. Most sales trainers don't want to admit they don't close them all. Let me share this failure and see if you can relate.

I guess I shocked a group of prospects recently. In the middle of a conference call, I said to them, "I give up." They were putting up a lot resistance to what I was proposing. There were three of them and I could feel that I was merely starting to argue instead of selling or solving their problem.

"Uncle," I said. It's okay if you don't want to buy this. I give up."

It is interesting to observe what happens when you reject a prospect before they reject you. One person on the call told me I couldn't quit, thus starting a new argument. I opted out. I felt bad that I couldn't convince them and good that I stopped trying to force the issue.

That morning, I had called another person who was "too busy" to talk to me even though we had a calendar appointment. "I understand,' I said. "Do you want me to quit calling you completely? It is not my intent to bother you or waste your time." This prospect "opted in" and we have another calendar meeting in a week.

Pursuing someone who doesn't want to be pursued is stalking. I think there are laws about that.

Have you ever rejected a prospect before they rejected you?

Have you ever asked a prospect if they wanted to "opt out" of the process?

You don't have to close every deal to be successful. If a deal is not right for both of you, it's okay to walk away.

Chris Lytle is a Chicago-based information entrepreneur who has cracked the code on delivering sales development ideas that move the needle. He would be happy to discuss The Automatic Sales Improvement Process with you. Call him at 773-278-2728. Or visit his site at: www.MAX-ATM.com.