Archives For proposal

Stop Wasting Time on Proposals Nobody Reads!

Sign up here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2571952780 (December 21st at 1:00 PM)

Nothing wastes more time than writing proposals that don’t sell.  The more you write, the more time you waste…I remember some of my early proposals, crafted after lengthy documents I had seen as an IT manager.  Then one day I remembered, “I never read those things, so why would anyone read mine?”  The fact is, most of the proposals being written never get read!  Why?  Simply put, no one has time to read anything but the essentials.  What’s in your proposal that really matters?  Price, parts list, stages of a proposed project, and perhaps some dates?  These things are important.  What about the rest?  Well, perhaps there are some things in there, buried deep within your project rhetoric.

Join me next week on December 21st at 1:00 ET to talk about proposals.  I’ll be drawing from my newly published book, From Vendor to Adviser (which contains an important chapter on how to put together quality proposals.)  Here is the link – sign up now! past events have filled up quickly….

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2571952780

© 2010, David Stelzl

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Today we finished Day 3 of the online Making Money with Security workshop – using an actual assessment sent to me by one of the attendees, we were able to walk through the process companies should go through to create the perfect assessment document and deliverable/presentation-one that will lead to more business.

By observing the information and writing style of the assessment, we were able to ascertain how the assessment might have been conducted, who would have been involved in the assessment process, and how the findings were put together to create justification to move forward.  Here is what we found:

1. Fees – given the size and detail of the assessment, the seller probably could have sold it for more.  However, most assessments are sold to IT people who have no liability.  Creating justification for more expensive assessments requires asset owner involvement, and a belief that things might not be as secure as originally thought.  On there other hand, there are ways to conduct complementary assessments that can result in even great long term gross profit.

2. Interviews – the discovery process was probably limited to more technical people, and did not involve business people, top performers who use mission critical data, or executives who ultimately carry liability for both the systems and data their companies depend on.

3. Executive Summery – Like most executive summaries I read, this one did not speak to executives.  Instead, it was a summary targeting a technical audience.  It was called an executive summary simply because it was a summary…it’s unlikely an executive will read it.

4. Recommendations – most of the findings were written in a passive format, stating that certain Trojans or other common attack vectors could gain access to data.  This rarely moves a buyer.  It’s like saying, eating fatty foods might contribute to heart disease.  No one will act unless the doctor says, “You’re on the verge of a heart attack!”  Every company has urgent issues, but rarely are they called out with passion and urgency.

5. The seller’s involvement – It appears that this document was put together without the involvement of the rep.  As a result, it will be difficult for the rep to own the information and lead the charge for remediation.  Great sales people are trained and skilled in selling – how can the remediation phase be sold without the rep leading the way?

By going through this process, we were able to redefine the roles of the seller and consulting team, reformat the assessment document, and talk through the proper delivery process to move forward with both remediation and managed services contracts.  The next step – each attendee will have a one hour private coaching session allowing us to make specific applications to their business using the tools and strategies learned over the past week.  Stay tuned for our next online class, and join the success.

© 2011, David Stelzl

How did one of my clients close a million dollar deal?

1. It started with  an event – a prospect, someone she had not done business with in the past, came to an event geared toward educating our audience on the trends and risks associated with today’s cyber criminals.

2. An assessment was done – it was complementary, but led to a greater discovery process that was fee based.  Not a million dollar assessment by any means, but capable of introducing my client to just about anyone in the company.  This took a change in the solution provider’s approach – normally they would send the engineers in to gather some data, put together some plans, and pitch it to IT.  All of this had to be changed – the sales person had to get involve with senior management; she had to put her consultant’s hat on.

3. Gathering business related information, brainstorming over the right questions along the way, and building a strategy to create justification along the way – this required figuring out exactly who would be involved in the approval process, and what politics might get in the way.  Most of this was outside my client’s  normal process – but she was willing to take the steps – take on the risk of failing in order to reach her objective.

4. Delivering the results – normally this would be emailed over to the client.  We had to change this.  Instead, she insisted on meeting with both managers and technicians.  The presentation would have been given by her engineer, but not this time.  Instead it had to be done by her.  Something she wasn’t sure she could do.  But she did.

5. In the end, they said they would take a look at it.  No immediate close, but momentum in the right direction…two weeks later, a decision was made in favor of moving forward.  What made this successful?

  • There is no guarantee – these are people, subject to every kind of inconsistency.  My client’s job was executing the plan and hoping her clients would see her value. They did.
  • The discovery process had to change – it had to be re-engineered for executives, using impact related questions.  The end result had to demonstrate impact vs. likelihood.
  • The report had to be written by non-technical people, in business language, and the presentation had to be delivered to business people by business people.

None of these things were in the sales person’s normal comfort zone – she had to step out, take a risk, and do something she had never really done.  It could have failed, but it didn’t.

© 2011, David Stelzl

I like to think of my proposal as a letter addressed to someone rather than a sterile document opening with a third-person narrative of the company I am selling to.  I address them personally…

Example:

John Smith,

RE: Fall Seminar Series

I understand you are working to build your sales over the next twelve months through a series of customer facing events that will target executives in midsize companies. etc.

Most proposals are so difficult to read that,…well, nobody actually reads them.  Worse, there are marketing departments that have created templates that company policy says, “Can’t be changed by the rep.”  How ridiculous!   Fine, if the template is great, but the truth is, they are not.  You go through months of work trying to get to that moment where you present your proposal, and then everything comes to a screeching halt while managers and legal try to find time to interpret your company’s document.  Can’t we make this easy for the customer?

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo taken by David Stelzl

For some reason, discussing money is the major hurdle.  Yesterday I had several sales calls with potential buyers.  One example stands out… We had discussed the need, talked about options, come to a conclusion on next steps, and even picked dates to begin.  My prospect then said, “Send me a proposal with some options and pricing.”

