When in the B2B sales process, should I send a proposal to a client?

I recently was asked this question and wanted to share my answer here with you too (with some minor edits):

Great question on one of my favourite topics!

I’ll share some of the common mistakes I see in the proposal process:

First, proposals take time and resources to prepare – so there is a “cost” when it comes to sending a proposal which leads me to…

…Two, never send a proposal to every request for proposal. Proposals should only be sent to those who are qualified prospects.

I see too many sales people fall into the trap of thinking sending a proposal to everyone who asks, may get them more sales, but it’s the opposite.

I use a scorecard with five specific elements that need to be present before I let a sales person even consider preparing a proposal.

Three, once the prospect meets those five criteria, you need to talk to them like a doctor who asks a patient questions to assess what could be ailing them.

Often times, prospects ask for a proposal before they even know whether the solution they’re looking for is even right for their problem.

Figure out the problem first – as the real solution could be something completely different from what they are asking for. I guarantee 99% of your competitors are just sending a proposal without clarifying what is really the problem, by doing this you’ll stand out.

Not doing discovery like this, leads to a dissatisfied client – you gave them what they asked for, but it didn’t solve their REAL problem. That’s the mistake most make.

If your prospect does not want to discuss their problem in more detail with you, then I would pass on the opportunity.

It’s like someone coming to you asking you to provide a quote/proposal to build their dream home for them.

Of course, the quote/proposal will depend on many factors like, do you want marble counter tops? Carpet or tiled flooring? How many rooms?

If they wont tell you this information, how can you provide a proper proposal?

This kind of summarizes the main elements and steps before I would consider sending a proposal.

Hope it helps!

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