Jul 5, 2022 • Podcast

What if the buyer prefers emailed proposals versus in-person presentations?

Paul shares tips to get you out of the buyer’s email in-box and back in front of them for in-person presentations.

Show Notes

Explain that there are elements of your proposal that you need to walk through in person.

Ask the buyer to consider how many phone calls, emails, and voicemails it takes to replace one in-person meeting.

Emphasize the importance and complexity of the decision they are making.

Offer to bring in your tech experts and your high-level personnel to build perceived value into your in-person presentation.

The best way to get rid of an old expectation is to set a new one.

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What if the buyer prefers emailed proposals versus in-person presentations?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about presenting our proposals face to face. So here’s what happened. Recently on a virtual webinar, I’m working with the sales team, and one of the salespeople said, “You know, Paul I, for the past couple of years, have been emailing my proposals and my quotes to customers. And now that is the expectation they have.” He wants to know, “How do I get back in front of them and set a different expectation to have face-to-face presentations when they need a quote and a proposal?” So that’s what we’re going to talk about on today’s episode.

Before we get into answering that question, make sure you visit Toughtimer.com. While you visit Toughtimer.com, you can download two complimentary chapters of the book. These chapters focus on, first of all, What Are Tough Times? That whole chapter—it’s the first chapter of the book. And then also crafting your customer message through tough times. You can also download the introduction to the book. And in the intro, I’ve got my favorite line in the whole book: “Tough times are good.” And in the intro I explain why that is. But if you want to get the whole book, go to Amazon, go to Barnes & Noble, Chapters. Wherever you get your books, you can find Selling Through Tough Times.

Let’s get back to that question. So, the salesperson has been setting this expectation over the past couple of years, that when the customer needs a proposal, he’s able to turn around that proposal, that quote, very quickly just sending it via email. Now what this salesperson wants to do is reshape those expectations. For obvious reasons, he wants to get back in front of the customer face to face. And for the salespeople listening, you’ve got to remember, delivering your presentation face to face is so much better than delivering it via email, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, your email is going to blend in with everything else that they have in their inbox. Number two, when they print off that proposal, you’re relying on the quality of their printer printing it out. Who knows what they have there. Not only that, but you don’t get to see their face when they read through the proposal. You can’t view their non-verbals. They’re reading your proposal with their own level of enthusiasm and excitement for this project. Chances are, that’s not going to match yours. There are so many benefits to delivering your presentation face to face. So do your best to make sure you get in front of that customer face to face. The key is, you’ve got to convince them to do that, especially if they have the expectation of just receiving it in an email or a quote. So I’m going to share a couple of ideas, a couple of thoughts, to help you get back in front of those customers.

Let’s talk about the first point here, to get in front of that customer face to face, the first thing you need to do is explain to that buyer, to that decision maker, why it is important that you get together face to face for this meeting. And then when I think about this, a couple of things come to mind.

Number one: when you’re making the request, when you’re making the request, explain to the customer that there are elements of your proposal that you need to walk through face to face with them—or virtually. If you can at least get a video call, if you can at least jump on a Zoom meeting, that’s great. But explain why you need to go through this face to face. What does this customer stand to gain? And ideally, they’re going to save time. And here’s why I say that.

I was talking with a group of salespeople just a couple of weeks ago I guess at this point? We were in our meeting and we were talking about the efficiency of virtual meetings versus a live, face-to-face meeting. And one salesperson said, “Look, here’s what I’ve found. Anecdotally, I’m looking at how I spend my time. I’m looking at some of the deals. I have found that if I’m able to get together face to face with a customer, it’s the equivalent of having three Zoom meetings.” So right then and there, when you’re talking to the customer and you’re able to explain to them what they’re going to gain, you can mention something like that.

Take a look at your selling activity and try to figure out what your ratio of live to virtual meetings is. For example, this salesperson said, “Okay, one live meeting is the equivalent of three virtual meetings.” So you can go back to your customer and say, “Look, I understand it’s going to take a little bit of time to carve out—a little bit of scheduling—but I’ve found that if we have this one good, efficient live meeting, it’s going to replace three virtual follow-up meetings afterwards. That’s the first piece.

You can even go a step further, especially in this case. Think about how many emails and how many phone calls it’s going to take to replace that live meeting. I would imagine it’s at least a dozen, especially when they come back with all the back and forth and the questions and all that. Go back to your customer and say, “Look. Let’s get together live. Let’s walk through this presentation. I’ve found getting together live is going to replace three virtual meetings and probably a dozen or so emails, and also a couple of voicemails. Last thing I want to do is overcrowd your inbox with a bunch of emails and question and answers. Let’s just get together.”

