Hi, Reuben Swartz from Sales for Nerds.
Today, I’m inviting you to take your sales proposal game to the next level.
But before we get into that, let me tell you about my journey, which was full of lots of trials and lots of errors.
(And, no one, least of all me, would have predicted that I’d be offering a course on sales proposals.)
I should really take you back to high school (don’t worry, no pictures), where I picked up a lot of bad writing habits because English teachers seemed to grade based on the number of vocabulary words you could cram into each sentence. Ok, game on.
When I went to college, people who actually wanted to teach me how to write covered my papers with red ink (yes, in those days it was actual ink on actual paper). Wow-- I could actually express written thoughts and other people could understand them!
Then I got into the corporate world. I wrote software, but I sometimes got called in to answer technical questions on RFP (Request for Proposal) responses.
How was I supposed to answer these questions? I knew I couldn’t just use technical jargon (I thought I was so savvy), so I looked through the other parts of the proposal to see what the professional sales people wrote.
It was like I was back in high school, except instead of SAT vocab words, we were trying to cram in as much MBA-speak as possible.
How much highly advanced cutting edge patented strategically developed software did we have? A lot.
The thing was, this approach worked well enough. Sales cycles were typically a year or more. Everything was done by committee.
So when I decided I wanted to be an independent consultant (work half the year, travel half the year-- ask me how that plan went), I knew I’d have to write proposals.
I can still remember prospects asking, “can you send me a proposal?”
I was excited-- and terrified. Both feeling were justified. I knew I needed to get past this hurdle to get clients, but I had no idea what I was doing. The sales books I read had tons of details on managing my life as if I was a full time sales person, but little on how to actually write a proposal.
So I looked at some sample templates on the internet, and went back to my bad habits.
I’d have great conversations with prospects, think I had the deal in the bag, write a horrendous proposal, and end up losing a lot of business.
Even deals I eventually won didn’t close when I expected. I’d send the proposal and realize that I had confused instead of enlightened the prospect.
After one particularly painful explanation of a proposal, I wondered why I didn’t just write it they way I’d explained it, the way I’d talk to a friend instead of a megacorp.
With little to lose, I tried a very different approach, and started winning more consistently, more quickly, and with less pricing pushback.
Even better, I wasn’t stressed out writing the proposal-- it was actually fun.
Plus, I noticed the projects themselves went better.
I didn’t really think about this incredible change to my business.
Higher close rates, more predictable closing times, better pricing. It was just a step in the path to doing the actual work.
Later, when I developed software to automate the proposal process (another story for another time), I thought I could just help people automate their proposals. But I realized that they were making the same mistakes I had made.
At first, I was hesitant to say anything. What did I know?
But people actually asked for help. What *should* be in their proposals?
I spent a lot of time teaching people 1-on-1 and in small groups how to rethink proposals, taking the lessons I had learned over a decade or more.
The results were fantastic. People increased close rates, in some cases by 50%, in some cases by 200%, even 300%.
Stress went down, sales went up.
After a while, I realized I was on to something. Every time I coached someone through this, I thought I should create an online course, so anyone could do this.
Now, it’s finally here.