Robert-photo-w-icon-150-4-7-10-FINAL4-150x150Tim was frustrated that his proposals were not being given fair consideration. “They just skip to the last page to check the price,” he complained. “What should I do differently?”

Why does one proposal presentation earn customer commitment while another does not?

Presenting a proposal is serious business. You typically get one shot to capture your customer’s attention and earn their agreement.

1. As Covey would say, begin with the end in mind. When customers recognize that you are proposing solutions to help them be successful, their barriers to your message are lowered. During your discovery process, seek to understand their current situation, and their goals and/or strategies – what does success look like once they decide to proceed? Then ask what’s stopping them from being successful or gaining the success they need. Keep trying to quantify the needs you hear, converting them from the language of things (units, time, etc.) into the language of money.

2. Like stories, proposals build to a climax. Don’t begin your presentation by handing your customers a bound proposal. Keep the bound versions for later distribution or provide a folder to capture each portion of your proposal as you present it. Otherwise, you’ll have the same problem Tim described.

Tell your story in pieces and let each portion build on the last while generating anticipation for the next. This demonstrates that you understand the seriousness of your customer’s consideration and that you listened carefully when the customer was answering your questions. It will also hold your customer’s attention and prevent their jump to conclusions.

3. Present each part of your proposal separately. Describe their Current Situation, as you heard it, on a single sheet of paper – again, seek to quantify issues. Review the current facts, and then seek confirmation of the accuracy of your stated details? Seek further clarification if necessary. Observe the reaction of the single person you are meeting or the interaction among the group as they discuss your perspective. Identify any differences in their viewpoints, encourage discussion about these differences, and then secure their agreement on the final version of the Current Situation.

They’ll appreciate that you’re trying to thoroughly understand their needs and you’ll appreciate how they reach agreement with you on this first part of the story. It establishes a trend of commitment.

Next, separately present goals or what defines success for them on a single sheet and reach agreement. Do the same with Constraints – what are the consequences of success or of failure?

Finally, present two to three recommended solutions targeted to address parts or all of their needs. Present each option individually, seek dialogue about it and then present the next.

To gain commitment on your proposal, build your story and secure customer agreement on each part.

How successful are your proposal presentations?

How could an improved discovery process lead to an increase in orders?