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Improving Conversion With Calls For Proposals

FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:

While the best salespeople avoid submitting calls-for-proposals without being able to shape the proposal’s requirements, there will occasionally be a time (or an industry) where calls for proposals are standard. In that case, we advice you use the Bulletproof Offer System from Chapter 16:

The Bulletproof Offer System
Trigger: To be used in the middle of a sales meeting with a confirmed decision maker after strategic goals and ideal outcomes have been discussed.
Bulletproof Impact: The ability to add more value to clients than anyone else in your industry while capturing up to 3 times as much revenue per sale. Ensuring your product or service has the highest chance of ROI for your clients and making your company a long-term partner in their success.
The tactics we’ll share in this chapter are predicated on you dealing with a qualified decision maker – attempt this system with a gatekeeper or information-gatherer at your peril. If your industry’s model usually requires you to deliver initial pricing to a procurement officer or finance department before a decision maker meets with you or you salespeople, then definitely submit tiered pricing to get the meeting. Of course, the most successful salespeople in even those types of industry are still the ones that are able to get meetings with decision makers prior to ending up in the procurement office.
To execute this Bulletproof system, we’ll be compiling all the value-adds we would put into our ‘platinum’ package and making that our first offering. Don’t be concerned if your prospect can’t afford your highest-tier package. We’ll also be using the same step-down sales tactics many of us have experienced at auto dealerships to get our prospects into a custom-made version of our product or service at a price that maximizes our revenue and their results.
Like savvy auto salespeople, we should never start sales conversations by asking about the ceiling on our prospect’s budgets. Few will reveal actual budget limits until they understand how our product or service helps them achieve their goals, which is why asking about budget early rarely yields honest answers. Instead, we should uncover needs through discovery questions and match solutions to our products and services before ever mentioning price.
We’d never walk into a doctor’s office and listen to all the surgeries they could perform, with pricing models, if they hadn’t even performed an examination, would we? And yet, so many salespeople lead with price in their conversations.
Instead, we advise our clients to leave price out of their sales conversation until they know enough about their prospect’s needs to make qualified recommendations. Occasionally, we are all pressed into a hard stop by prospects saying something along the lines of, “Before I answer any more questions, I need to know what this costs.”  Our response is always humorous and points out that neither of us, the salesperson or the prospect, knows enough to confirm an exact price. We’ll say, “We’ve provided (product or service) at price points ranging from free to $1.5 million dollars. My sales manager likely wouldn’t approve free and I’m guessing you haven’t allocated $1.5 million. Once we learn a little more about your organization and the outcomes you’re looking for, we can definitely generate pricing options.”
At that point, we ‘parking lot’ the budget issue and immediately move on to the next discovery question. While we have past client sales to justify the use of $1.5 million as a deal value, you can replace that with whatever your largest sale has ever been or what others in your industry charge for their largest offerings.
Although that script works 95% of the time, we have seen clients’ sales teams occasionally encounter a buyer who can’t move forward unless they have a dollar figure in their heads. In that case, we advise to use the minimum viable package you offer, phrased in this way: “Our basic/standard package for this is $X, but to be honest, we don’t sell many of those because our clients find that once they understand how we can accelerate the results of our product or service with some unique differentiators, they want those included. To understand which of those differentiators would be a good fit for you, let me find out…” and then roll into your next discovery question.
To get started building your Bulletproof Offer, gather the items offered in your tiered pricing packages together. This may be as simple as combining items across all packages for your product or service lines into a running list, or it might require some strategizing with your customer service and delivery teams. At the most basic level, you’re answering the question, “If we could sell a version of our product or service to someone with an unlimited budget, what could we include in the package and what would we price it at?”
Although the exact items and pricing in your Bulletproof Offer may differ based on the number of locations or number of employees in your prospect’s organizations, it shouldn’t be too difficult to create a few ‘Bulletproof Offer’ packages, depending on what an unlimited budget would look like to the groups of prospects you’re pursuing.
Just as auto salespeople have a system for how they present their premium-level vehicle and then step-down their prospect into the highest priced vehicle that meets all the prospect’s needs, there is a system we must use in presenting our Bulletproof Offer if we don’t want to overwhelm decision makers. While it may seem counter-intuitive – and likely is the opposite of what your sales team is currently doing – follow me if you’d like to see closed deals and revenue spike.
Systemizing Success with the Bulletproof Offer System
Note the focus of this section is presenting your offer, not when to send your pricing. Few decision makers can equate a product or service with its price until they understand how that product or service helps them achieve their goals. Too many salespeople are quick to send over pricing sheets, which only commoditizes what they sell and invites prospects to pit your competition against you.
In using this Bulletproof Offer strategy, savvy auto salespeople don’t start by sitting someone down in an office and walking them through the 867 customization options available with line-item pricing for each. Similarly, don’t come out of the gate in a sales conversation with all the things you or your salespeople can do for a decision maker, the three-dozen value-adds you can build in, and your trendsetting warranty. Features are meaningless to a decision maker in the beginning of a sales conversation.
