Where Relationships Fail Proposals

In looking at my first two articles, I wondered why so much focus on proposals. This is what I came up with:

1) Revenue begins and ends with a contract
2) Contracts are awarded based on a written proposal

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learned in 19 years selling facility service contracts:

1) Customers use decision making teams (formal or informal) to select contractors
2) Sales people may know some of a customer’s decision makers, but rarely all

Here’s what I’ve heard a gazillon times in 19 years selling contracts:

  • Realtionships are everything

Which is not true. Relationships matter. But they’re not the answer to selling contract services. Here’s why:

Binders on a Table

Contractors’ proposals must sell when their salespersons aren’t in the room with decision makers. Picture a pile of competitive proposals on a table in a customer’s conference room. Which contractor is going to be selected?

Relationships don’t Guarantee Contracts

I take that back. Small contracts may be awarded on relationships alone. But medium to large contracts – no way. Customer-friends won’t jeopardize their mortgage to select their Contractor-buddies.

Relationships make Proposals Better

Pre-bid relationships provide salespersons access to customer information. The stronger the relationship, the better the intel and insight. Which should be used when developing proposals.

The Disconnect between Proposals & Relationships

However, years of wining and dining, and all that time and money go down the drain when customer insight doesn’t get into proposals.

Salespersons work to create great customer relationships. They understand customers’ business and service needs. They know what customers are trying to achieve.

However, that intel doesn’t make it into contractors’ final proposal.

Reality Check – Test it Yourself

Don’t believe me? Check any proposal. See if the following are in there. And if they are, see if they’re persuasive and compelling, or generic and boring.

  • Specific problems the customer is trying to solve?
  • Connection between customer’s service issues & how they impact their business?
  • Description of the customer’s unique business situation & goals?
  • A unique solution from the contractor, not off the shelf?
  • The degree of fit between the contractor’s solution & customer’s needs?

What Are You Doing to Close the Gap Between Relationships & Proposals?

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