The Proposal-The First Part of the Close

Recently, I have been blogging about the selling process.  The last part of the selling process is “the close”.  I know that the old adage is “always be closing”.  That’s not really true anymore.  If you are always closing the selling process turns into high pressure transaction.  When you walk away from your customer, they are likely not to have a good impression of you.  Selling is about building a relationship that you want to last.  It’s not a one night stand.

Instead, use the entire selling process to earn the right to close.

The first part of the close isn’t a time to relax.  As a salesperson, you should always discipline yourself to be an active listener.  The close is no different.  You have spent time developing this relationship.  You have succeeded in uncovering all their objections, wants and needs.   You have the solution for them.  You are becoming a partner in their business.  Be aware of signs that things are not what you assumed.  The more you actively listen, the smoother things go.

Closes look different depending on what you are selling.  In many cases, once you handle all the objections and then check, the close is more of a written proposal. For example, when we are fundraising the written proposal comes in the form of a private placement memorandum.  But, if you are doing a SaaS company, it might be a contract which outlines everything you will do for the customer.  It also should highlight things you won’t do.

The reason I point out the things you won’t do are because you don’t want your customer to have false expectations.  If you have done a good job to this point, they won’t.  But, including what you won’t do is another check.  That way, if a customer has a problem you can uncover it sooner and go back into the selling process again.  Landing some customers might seem like a huge win for many startups.  But, the demands of those customers might tax the resources the startup has, causing them to lose traction and fail.

Write the proposal so it feels like it is customized to the client. If you are running a consulting business, this is easy.  If you are running a startup, just include some points of agreement that you had during your selling process.  In the early days of startup selling, often the startup will do some things to get clients that it won’t do when it scales.

Proposals are about setting and re-setting expectations.   Make your proposal crisp, and use clear, transparent, easy to understand language.  Don’t write like a lawyer.

The elements of a great proposal are this:

  1.  It is no more than 3 pages long
  2. Says exactly what you are going to do, and what you won’t be doing
  3. Proposal leaves something out

By leaving something out, I mean not something core and germane to the solution.  It something where you might go above and beyond for the customer. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae.  Something small. This allows you to give your clients a bit of a surprise.  It helps build a bond for your relationship.

In a B2B business, the proposal has to cover these elements:

  • Purpose of proposal
  • How you will deliver the goods
  • The exact deliverables-what they are buying
  • Scope, what you will do and not do
  • Communications plan going forward
  • Cost/Fees
  • Call to Action

For B2C it is a bit different.  You are dealing with a much wider variety of customers.  Price points are lower.  The proposal has less in it.

  • What’s included and Packages you offer
  • Pricing for each package-be transparent
  • Call to Action

In the old days, salespeople used to have to wait for paperwork to get physically signed and mailed back.  Or, the salesperson would have to make a trip to pick it up.  Good companies designed the close around the operations of getting paperwork out and back.  Of course, in the digital age, you use something like Docusign.