Retailer Corner: Is E-Mailing a Proposal a Good Idea?

By Tom Jennings, WFCA Vice President, Professional Development

Be backs. We’ve all had our share of this type of customer. One thing we know for sure is that time was wasted during the presentation phase. The only question is did the estimator waste the customer’s time by being uninformed or unprepared? Or, did the customer waste the estimator’s time by being something less than forthcoming with their wishes and budget information? No matter which, the business loses.

Today’s estimator has a modern day form of the “be back” – an emailed proposal. Are you one of those sellers who graciously agree to e-mail your prospect the proposal? You know the scenario: Your prospect wants to think about it and will call you in a few days. As time passes, you can’t seem to get him or her on the phone to discuss it. There the opportunity sits, lingering in your pending file, while you try to figure out the best step to re-establish communication.

Without this personal conversation, you have no way of knowing if they’ll remember your previous discussions, or, jump to incorrect conclusions.

With established customers that already have a relationship with you; it’s perfectly fine to e-mail proposals. They’ll accept your call and discuss their thoughts willingly. But with prospects, it’s a shot in the dark whether you’ll hear from them again. They are the electronic “be back” of today. Although you want to be accommodating with a new prospect, now is the time to push back.

Look at presenting proposals as another opportunity for you to get in front of new prospects and continue building their trust in both you and your offerings. If possible, you need to be there in person to review the needs discussed, present solutions to address these needs, point out financial details, answer any questions or objections that may arise, etc. Without this personal conversation, you have no way of knowing if they’ll remember your previous discussions, or, jump to incorrect conclusions.

When your prospect requests that you “just email your proposal,” push back. Say something to the effect of: “Sally, I believe it would be in both of our best interests if you allow me a few minutes to walk you through the proposal. We’ve discussed a number of different products and their application. I want to be sure we both fully understand each other’s thoughts so that any questions can be resolved before work commences rather than afterwards. Let’s go ahead and find a time that will work on your calendar to get this accomplished.”

Let me clarify what I mean by presenting the proposal in person. You don’t actually have to be on-site with the prospect if time or distance is an issue. What’s critical is that you review it together, voice-to-voice. If you aren’t going to be on-site, then e-mail the proposal 10-15 minutes before the meeting. This will allow enough time for the prospect to review your proposal, but not enough to shop it around.

Adopting this strategy will allow you to continue to build trust in a prospect’s eyes. They will see you as being interested in them as people, rather than just as clients. At the meeting’s conclusion, you can either close the sale or determine the appropriate steps to be taken. No more pending proposals hanging in electronic limbo. How great would that be?

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