Prep work before a proposal: 9 questions you need to ask

I recently came across an interesting question on Quora: “…once you send over the formal proposal, what can you do to help increase the chance the deal closes?” This is a common question for salespeople…but it’s wrong.

The question we should be asking is: “What can you do before sending the proposal to help increase the chance the deal closes?

The things you do prior to sending the proposal are more important than what you do after sending it. If you don’t have a deep understanding of the prospect’s problem(s) and buying process, then you are relying on luck to close the deal.

Before sending a contract or proposal, you should be able to answer all of the following questions:

  1. Why does the prospect want what you’re selling?
  2. Are they considering any other options?
  3. If so, why are they considering those options?
  4. What’s the downside (for them) if they don’t buy?
  5. Who signs the proposal/contract?
  6. Where is the money coming from?
  7. Who is the ultimate decision-maker?
  8. If your contact goes silent (or gets fired tomorrow), who would you talk to?
  9. Are all of the decision-makers aware of this potential purchase yet?

Some prospects make it difficult to gather this information, but most will tell you if you just ask.

I simply don’t send a proposal until they’ve answered my questions. Once the proposal is sent, I have far less leverage. If they’re not interested enough to answer my questions and participate in a give-and-take, then they’re unlikely to sign or I’m talking to the wrong person.

Once I have gathered all of the information necessary to take the next step, I like to send a proposal while they’re on the phone with me. Reviewing a proposal during a live conversation is a great way to flush out any objections and reduce the chances of a prospect disappearing after the proposal is sent.

Keep asking questions until you understand if your prospect really needs your product, when they plan to buy it, and how they plan to pay for it. If you don’t understand where a deal is in the prospect’s buying process, then you’re depending on luck to close it.

Taft is a SaaS sales professional and blogger in San Francisco. He likes to travel and spend time with his family in Sausalito, California.

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