In the world of sales, there are few things more important to your success than being able to execute a proposal meeting effectively. The trouble is, there are a lot of ways to fall short of that goal.
If you’ve ever found yourself sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic when you’re supposed to be at the client’s office in five minutes, or standing over a copier praying for it to stop making that grinding noise and spit out your papers already, you’re doing it wrong. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix.
Let’s begin at the beginning: Good meetings do not fall from the sky. If you’re expecting to walk into a proposal meeting with a few sheets of paper and your charming smile and walk out with a deal, you’re going to be disappointed. Great meetings—and consistently closing business—come from doing the prep work.
Planning for a proposal meeting in advance not only helps you feel more organized but also makes you appear more professional. When your prospect asks a question, you’ll be ready to give them a thorough and detailed answer while looking them in the eye, rather than fumbling for papers and having to promise things like, “I’ll email you that information later.”
Tips for Preparing
Have all of your collateral ready far in advance of the meeting. There is no reason you should ever be creating a PowerPoint two hours before a proposal meeting. Ever.
Rushing to print info sheets and other materials is also a bad idea. Did you know that printers can smell fear? Don’t tease them. The more urgent/desperate you are, the more likely a printer is to jam, run out of paper, need a new toner cartridge, forget how to connect to your wifi, and give you a PC Load Letter error. (OK, OK. I just googled “Office Space Printer Scene” and I feel better now.)
Budget your time so that you arrive at the meeting spot at least 30 minutes in advance. If the meeting is your biggest of the year, make that an hour. (The same rule of thumb goes for a video conference call as well. Don’t be the last one on the line because your computer had to update software before you could join.)
This will help you allocate time in case of traffic, road construction, or other last-minute stressors. If the meeting is at the client’s office and you don’t want to go in too early, use that extra time in your car to practice your presentation or even do a little prospecting!
In the same vein, arrive early to set up the meeting space. Technology can also smell fear, so don’t put yourself in a bind by rushing into the room five minutes before the client arrives, only to find that your laptop won’t connect to the projector.
Now that you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to tackle the meeting itself. These are my four key steps to executing a flawless proposal meeting.
1. Create a Buying Atmosphere and Set Expectations
Hopefully, you’ve already created a buying atmosphere in your initial meeting with the client. If not, this is the time to do it.
Set out your plan for how the meeting will go, making it clear to them that you’re not here to “win” their business but rather determine if a partnership would be a good fit for both of you. Setting your expectations right out of the gate will help the prospect feel comfortable and understand the goals for the meeting.
2. Review the Agenda From Your Last Meeting
To make sure you’re on the same page before going any further, review the notes from your last meeting. Make sure you understand their needs. Otherwise, you might propose something that doesn’t really fix their problem.
If it turns out you misunderstood things, and what you have in your proposal isn’t the best fit, don’t try to force it. Let them know that you want to present the best possible solution for them, and reschedule the meeting so that you can do that. Do not—I repeat, do NOT—wing it!
3. Review the Proposal
In your preparations, set a detailed timeline for the meeting so that you know how much time you can spend on each section. While reviewing the proposal with the prospect, keep that timeline in mind.
Keep a clock or timer close by, so you can make sure you’re not rambling on and on. Below is my general outline for the critical points of any standard proposal:
- Recreate the pain you’re resolving.
- Highlight key points.
- Cover the solution. (Spend the bulk of your time here.)
- Review the contract details (if applicable).
- Allow 10 to 15 minutes for questions and Step 4.
4. Close for the Next Steps
Wherever you are in the sales process, the last thing you should do in any proposal meeting is close for the next steps. If that means setting the next meeting, then make sure you get it on the calendar before everyone leaves the room. If it means signing a contract, make sure you have that prepared in full and on-hand at the meeting.
Don’t leave anything up to chance or lean on the “I’ll shoot that over in an email” crutch. That’s how you lose business.
Proposal meetings can be anxiety-inducing if you let them. But with proper preparation and planning, they’ll become second nature. Practice makes perfect, so go ahead and get to prospecting!
Until next time—go sell some stuff!
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