Instead, ensure your salespeople take the time to learn what your prospect’s goals are. What areas of their lives and business are they looking for improvement or change in? Go back to the earlier exercise where we defined results-oriented benefits if you need a refresher about what to listen for. Only when a salesperson understands what destination a decision maker wants to arrive at do they have the authority to show the decision maker a map of how they can get there more quickly and efficiently though their product or service.
The next thing needed to succeed with this system comes during the sales call or sales meeting itself. We and our clients found this system to be most effective if the Bulletproof Offer options are emailed in the middle of a virtual negotiation or slid across the table during an in-person sales meeting with a qualified decision maker. Why? If the items in this offer are provided too early, it’s easy to get lost in the tactics of how each item works and its individual pricing. Not to mention the decision maker has no idea which items will most quickly help them achieve their specific outcomes. It’s the role of a professional salesperson to be able to assess a decision-maker’s desired outcomes and recommend the quickest and most efficient route to get there.
The Bulletproof Offer email or item sheet is simple and free of distracting language. We use the following template in the email we advise our clients to send during their qualified sales conversations:
{{FIRST NAME OF PROSPECT}}-
As we’re discussing, these are the things we are doing to ensure (product or service) makes a positive impact for your organization in creating a better experience for {{EMPLOYEES or CUSTOMERS}} that begins before we even deliver the (product or service), makes a massive impact while it’s being implemented, and delivers a return on your investment long after purchase:
(Value-added things we do before delivery or installation of a product or service):
Item 1
Item 2
Item 3
Item 4
Item 5
Item 6
(Value-added things we do during installation or initial delivery to ensure adoption and implementation):
Item 1
Item 2
Item 3
Item 4
Item 5
Item 6
(Value-added things we do after delivery or installation to ensure continued use and benefit):
Item 1
Item 2
Item 3
Item 4
Item 5
Item 6
Thank you,
(Signature line)
 Again, those items are sent without individual pricing and are simply described. Your salespeople will not be reading each item as a laundry list. Instead, once the email is sent or the paper is handed over, salespeople highlight one or two items in each of the three sections and explain how those particular items ensure the outcomes the decision maker specifically said were important. This might sound like, “Because you said getting folks registered early was important, you’ll really appreciate that we include pre-event marketing material, videos, and custom articles for your organization’s newsletter as part of this product or service,” which can serve to drive home the value of these examples.
At no point in the Bulletproof Offer conversation is your decision maker made aware that there are any other packages to consider besides this one. Your Bulletproof Offer should become your standard offering when meeting with qualified decision makers. Here’s where the magic happens by not using tiered offerings: Not only have you demonstrated that you or your salespeople understand this buyer’s outcomes enough to make specific recommendations, you’ve also included things no other competitor has shared with them are even available as most companies ascertain budget first and then in a desperate effort to close the sale, only present their package that meets that budget. Additionally, the Bulletproof Offer allows us to discover the upper range of a prospect’s budget. You can pull items for your Bulletproof Offer right from your field guide’s question and answer list as well – things that are low-cost to your company to deliver but add massive value and impact to your buyers.
If you’re still wondering how to come up with all the items for a Bulletproof Offer, ask yourself, “If someone was willing to pay me three times as much as I’m currently charging for what I sell, what could I throw into that package to help with their success in using my product or service before, during, and after delivery?”
Some low-cost and high value options:
Before delivery
Interview members of their team to ascertain potential challenges in using your product or service, create installation guides and videos, create articles for their organization’s use to introduce the new product or service to internal audiences, include a briefing call with key stakeholders to prep for rollout.
During installation/rollout
Flexible scheduling to minimize disruption to their operations; customizing the product or service to their locations, company branding, or color preference; 24-hour communication with installation and rollout teams to address any challenges; online course to speed implementation and adoption.
After delivery/rollout
Follow-up coaching sessions or webinars to answer any questions; follow-up online course to ensure continued use of the product or service and ROI; free or low-cost updates, service plan, or warranty; individual coaching sessions with key stakeholders.
Of course, many of the items that will be most impactful to include in your Bulletproof Offer are currently in the heads of your salespeople and customer service team. They’re likely things already being done but that haven’t been systemized. Perhaps they’re things your team has heard about peers in your industry doing but your organization hasn’t implemented yet. Decision makers don’t know what the standard for excellence is if it’s the first time they’ve invested in your product or service or if they’ve only dealt with salespeople offering the bare minimum, so it’s our job as Bulletproof salespeople to educate them.
The time a salesperson dwells on a few items in their Bulletproof Offer shouldn’t amount to more than 30 seconds. Again, salespeople should only highlight those items they know will meet the specific needs they’ve uncovered through discovery questions. Only if the decision maker asks about other items on the list should they be explained, and again, every effort should be made to tie those items back to the strategic solutions the decision maker mentioned they were seeking.