So you’re making that request. The key is that you have to emphasize what they’re going to gain from it. Maybe to build on this theme a little bit more—. If you have an example from a previous presentation that was very successful for the customer, in the sense that it saved time, and it helped unveil new opportunities to help the customer, be willing to share that as well. Go back to the customer and say, “You know, I could email you this proposal, but I’ll tell you something magical happened at a recent meeting. I was meeting with another customer. As we went through our proposal, we had a great discussion about their needs and about how some things have changed. We were able to develop an even more comprehensive solution to help meet the project objectives.” What you’re doing is you’re speaking to the benefit of getting together face to face. Number one, that’s what you need to highlight for the customer.

Another thing I would do is emphasize the importance of the decision. And this is tip number two. When buyers view your solution as simple and easy, straightforward, to the point, routine, transactional, whatever phrase you want to use—when they view it simplified in that manner, it becomes easy for them to just say, “Yeah, shoot me a proposal. Let me see your numbers.” It’s really a buyer that is going to start viewing your solution as a commodity, more or less. And what we want to do is remind the buyer of the importance and the complexity of this decision. When the buyer becomes aware of how complex this decision is and how your solution is going to help solve this complex problem, or it’s an important decision, that it’s highly visible—however you want to display to the customer that yes, this is an important, big decision—something is going to happen. In their mind they’re going to think, “Okay. Maybe I should talk through this with the salesperson. You know what? Maybe we should get together face to face.” Think about that. As the buyer believes this is an important decision, they’re more likely to meet with you.

You may throw that out there when the buyer says, “Hey, just send me a proposal or send me an email with your solution.” We could say, “I could send you an email, but you know what? I know this is a big decision for your company. I know it’s an important decision as well. You know, given the magnitude of this decision, I think it would just make sense for us to carve out 20 minutes to walk through this…” And then you can build on some of the other tips that I just gave you. So emphasize the importance of this decision.

The next thing we want to do, we want to bring in a technical expert or some additional contacts on your side, that can really help generate a good discussion. And here’s how we may set this up. And this is especially useful if you’re providing what is perceived to be a complex, enterprise type of solution, or a high-dollar investment, a capital-intensive investment. Bring in some additional resources for the meeting. And also, even indicate if they’re going to be flying into town, that’s even better. It shows that they have more vested in the meeting and your customer’s more likely to meet given the investment people are making.

So you could position it this way and say “You know, Mr. Customer, I certainly could send over the proposal. However, there are a few technical items we really need to hash out before we move forward. I know having a good solid, 30 to 40 minute face-to-face meeting to go through these technical elements—it’s going to save a lot of headaches on the back end. You know, our technical expert is going to be flying into town here next week. Let’s set some time now. We’ll make sure we get the most of this meeting.”

What we’re doing there in a couple of ways—we’re letting them know we’re bringing in another expert. Another expert is going to also build some perceived value. The customer automatically is going to think, “Okay, I’m going to get more value from this meeting because there’s somebody in the meeting that’s going to be more knowledgeable than me about what’s going on.” And that’s going to set a level of perceived value that is really important actually. Not to get into too much of the dynamics, but making big promises and building perceived value is so important in our solution.

So bringing in that technical expert that can help open the door, create more of those face-to-face meetings. And I keep saying technical expert, but it really could be anyone. It could be one of your high-level decision makers. It could be one of your strategic-account people. It could be anyone. I mean, it could be the president of your company, the owner of the company, whoever it may be. Leverage those resources to help open up some doors.

And then finally, it’s so important. You set the expectation initially of emailing proposals, so set a new expectation. Remember, it’s not the customer’s proposal until you hand it over to them. It’s your proposal up until that point. So that means you get to decide. There’s nothing wrong when the customer says, “Hey, just email your proposal to me,” going back to them and saying, “Look, you know, we spent a lot of time putting together this proposal. I’m going to get this to you, but we’re going to deliver them in person. That way we can walk through it.” Take the assumptive approach and just don’t even necessarily give them the option for email. And if they request it, say, “Hey, rather than emailing, what I’m going to do is walk through it with you in-person for a couple of reasons. Here’s why we’re going to do that. Let’s go through this. What time works best. Here are three options.” Take the assumptive and assertive approach and I think you’re going to be surprised how the customer will respond to the new expectation that you’re going to be setting.

The best way to get rid of an old expectation is to set a new one. Set a new expectation that you will be meeting in person to go through your proposal.

Make it a big day.

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