Messages that Matter: Question 4—Which specific result is most important?


Posted By Dr. Tom Sant | Sep 27, 2012


By Dr. Tom Sant

7 Key Questions to Answer When Writing a "Killer" Sales Proposal

We have been reviewing the seven key questions that you must be able to answer to write a winning proposal:

  1. What is the client’s problem or need?
  2. Why is this problem worth solving?
  3. What results does the customer seek?
  4. Which specific result is the most important?
  5. What products or services can we offer that will solve the problem and deliver the right results?
  6. Of the solutions I can offer, which one is the best fit for this client?
  7. Why are we the right choice?

Last time we discussed the importance of identifying the outcomes or results the decision maker seeks. Addressing a customer's need is important, because it shows you understand the business. But addressing the results they want to see is even more important, because it focuses them on value and gives them a strong, affirmative answer to the critical question: "Is this solution worth pursuing?" In fact, being able to answer the fourth question is the key to developing an effective value proposition. So let's talk about it:

Which result is most important?

As we discussed last time, the customer may be seeking results in the strategic area of business performance. Or they may want to see improvements in operational efficiency. They may want to see social or political results, such as reduced employee turnover or a smaller carbon footprint. In fact, they probably want to see results in several areas.

But what you really need to know is which of those results is most important to the decision maker. And you want to know that for two reasons:

First, present your ideas in the same order that they matter to the readers.

Seeing them presented from most important to least important will create the impression in the reader’s mind that you think the way they do. This is what I call the primacy principle—making sure you are creating the best possible first impression. The client will assume that what you say first is what is most important to you and is an indication of where the proposal as a whole is headed. By putting your content in the same order of priority the client would, you reduce the cognitive dissonance and enhance rapport. That's particularly important when you are addressing the outcomes the client will receive. By focusing on what the client believes is the most important outcome, your decision maker feels more confident that in choosing you they will see the right results.

Second, you want to know which outcome is most important because you want to make that the foundation for your value proposition.

The first rule of an effective value proposition is that it must promise to deliver results the customer actually wants. Presenting a value proposition based on improving quality in the customer's production environment may be easy, given the features and functions of the nondestructive test system you sell, but if the customer is actually looking for a way to increase market share, it may not be very convincing, either.

In my experience, proposal writers often attribute their own values to the customer. For instance, in working with one of the world’s largest professional services firms, I found that virtually every proposal contained the same value proposition. “We offer a greater breadth of services than any other firm,” it went. “We can do it all. No matter what kind of analysis, implementation, or outsourcing service you may need, we can handle it.” The problem was, as research into the values of their customer base revealed, customers didn’t care about breadth of services as a differentiator. What they wanted was much more task specific: Speed of delivery. Risk minimization. Performance guarantees. Relevant prior experience. Introduction of new technologies to improve productivity. In reality, breadth of services was strictly an internal focus, something the partners in this firm were proud of but which had little meaning for customers.

With the use of Qvidian's sales enablement technology, your sales team can learn to ask the right questions to uncover what really matters to the customer. And if you are also using Qvidian's proposal automation tools, you can provide a value proposition backed up by differentiators and evidence that speak to the customer's interests.

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