Because this system allows us to add more value than competitors, eventually a decision maker will ask, “How much does all this cost?” At that point, your salesperson is welcome to present whatever your ‘platinum package’ price is, the price your organization can deliver all those items for that builds in an extremely healthy margin for you. Let’s say your Bulletproof Offer price is $20,000, and your baseline package with just one or two of the options on your list can be sold for $5,000 with a healthy margin. When the Bulletproof Offer price is mentioned, it should be along these lines: “Because you mentioned the need to solve X, increase your revenue by $Y, and make sure it happens in Z timeframe, we can build all of this into a custom package for you for $20,000.”
One of two things will happen when that price, which is four times the base package in our example, is presented. If your salesperson has done a great job of tying key items back to solutions the decision maker is looking to achieve, they may ask, “Where do I sign?” However, the second outcome is the prospect saying, “That price is way outside our budget.”
The sales teams we coach in this system love to hear “That’s outside our budget” when leveraging their Bulletproof Offer. We teach them to respond, “I totally understand; that’s a big investment to make. Tell me, what items can you live without and I can see what items we can remove to get to the number you’re thinking. What was that, by the way?”
That question does a few things that allows this system to work so beautifully.
First, it reveals the upper end of your prospect’s budget. They might have walked in thinking they could purchase your product or service at the standard $5,000, but now they know you have the capability to provide so much more to ensure efficient rollout, a great experience using the product or service, and continued value long after installation or delivery. It’s unreasonable to ask for all the items on the Bulletproof Offer list for $5,000. Whereas many sales negotiations might end with the decision maker asking the salesperson to “Go sharpen your pencil and get back to me,” this strategy requires the decision maker to instead sharpen their pencils so they can maximize value to their organization for the maximum amount of budget they have access to, if budget for your full Bulletproof Offer isn’t available. 
Second, when a salesperson makes it clear that items will need to be removed to provide your product or service at a lesser price, it opens the potential for the salesperson to become a partner to the decision maker, ensuring maximum value is included in the custom package that’s built for this project.
Third, this system showcases a standard of excellence in your deliverables few competitors will be able to match. Those items aren’t presented as the most expensive ‘tiered package’ you have, but rather the standard you offer to everyone interested in your product or service. It’s up to the prospect to decide which options are needed for the budget they have.
What happens after the upper end of the decision maker’s budget is determined and necessary items are carved away to produce a customized package that they can afford? In other words, how do we get ink on the page and close the deal with this system? Another advantage to using the Bulletproof Offer is that it leverages scarcity, urgency, demand, and social proof.
Scarcity
Many of the value-added items your salesperson and decision maker agree upon may be limited in quantity or availability. If your decision maker wants to lock those value-added options into the proposal, a shortened decision-making timeline can be established.
Urgency
Because many of the items in your Bulletproof Offer require planning on the part of your company to deliver, if the prospect wants them, then time is of the essence. To ensure customized items like courses or manuals can be included, the jointly-agreed-upon proposal with the options the decision maker can afford needs to be executed and sent to accounts payable as soon as possible.
Demand
If your organization has its hands full building and delivering other Bulletproof Offers, then your salesperson can absolutely leverage that fact to drive an accelerated decision. Although it’s a variation of the scarcity tactic above, it is especially effective if you’re also building and delivering a Bulletproof Offer package for one of your decision maker’s competitors or peers. To ensure this new decision maker gets a place in line for the items they’ve deemed essential to success, the sooner a decision is made, the better.
Social Proof
A subset of ‘delivering for a peer in the industry’ tactic above, a salesperson mentioning the name of a similarly sized client or competitor in the industry who chose all or a few of the same options currently being considered is also effective in driving more prompt buying decisions.
What’s the result of using a Bulletproof Offer system that makes it so valuable to both salespeople and clients? Because it is truly customized to a client’s needs, it takes something that might otherwise be price-fixed or a commodity and transforms it into an offering that can’t be purchased off the shelf. If your salespeople are selling an intangible service, it gives the service a concrete blueprint that allow a prospect to map the research, delivery, and follow-up they’re investing in that might otherwise be invisible or nonexistent. Above all, it allows salespeople to provide more value than any competitor is willing to and customizes even the most basic product or service to a prospect’s unique needs. Interestingly, it also weeds out buyers only interested in paying the cheapest price for the minimum level of service and quality.
How do your salespeople consistently come up with new ideas to add to your company’s Bulletproof Offer, and what happens to ensure if they close a deal with it that everyone else on the team benefits?
While selling is where the action tends to happen, it’s after the sale that real progress begins. The way to leave hope behind permanently in your sales strategy lies within the lessons salespeople learn when conducting outreach, presenting their offers, and after meeting with prospects. The next chapter is focused on the system you can use to find, refine, and systemize those lessons to make your sales truly Bulletproof.
 

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