I was tempted to agree, but then that little voice reminded me of Mahan Kalsa’s book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play (which I highly recommend). Why would we wait for the proposal to agree on options and pricing.  Paper doesn’t sell, I do.  We have verbal agreement on the vision, but no specifics.  Why waste time and possibly ruin the opportunity by putting the wrong thing down on paper?

Instead I simply said, “Let’s review some options right now and make sure we are in agreement on how to proceed.”  I verbally gave him my interpretation of what we were planning to do, offered a couple of options, restated the value, and then offered a fixed fee.  I then said, “How does that sound to you?”  He said, “That sounds great.”  Now I can write the proposal, which is now really an agreement, with confidence.  I converted it to a PDF, attached it to an email, and wrote, “Here is exactly what we agreed to.”  The likelihood of closing this kind of agreement is much higher than the elusive agreements made in most sales meetings.  Meetings end without any real commitment, and the request for proposal is often just a polite way of ending the meeting.  There is no agreement, and there are no specifics from which to craft the proposal.  In the end, this type of proposal goes nowhere, leaving the sales person to forecast at 50%.  In other words, I have no idea…

© 2011, David Stelzl

Several companies I am working with right now are going through various assessment and discovery programs to create justification for larger projects.  This builds on the material presented online last week.

The problem is, most assessments are too technical.  A change is needed if justification is going to be found in your discovery/assessment process.  Here are some points to consider:

  • The assessment should be asset focused.  This means that the questions being asked focus on critical data and applications, rather than infrastructure.  This type of questioning process starts with asset owners who understand the value of their data and how it is used to generate company profits.
  • Business driven.  The discovery process is conducted with business people first.   Questions deal with the business, the data used in the business, and the processes used to conduct business.  Keep you client’s clients in mind, and you’ll be speaking their language.
  • Verified through technical discovery.  Once the business level discovery is complete, you the seller, should have a picture of how data is being created, but whom, and for what.  You will also have ideas on what this company could be doing to improve their situation.  What kinds of automation, risk mitigating strategies, and technology applications would make things more efficient or more secure.  Once you have this, send your technical people into the IT areas for see what is really going on technically.  Validate your hunches and figure out what they really need.
  • Recommendations are written at the asset owner level.  Putting together your findings is the next step, but more often than not, these findings are too technical and not meaningful or understandable by business level people; those who will ultimately approve budget.  Make concrete recommendations – recommendations your business level clients can visualize.
  • Back up recommendations with technical appendices.  I like to treat this as a separate document – something that can be handed to technical people.  The documents you hand to business people must be short, easily absorbed, and strategic. Technical people may have questions and will often not see value in strategic level writings, so having some technical diagrams, data collected, or other evidence that your technical people know what they are doing is a good idea.  This needs to be something that can be handed directly to IT.
  • Present to asset owners.  Your goal is the personally present your recommendations and justification to asset owners, helping them visualize what you are recommending and why.  I like to use the phrase, “What if we could do this or provide that to your customers by doing…?”  Going through several scenarios, I am looking for nodding heads or signs of interest.  There may be some things presented where they look puzzled or disinterested.  Either provide more detail to get buy-in or move on to the things they agree are important.  This is where you will focus your value proposition and proposals/agreements.
  • Have your technical people get with their technical people. Once you have buy-in, your technical people can work with theirs to make sure you have their complete agreement. Your technical people should have already developed this relationship before the discovery process takes place.  This paves the way for acceptance all around.

Remember to focus on the urgent issues – things with high impact, high likelihood.  Many of the things we deem important are not important to decision makers.  We can either work to educate them on why they really are important, or move on to the things they are concerned about.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Visiting Cisco in Mumbai

In a recent sales opportunity we (the seller and myself acting as a sales coach) were charged with providing a competitive quote on unified communications (UC) products.  The company already uses UC, so the quote is simply an upgrade.  The seller assembled the quote, listing all of the necessary hardware, software, and services to move their client to the latest version.  The problem here is, the proposal has no differentiation!  It’s commodity product, necessary services, and a price.  You might say your uniqueness is in your people or your certifications, or perhaps you are the go-to provider for that brand of UC.  But in this case, you don’t have a platform to demonstrate value, so no one is going to see it.  What do you do?

The answer is in the discovery process.  Most of these deals are assigned to a presales technical person.  The sales rep has simply become a relationship manager, adding no value to the deal.  The technical person is generally too technical to effectively interact with the decision maker.  So the sales person and decision maker wait on opposite sides of the deal, the sales person hoping for a “yes”, and the decision maker checking against budget and competitive quotes.  Instead of sitting on the side lines, my client and I put some business level questions together to help us uncover the business needs surrounding this upgrade.

  • How does this prospect use their current unified communications platform?
  • What applications are they using with their phones
  • How do they use collaboration technology – how could they be more efficient if they knew more about it?
  • What are they not using, that would really add to their current business process?

This list goes on, but the point is, IT can’t answers these questions.  They may have an opinion, but it won’t be accurate.  These questions are asset owner questions.  Behind them is the understanding that someone is running a department that would benefit if they knew more about the power of UC.  With this in hand, the seller now has the opportunity to compare their findings with the technical findings their engineer will come up with.  With both in hand, the seller can now advise the client on how to change the way they do business.  Chances are, if the seller spends enough time with the top producers in this company, they will discover some of the secrets behind high performing employees, tie some of this success back to technology, and find ways to improve the current process with the latest upgrades, features, and add-ons available on a UC platform.  This is what it means to provide value – an effective value proposition.

Stay tuned for next month’s Free webinar – mark you calendar for June 8, Leveraging the Discovery Process to Justify New Business.

© 2011, David Stelzl