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Sales Quotes: if there was a golden rule with RFP’s (request for a proposal), it’s don’t waste your time completing them!

Most of the time, a customer is simply looking for your price or ticking the “get three competitive sales quotes” box. There are tell-tale signs that indicate these tactics, such as their unwillingness to meet or respond to your questions and if there isn’t an opportunity to present your proposal in person or they don’t confirm the selection criteria, run for the hills.

They’ll be exceptions of course. I’ve spent over 20 years working in B2B sales and had the pleasure of working collaboratively with customers to provide basic spot-price sales quotes and complex multi-year supply contracts worth millions and whilst I enjoyed my fair share of success, I also failed too.

If you’re in a role where your it’s the ‘norm’ to do business this way, here’s the first three of nine mistakes people often make when sending sales quotes and proposals.

1.Sending sales quotes too early.

I’m not talking about speed of response here (we’ll cover that in the second mistake). If the objective of a quotation or proposal is to win business, for that to happen the customer ultimately needs to buy. If they don’t, then there has to be something missing that’s stopping them from doing it – correct?

Clearly there’s a whole raft of things that we include in a proposal like, specification, lead-time, price, payment terms and t&c’s, but assuming you’ve included these, you send it and you still get a “no” – what gives?

For me, a quotation or a proposal is simply a confirmation of what’s been agreed between the buyer and a seller and until we get a verbal agreement that they want to buy, why would you waste your time sending and their time reading something that’s not complete? For it to be complete and meet the original objective, the buyer must have already confirmed to you that they do want to buy and to do this, you must have included all of the things they wanted to hear!

If there’s an element of doubt in your mind that the next proposal you send isn’t going to result in a sale, I would respectfully suggest that you’re sending it without all of the proverbial ‘boxes ticked’ and that’s too early.

2. Sending them too late.

A wise man once told me “one day older, one day colder” and in the world of sales, that is about as true and the truest of truths from trues-ville. Ask yourself as a customer, is there anything more frustrating that waiting for a quotation from a supplier when you want to buy something?

We’re so used to getting an instant price on-line these days, this reality is rapidly transferring into the B2B space where things, lets be fair, take a little more time.

This is just me, but I always feel that sending a proposal in less than 24 hours could smack of looking like you’re desperate for the business. But I do recognise that there’s also an opinion that provided you’ve navigated through no.1 (above), why not strike while the buyer is still ‘hot’ and go for it now!

What we can agree on however is that every day that passes, you not only frustrate the buyer, your inactivity signals a benchmark for your future intentions – “what will it be like if we buy and we’re due a delivery or a response for technical help?” they think.

I’ve found for my training business that there’s a 3-day sweet-spot between meeting the buyer and submitting my proposal. By also confirming the exact time of delivery (trust me, I do this) the buyer is looking forward to receiving it and is reassured by my professionalism.

3. There’s no pain.

Remember, the buyer is asking you to send a proposal because your product or service addresses their need.

When you met the client to discuss this, there was real urgency on their part about the importance of solving their problem. But it’s only natural that their ’emotional state’ will have reduced over the last 72 hours.

It’s your job (no, actually it’s your duty) to remind them of their problem, their ‘pain’. If you fail to do this, there’s a chance that whatever mood they’re in when they read your quotation, will influence their next steps and that may not be helpful for you – why risk it?

Consider starting your proposal or quotation with a brief, factual reminder of why they need you; a couple of lines that set the scene and bring back that emotional intensity. Call it your ‘executive summary’.

Doing this will re-focus their thoughts on the benefit of your product, rather than what typically happens as most people skip past all the value you offer and jump straight to your price (mistake 7).


If you’ve enjoyed this blog and want more tips like these, head over to the website and check out the free resources page.

About the author: Matt Sykes is founder of Sales Training company Salescadence. He works with Growing Businesses to help them convert more of their leads into customers.

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