How to do a Sales Proposal Presentation, and Why You Shouldn’t Email It

Have you ever experienced being ghosted by your potential clients after sending your proposal via email? Please, don’t ever send your proposal over email without presenting it first. Here’s why.


Full Episode Transcription:

Welcome once again to the Liston.io Show. I, of course, am Liston.io. I haven’t legally changed my name yet, but my name’s Liston, Liston Witherill. Nice to meet you, if this is your first time, and I want to help you, dear listener, build a better consulting business. If you haven’t done it yet, and this isn’t your first time, I’d love it if you went and subscribed to this podcast so you don’t miss another episode if you’re so inclined. Now, this is part two of two episodes about proposals, so if you haven’t listened, go back and listen to the last episode before you listen to this one, it’s Episode 11. But in this episode right here, right where you are now, I will tell you all about why you should never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, send your proposals over email, and what to do instead.

Now, before I get into that, if you haven’t already, please do. It would help me tremendously. It would help other people hear the message if you went and left a review in iTunes. Yes, Apple, that monolith trillion dollar company, basically owns the market on podcast distribution. It’s responsible for about 60% of all podcast downloads. And if you, dear friend, go and leave a review, it helps other people conspire with you and me to help everyone build a better consulting business themselves.

I wanted to thank listener Austin [Haddocks 00:01:50] for his review on iTunes. He gave a five star review and said, “This podcast is packed with actionable info.” He says, “I just finished binge-listening to the first few episodes of Liston’s podcast, and I’ve already come away with a handful of actionable insights that I can apply to my consulting work today.” In all caps. “If you’re seeking to improve your sales skills and make more money through consulting, Liston is a fountain of actionable information who will help equip you with the necessary knowledge to bring your consulting practice to the next level.” Thank you, Austin, for that very, very kind review.

Couple of other things I want to make you aware of before I jump into today’s episode. Number one is if you have a question about today’s episode, you can go over to liston.io/podcast. You can now leave an audio question for me there. It works on your phone, it works on your laptop, on your desktop, on your Chromebook. Whatever you’re on, you can leave a recording for me. It’s like a voicemail. You may even hear your voice on an upcoming episode of the Liston.io Show, and I may even dedicate the whole damn episode to you. Who knows. So if you go over to liston.io/podcast, you can leave a question for me there.

If you need help in your business, selling with confidence and approaching every sales conversation as comfortably as a conversation with your best friend, feel free to book a strategy session with me where I promise to give you at least two and a half useful insights that you can apply to your business immediately. I promise it will be worth your time, and you can go book a session over at liston.io/strategy. A final note here, I’m opening back up my online coaching program, Consulting Sales Bootcamp. It starts October 9th. You can sign up for the pre-launch list at liston.io/bootcamplaunch.

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All right. Let’s talk proposals, shall we? In the last episode I talked all about when to write a proposal, and the key takeaway there as you should only take the time to go agree to and actually spend the time writing a proposal after you have verbal agreement on the key aspects that will be contained in the proposal, and that there should be absolutely no surprises and no new information in a proposal when you write it. So if you do that take the time to write it, how do you deliver it is the question. So in this scenario you’ve gotten verbal agreement, you’re happy. The potential client is just head over heels in love with you, it’s just a total love fest. And you go off, and you decide to write the proposal. How are you going to give it to them?

Well, let me tell you a story. When I started consulting, I would often go off and write proposals, and I would send them off over an email. I’m feeling great. It had been a love fest. I’m so convinced, “Oh man, this person is definitely going to buy from me. I have a new client, I’m really excited to work with them and work on this project.” And then I go email it to them, and then I hear exactly nothing. Silence. Early on, I started using a piece of software called quoteroller.com, which I don’t endorse, but that’s just what I use. And I used that software to allow me to create proposals a little bit quicker, but also to track the analytics of my proposals.

And so I could see things like whether or not someone opened the proposal, which pages they saw, how long they spent, et cetera. And here’s what I found: They went directly to the page with price, and that’s where they spent 90% of their time. I’ve talked to other people who have used proposal software with analytics, and they find similar results. Now, price does matter, but it’s also not the only thing. There are many reasons people will decide something or not, and I believe the reason we’re so obsessed with price, both buyers and sellers alike, is that it’s easy. It’s easy to evaluate. it’s easy to compare. It’s easy to put three or four prices together and just choose the middle one. But it’s not the main way we make decisions, and it’s especially not be the best way to make purchasing decisions that result in satisfaction and avoid buyer’s remorse.

