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Think About It… the e-book version » 2010 » January

Archive for January 2010

I Was Wrong About Proposals

For years, I’ve ranted at sales reps and managers about how utterly dumb it is to “submit a quote” to a customer.  A traditional quote does nothing more than list items for sale, prices, totals, discounts and net price.  It provides no differentiation whatever and reinforces the fact that you have nothing more to offer than a catalogue-full of commodities at really, really good (i.e., low) prices.

“Submit proposals!” was my sage advice.  “Make sure the opening sentence or three clearly states the value to the customer.  If you have any real sales talent, you’ll also put that value in terms of dollars and cents.  You’ll paint a ‘Before’ picture, a picture of the ‘Transition’ to your vision and an ‘After’ picture; all of which make the brilliance and value of your proposal intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

If you and I have ever worked together directly, chances are you’ve heard me state the above with emphasis, enthusiasm and arms a-wavin’ in your face. 
I was wrong.

This past Friday, after an intense, long customer meeting, two colleagues and I decided we had earned a few beers.  In the course of conversation one of them mentioned that he’d like to make a video of me and the other debating the value of proposals.  That was the beginning of yet another epiphany.

I was asked to consider the definition of the word “propose” which means “to submit for consideration.”  Is that really what I want to do?  To passively, more or less hat in hand, pass along an entreaty hoping the all powerful decision influencers and makers will take a few minutes out their busy days to possibly, maybe take a look at my suggestions?  AGGGHHHHH!!!  That’s not at all what I want.

What I really want is “Recommendation Summary” (or “Statement Of Work”) that reflects the research, evaluation and creativity of a relevant, trusted group of customer personnel.  (NOTE:  I just happen to be a member of that group.)

Put yourself in the shoes of the final decision maker and consider how you’d perceive each of the three documents:

  • Quote – How did this make it to desk?  I don’t get into this level of detail & don’t know or care what it means.
  • Proposal – Wow!  These vendors sure dump a load of effort into these things.  And come to think of it, I really liked these guys.  This proposal might make sense, but I don’t have time to read all this right now.  I’ll put it in my active To-Do file and get around to it just as soon as I can.  But first I need to do this, and then that, and there goes that darned phone again…
  • Recommendation Summary – Ah-ha!  My team finally got this finished.  Just in time for the board meeting.  Let me flip to the action plan at the end…  Yep, that’s exactly what I thought from the beginning.  We need to get going on this ASAP.

It’s clear by now that the distinction entails a whole lot more than semantics.  A quote can be submitted by a total stranger.  You can’t be part of a Recommendation Summary until you’ve earned the right to be considered an insider; until your opinion carries enough weight to be sought out and respected by the powers that be.

So focus on moving up the food chain!  If you’re submitting quotes, you’re either a rookie or not very good.  If you’re submitting proposals, you’re a journeyman.  If you’re contributing to (even better, leading) development of Recommendation Summaries, you’re finally doing your real job as a sales rep.

Thanks to Stone Payton and Todd Schnick for the insight.  Also see:

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Is Thought Leadership Really All That Important?

by Todd Youngblood

Regardless of what all the social media pundits say, not everyone needs or should even try to jump on the “thought leadership” bandwagon and use these new tools. It’s more important for sales professionals, managers and executives to ensure that the message:

  • Highlights value customers can accrue
  • Reflects what you can actually deliver
  • Provides the “type of dog food the dogs already want to eat”

Using Everett Rogers’ 1962 Diffusion of Innovations model is an excellent way to help think through the message you want to deliver and the media you want to use to deliver it.

Innovation Adoption

If your company’s products and services place it as an Innovator or Early Adopter type, you really do need to be blogging, tweeting, web 2.0-ing and social media-ing the daylights out of yourself. You need to be blasting out ALL of your well-thought-through concepts, along with your brainstorms and random seeds of thoughts at a high frequency and rate of speed. A major part of your company’s value is thought leadership, so you better be leading some thought yourself!

If your company’s products and services place it as an Early Majority type, you really do need to be blogging, tweeting, web 2.0-ing and social media-ing the daylights out of yourself. The difference though, is that you should be showcasing your aptitude at taking existing technologies, concepts and ideas and actually getting them implemented. You need to be demonstrating your expertise at harvesting real, tangible value from the new things. The Innovators are notorious for discovering awesome concepts, then almost immediately getting bored with them and moving on. Actually applying new technology and services is HUGELY important and HUGELY valuable. Showcase your prowess at generating large ROI quickly.

If your company’s products and services place it as a Late Majority type, you really do need to be blogging, tweeting, web 2.0-ing and social media-ing the daylights out of yourself. You’re the epitome of efficiency. You need to be touting your expertise at eliminating waste and wringing out every last bit of value from your existing and proven technologies. Especially right now! Given the state of the economy, with tight cash flows and limited capital investment, everybody is focused on increasing efficiency.

If your company’s products and services place it as a Laggard type, you really do need to be blogging, tweeting, web 2.0-ing and social media-ing the daylights out of yourself. You are the proverbial shoeless, shoemaker’s children. You need to be highlighting your expertise at delivering substantial value at a low price using only yesterday’s worn out tools.

Ok, so it’s clear by now that I think everybody needs an “E-Rep.” All of us need to be blogging, tweeting, web 2.0-ing and social media-ing the daylights out of ourselves. It’s not a question “if,” it’s a question of “what.”

Think About It…

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