Let’s just set the scene…
We spend hours and sometimes days putting together a proposal for one of our prospective clients. They “must have it” by Friday – end of play. We send it at 5:59pm “with kind regards”, tick the box and get on with our life.
Then we wait. And wait. And wait. And wait a little more.
We want to be polite and give the prospect as much time as they need, right? Usually, not much happens.
We call them a couple of days later to check if they have received the proposal and see if they have any questions. Normally, they say something extensive as, “Yes,” “No,” or “We will be in touch. Thank you.”
We wait a couple more weeks and then start begging for an answer, but after 2 or 3 more tries we start feeling awkward and unappreciated and leave it. They rarely buy. We feel frustrated about wasting all this time for nothing!
The below tips assume the opportunity is well qualified and that we’ve invested the time to bid. Qualification is a topic on its own.
1. Call to set up a meeting before you send the proposal.
This is a very simple but extremely effective tool to help you move from the chasing and begging position, to a more professional and peer-to-peer relationship. Before you send a proposal, especially a sizable one, pick up the phone and say something along the lines of, “Peter, I’m really excited about finishing the proposal. I’ve already attached it to an email, but before I send it I just wanted to check, when would be a good time to go through it with you? I am looking at my calendar… does the end of next week look promising or…?”
Even better practice: Set up the proposal review meeting when you leave the previous meeting.
The reason we want to present the proposal rather than let them go through it on their own is to explain, present and sell the value of our offering. Everything we do helps them make a more favourable decision.
SBR Source: One of our biggest clients in the IT consulting industry doubled their conversion rate of proposals-to-wins from 18% to 36% by introducing this small change in their sales process.
2. Use polite persistence.
As our clients are busy and we are too polite they will probably forget. The deal is our number 1 but not theirs. If we are too persistent then we might annoy them, and they’ll never pick up the phone.
We need to be somewhere in the middle – we want to be ‘politely persistent’. There are multiple ways to be politely persistent:
– Combine persistent activity with a very soft, friendly tone and appreciation of their busy schedule.
– Set expectations in advance.
– Proactively ask for their permission, “can I be politely persistent and call next Friday, because I know how busy you are.
In simple terms, polite persistence is calling one more time than you feel naturally comfortable, with a big smile on your face.
3. Use modern tools and communication channels.
It’s surprising how many companies still do not use their CRM system effectively to capture all follow-up activity. If you can keep all your opportunities in your head, then you don’t have enough activity!
We are also seeing that by using a variety of channels to conduct follow up, your chance in communication increases.
SBR Source: channels such as WhatsApp are becoming very effective when trying to chase down a busy executive.
Try to be more effective with your follow up. When you see in your CRM that you have called 4 times and sent 2 emails, try to change it up a little. Try the odd LinkedIn message or WhatsApp. You might be surprised.
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