And yet, I work with many consultants who invest tons and tons of time and energy into sales conversations, and then they go off and write a proposal, and what do they do? They send it over email. And what happens? You guessed it. People go directly to the price, and often, subsequent to that, you have been ghosted. You do not hear from the person again, or they become unresponsive to you. So the question is, have you been ghosted on a proposal before? This is probably why.

Olivier, a member of the Facebook group Consulting Power Up — you can joined that over at Consulting Power Up on Facebook — said, and I quote, “Clients asking for a proposal is often a polite way to get rid of you.” And that’s true, and that’s why we only write the proposal after we’ve gotten verbal agreement. But there are many reasons why you should never, ever, ever send your proposal over email without first presenting it. Now, I’m not saying don’t share your proposal via email under any circumstances. But what I am saying, is the worst of all ways to deliver your proposal is to just email it and ask someone to get back to you, right? Because what most people will do, is they’ll write an email, they’ll attach their PDF, or they’ll put their link to their proposal in the email, and they say something like, “I look forward to hearing your feedback.” Or, “Let me know if you have any questions.” And that’s not the best way. And there are lots of reasons why I think you shouldn’t do that, and so I’m going to go over those right now.

So number one is, when you send your proposal over email without presenting it, you have now lost control over the conversation. You spent a lot of time writing things in the proposal that probably jog your client’s memory about their problems, about what you covered in discovery, but they’re probably not going to read those. And those pieces of information are critical in contextualizing how you can help them, and therefore how you arrived at the price that you’re putting in front of them. And so devoid of context, the price is fairly arbitrary.

So instead, of course, the real solution — and I’m going to cover this more a little bit later in this episode — but the real solution is to present your proposal live, over the phone or in person. I’ll give you some ideas how to do that, but that gives you control over the conversation, and it allows you to set the value you deliver before you give the price, it allows you to recap the problems that you uncovered in discovery, and it also allows you to recap how bad those problems are, who’s experiencing them, the emotional turmoil that those problems cause, and you can give an overview of what it’s like to work with you while you’re presenting this and before you even get to the price.

Now, when you’re presenting live, what you’re going to see also, is you’ll get a sense of how people react to the proposal. So if you send your proposal over email without presenting it, there’s a good chance … Actually, scratch that. There’s is a guarantee that some percentage of the time something in your proposal is going to fall flat for the recipient. But if you’re presenting your proposal live, you get a chance to respond to any objections, or any misgivings, or any questions that your potential client has right there on the spot. So you’ll get a sense … If you deliver the proposal and you can see their face, you’ll have an idea of how they’re reacting to what you just presented, and you’ll have an idea of how to kickstart that conversation so you can have a real discussion about it.

If your proposal misses the mark, that’s okay. The intention is just to have a productive conversation that brings you closer to a working relationship if there’s a fit to work together, right? So if there’s a little bit of an odd fit, or if there’s an objection, or your client wants something bigger, or they want something smaller, you can even start to brainstorm new service options based on their feedback right there, live and on the spot. Of course you cannot do this over email. And so that is a catalyst to advancing the conversation, is presenting live really builds in this feedback mechanism.

Presenting live also gives you a chance to anchor your pricing with options, and you can say them in a way that correctly anchors your pricing and the value that you bring. And when you present live, it also gives you more touchpoints. So one of the big things that we have to overcome as consults and service providers and agencies, anybody selling their services and expertise, is the trust curve. It’s steep. It takes a while to build trust and credibility, and one of the things that helps us build trust is to have more interactions and more time with our potential clients, so they get a chance to really form a bigger opinion of us, and really start to humanize us.

And so when you’re presenting live, it gives you another touchpoint, and — heres something else — it gives you a reason to have another meeting. So when you deliver your proposal live, what you’re going to do is have the meeting to deliver the proposal, and then you’re going to have a meeting to review their thoughts to get a decision from them, or start the negotiation process. One of those things. But in any case, you have a built-in followup step to presenting it. So really, you’re doubling your additional interaction with this potential client.

You know, I’m working with a client right now, and he’s in a position where he was asked to come in and help one of his clients evaluate several proposals from … He’s in the IT space, so he does IT consulting and IT services. And he’s been asked to evaluate other IT proposals given to this firm. Now, what’s the lesson here? He easily could have had a proposal in that stack. And when these firms — and none of them presented live — When these firms sent their proposal in, essentially they’re just a document in a stack of documents. They’re compared directly to each other. Their prices will probably go into a spreadsheet. Their features will be parsed. So just like I’m shopping for a new fitness watch, his client will be shopping for a new IT provider.

