Archives For proposals

question_markHow Technically Savvy Are You?

Is This Winning You New Business?

It would seem that if you really know what you’re doing technically, people will buy from you. Unfortunately that’s not true.  IBM showed us a long time ago that sales prowess outsells technical savvy every time. Look at companies like WellFleet, Sybase, and DEC.

If your somewhat new to the industry, you may not even recognize these names. They’re history.  But not before developing some really cool technology. We’re only on Wednesday and already I’ve had several coaching calls with technical heavyweights, who at some point decided to go out on their own. The idea was, “Since I’m the one who knows everything, I can probably make more money running my own business.”

Initially that sounds great. Then you start wondering why no one is calling. You know everyone out there needs you, but for some reason, they are still meeting with non-technical sales people. Why?

The school of hard knocks truth is that technical skills don’t readily translate into business. Michael Bosworth, in his book Solution Selling, told us years ago to sell to the 95% of the population that doesn’t realize what they need. Steve Jobs told us, “People don’t even know what they need until I invent it.” (A reference to iPods and iPhones).

If you have strong technology, that’s good. You can’t complete long term without it.

But if you want to grow your business, you really need marketing and sales strategies that work. Some things to think about….

  1. If you do assessments, start measuring your conversion. If they are security focused for instance, do you know how many (Percent) show major issues? Given that, what percentage of them convert to remediation? If the percent is lower than 50% something is broken. Your message is not getting to the asset owners – the people with liability.  (Learn more about this in The House & The Cloud)$1 HC Book Ad
  2. If you conduct lunch & learns, how many are coming? More importantly, how many are converting to a clear next step? If it’s just your customers, you probably have little or no clear conversion rate. If you are getting new prospects, is there a clear next step (like an assessment) that leads to new business. What’s your conversion rate?
  3. Even if you just sent out proposals, are you measuring the conversion (or close) rate? If you’re down in the 20% range like most, you are wasting a lot of time.  In my book, From Vendor to Advisor, I explain how I achieved a 95% proposal close rate. Might be worth a read.

Copyright, 2016, David Stelzl

graph-going-upMove to the 95% Close Rate

In my independent, unscientific, but somewhat accurate assessments – sales people in the high-tech industry are closing about 20% of their proposals…how frustrating.  The time from initial call to proposal could be measured in months, many trips across town – or even long distance travel. And then there’s the writing.  By the time you get to proposing, you really want to close.

One Secret Stands Above the Rest…

Well, actually there are many factors, and nothing is guaranteed.  But there are some steps and then there is one major secret that I’ve found – that will make the big leap from hoping to confident.  Here are a few tips:

  • The deal is sold long before the proposal is written in my opinion.  If you’re writing, thinking to yourself, this might not close…big mistake.  Insist on talking to the people making the decision before going through all of that work.
  • Meeting with what I call “Asset Owners” is a critical step in the process these days.  IT may have the technology info you need, but asset owners – a term I use and define extensively in my book, The House & the Cloud, is key.  These people live on the business side of the business…they oversee Money Making aspects of the company. Profit Centers. And according to Harvard Business Review, carry a lot of weight in the big decisions being made.  They bring a whole new meaning to the term – Influencer.
  • When you finally do write – write it to the person doing the approving.  I like to do this more like a letter or memo, and less like a proposal…

Now, what is the one giant secret that really does make all of this work…that’s the topic of my upcoming web training.  You can access it for FREE on Feb 10th at 3:00 PM ET.  Here’s the link to read how: (READ MORE).

Be sure to follow the instructions – seating is limited and I don’t want you to miss this one…

© 2014, David Stelzl

One issue that repeatedly comes up in sales coaching sessions is how to write an effective proposal.  A few comments before you write anything…

… you should be clear about what a proposal is.  Marketing groups and managers have done a disservice to their sales team by creating mammoth documents, unreadable terms and conditions, and a format that looks more like a legal will than a friendly agreement to buy.  What is a proposal?

  • Think marketing!  This is the final marketing piece.  You might have delivered one-sheets or data sheets, presentation material, or perhaps a findings document, and hopefully you had marketing in mind.  Your documents should have been professional looking, easy to read, and pleasing to the eye.  What about the proposal?
  • A summary of everything you’ve agreed to.  The deal is done, now we are just agreeing in writing, so this should clearly reflect all we have discussed and agreed to.
  • Boundaries of scope.  The proposal outlines what we did agree to, but also clarifies boundaries to stay within.
  • A contract.  This is your written agreement, so it should clearly state what you will deliver and how.  There should be no question.


The proposal is not:

  • Another selling tool.  The deal is sold at this point – but the agreement is only verbal until this is signed.
  • Ideas, guidelines, or negotiation.  You should have already agreed to a scope at this point, and the fee has been established.  If there are fee changes, there will be scope changes.
  • A time to be clever – writing esoteric pros.
  • A competition to see who can write the longest document.

Take steps to make buying from you easy to do…

© 2011, David Stelzl

Presentations have the power to create business, proposals don’t.  Leads are great, but what do you say when you make the call, and if you get the meeting, do you have anything of value to present?

Company overviews and product data sheets are, in my opinion, a waste of time.  No one needs this stuff until they clearly see a need, and make the connection; you are possibly the person to meet that need.  Take a look at your presentation materials.  Look at what you present by phone, and then, what you bring to that first meeting.  Does it educate prospects on something they really need, but don’t really understand?  Does it interrupt their thinking, causing them to be alarmed by what they missed?  Does it create an urgency that reprioritizes their week?  This is the making of a great sales call.

P.S. I now have dates posted for the Virtual Program: Principles of an Effective Value Proposition – Don’t miss this!  (CLICK)

© 2011, David Stelzl

Boundary stones have been used since the beginning of time as a way to identify property, whether private or when dealing with borders between countries and other local administrations.  Made of stone and often marked by owners, they stand as a reminder of past purchases, conquered land, and other formal agreements.  The old adage, “Remove not the ancient landmark” stands as a warning to those who would change the boundaries set up by constituents.

While most of us are not going to spend the money on lawsuits when dealing with smaller projects, formal agreements, like these boundary stones, must be put in place regardless company and deal size.  They should be placed in easy to see (read) locations, and agreed to by all parties involved, as pictured in this ancient land marker above.

More clients are lost over poor communication on agreements than I will ever be able to count; usually with regard to scope or price.  When deals are done without an agreement, two excuses are often raised:

1. The sales team fears putting it into writing, thinking it will slow down the sale or draw attention to elements of the agreement that may not sit well with management (on either side).

2. The client refuses to sign anything binding, usually because they don’t have the authority to do so, or don’t want to be locked into anything long term.

There may be other reasons, but these two pop up often, and as you can see, both spell trouble down the road.  It is definitely faster and easier to agree on a hand-shake and get started, vs. draw up a formal agreement and getting a signature.  But what happens after the project or service begins:

  • The client thought they were also getting ____________
  • The client expected the price to be _________

And notice, it is always in the client’s favor!  I can’t remember too many clients coming back and saying, “Oh, I think we owe you another $10,000.  We’ll send it over right away.”

So, if you’ve been reading the last several posts, proposals may be landfill, but agreements are boundary stones.  Without them, there is no proof of what you’ve agreed to and the client is always right.  Push the issue, and you are likely to be out of a client.