Digitize Proposal Processes without Losing Buyer Trust

Proposal Processes are critical for maintaining trust with prospective buyers, setting the stage for profitable, long-term engagements. Learn how to digitize proposal processes while increasing the consistency and trustbuilding during the last stages of the sales cycle.

Mike Kephart
“Alignment might be one of the most overlooked concepts in selling, persuasion, and customer-focused capture.” - Shipley Capture Guide

Trust and rapport are two separate things. As much as Sales would like them to be the same, buyers are painfully aware when trust is breached. We do not say anything; we merely let it slide, maintaining rapport long after trust has been lost.

Customers might even buy from you once despite losing trust, but they will be less satisfied with your core service, and less likely to become loyal customers. (Román, 2003). These impact reputation, as well as revenues.

How can sales leaders control whether Reps are maintaining trust?

Trusted sellers maintain a coherent message, picking up the conversation that marketing began, carrying that message through the final sale. If the story changes at any point without clarification or communication, trust is lost.

To maintain trust in a complex sales environment, both an individual’s action and the actions of team members must be aligned over time. Are you confident that every member of the sales team delivers the same story, every time?

Customers watch how an organization operates, how it takes them through the purchase process, how it keeps or breaks its word. Anyone on the sales team can deliver an inconsistent message, simply by succumbing to any one of the most natural human impulses to forget, to say what the customer wants to hear instead of the truth, to deny, spin, or avoid bad news, to want to appear more knowledgeable than they are, to be unaware of what others have already told the customer.

The quote or proposal is where half-truths and incongruities are put to rest.

Maintaining Consistency across Proposal Processes

It is nice to think that company could win an order with or without submitting the best proposal; it is also a pipe dream. Most corporate purchasing guidelines require a competitive proposal process with at least three bidders.

At this point, we need to clarify the difference between quotes and proposals. I think “quote” is a dirty word for B2B manufacturers. Organizations can look at their proposals as an afterthought, just a bit of homework that the Rep should do on personal time, just a “quote.” I looked up the term on Google, and guess what, I was right!

A sales quote is just a number given for a customized request. The only thing possibly competitive about a quote is the number. If your company wants to offer the cheapest product in the market, then it should deliver quotes. Manufacturers who want to compete on value deliver proposals.

B2Bs compete on way more than price; they submit proposals.

The difference is important because B2Bs can under-emphasize their proposal processes, leaving the majority of the work up to the Sales Rep, inevitably leading to uncompetitive, misaligned “proposals,” which are halfway in between a quote and a proposal.

Every step between first contact and final agreement is a proposal process.

Even when sales enablement technology is installed, it is often not strategic, meaning it is used to save time, possibly increasing profitability but without helping the business achieve strategic objectives. It might give you a few dollars back, but it does not generate new value.

This is not the fault of Sales. Customized, persuasive proposals require significant experience, knowledge, diversity of talents and workload to complete. Giving full responsibility to one Sales Rep, or even to Sales is a recipe for cut corners, guesswork, and avoidance.

The solution fuses digital with strategy across the organization.

It is not enough to buy a proposal manager, or a CRM or CPQ, and call it a day. These tools allow management to formalize the proposal process and create new proposal processes, onerous tasks for a Rep but costless for a machine.

The first step is to document proposal processes and then standardize. Only then will an organization be ready to capture the most value from a quoting or proposal tool.

DIY Documentation and Standardization of the Proposal Process | Takeaways

Standardization is an opportunity to improve, increasing competitiveness of each proposal while increasing the efficiency of the sales organization, a balance of efficiency and effectiveness, of both top- and bottom-line growth.

Maintaining consistency across digital processes is critical. The risk in standardizing workflow is standardizing the wrong workflow. Management must work alongside sales operations consultancies to ensure that the right processes are maintained and enhanced, while misaligned processes are sifted out.

We recommend scheduling team meetings to discuss the value of a prospective tool, the solutions it might offer, and the desired features. If interested, please read our blog about developing a prototype of Revvy CPQ for a B2B manufacturer for more details.

In addition, it is important to align each initiative within the corporate strategy in such a way that it is simple to explain how sales enablement will not only support the B2B, but also help the business achieve strategic goals. Keeping these unique objectives in mind from Day 1 drives the sales enablement project to be indispensable to every stakeholder, from exec to Sales Rep.

Executing proposals consistently, aka. doing the job right, maintains customer trust across the marketing/sales divide and through each step of the purchase process, helping to establish long-term profitable relationships with an ever-growing number of satisfied customers.

Proposal Process Resources

Excerpt From: Larry Newman, PPF. APMP. iBooks. “Shipley Capture Guide.” https://itun.es/us/uJm4M.l

Román, Sergio. “The Impact of Ethical Sales Behaviour on Customer Satisfaction, Trust and Loyalty to the Company: An Empirical Study in the Financial Services Industry” Journal of Marketing Management 19(9-10):915-939. November 2003. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233629509_The_Impact_of_Ethical_Sales_Behaviour_on_Customer_Satisfaction_Trust_and_Loyalty_to_the_Company_An_Empirical_Study_in_the_Financial_Services_Industry

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