And think about this. If you present live, you may be the only vendor to present and make your offer live to your client. How much would that set you apart from the competition alone? Forget about your differentiation. Forget about your value proposition. Just the fact that you showed up and you became more human, you had an additional touchpoint and you built in a new followup step. How much does that alone separate you from the competition and increase your chance of winning that business? I had a comment from Derek on LinkedIn, and he said, “I made this mistake once early on, and it was obvious they never even read the proposal.” Thanks Derek for leaving that comment.

So let me just catch us up. The big idea here is we will only send a proposal once we have verbal agreement on all of the contents of the proposal and the client specifically wants a proposal, and we will only send that proposal after we present it live. So the next question you may be asking is, “Okay, what do I do to present it live? How do I do that?” And so heres what I recommend you do. One way you can do this is to go to your clients in person, go to their office or invite them to your office, and walk them through the entire thing.

Now, I work with clients remotely, so that’s not an option for me. And, truthfully, I haven’t found it to be a hindrance at all. Like, zero percent. What I do instead, is I always put together a presentation deck, and that becomes my proposal, rather than a long document. And I do a live video conferencing call with my client, or potential client I should say, where I walk them through the deck and show them how I can help them. And I’m going to recap, like I said earlier, the problems we uncovered in discovery. The goals of what they’re trying to achieve and how things would be different if they achieved those goals. The value of pursuing this project. What it would be like to work with me and, of course, the pricing. I’ll give them a chance to ask me questions, and then we’ll talk about next steps. All of this context is really, really critical.

Now, the reason I suggest using slides, is there are — and this is very well documented — three different types of learners. There are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. So people who learn things by seeing them, people who learn things by hearing them … You probably have a little bit of selection bias, podcast listener. If you’re listening to this, you may be more of an auditory learner. And then kinesthetic, so people who like to physically interact with things and touch things and click buttons and move things around. If you bring slides, you are covering two of those bases, and they’re the two big ones, which is visual and auditory learners. And so giving a visual reinforces the words that you’re saying, even if you don’t have a bunch of pretty pictures. That’s okay. But it is good to have some graphics and some things that you can show people, because it really starts to reinforce and make the information more sticky. So that is the real big, big benefit of slides.

What I don’t want you to do, even if you don’t do slides, is to show up with the entire document, put it on your screen, and read it word-for-word. First of all, that’s definitely boring. No one wants to hear you read your proposal as if it’s fine literature or some sort of slam poetry. Even though it must be a masterpiece, I assure you no one cares that much. What I want you to do is, instead, have a conversation. Cover the major bullets and sections of that proposal. Make it more real that you may work together.

Now, I mentioned that if you can present face-to-face, that’s great. But if you can’t, and you work remotely like I do, what I recommend is zoom.us. Z-O-O-M dot U-S. I do not recommend that you use Skype. I do not recommend that you use Google Hangouts. I do not recommend that you use any other software. I can assure you in all of my testing, and lots of my friends use it too, Zoom is the best video conferencing software on planet Earth. It’s dead simple to use. It allows you to share your screen. It allows your client to share their screen. It allows you to video conference, I think, up to 100 attendees or something ridiculous like that, and it is rock solid. The connection is great. Even if you don’t have the best internet connection, it still holds up.

So you know the software to use, you know how to do it, whether you’re live in-person or remote. And the one thing I would say, is when you actually go give that presentation, one of the most awesome things is you’re giving your potential client a chance to now participate in a conversation about working together. That means a chance to ask you questions about what you’ve presented, a chance for you to provide clarification, a chance for you to respond to any objections they have.

Again, maybe they want more. Maybe they want less of what you’re offering. Maybe they want something different. Maybe you just missed the mark. Whatever it is, you get to have that conversation. And remember that business is about relationships. Relationships are built, at least initially, on conversations, and so make your sales centered around those conversations. And the best way to do that, when it comes to proposals, is to do a live presentation of those proposals.

Now, if you had any questions about this episode whatsoever, I want to hear them. I want you to ask them. All you have to do is go to liston.io/podcast, and there’s a widget on that page where you can leave your audio question. Anything that’s on your mind, ask away. Thank you for listening. Once again, my name is Liston, and I hope you have a fantastic day. Bye.

PodcastListon Witherill