How to Present Your Proposal and Solution
I'm gonna give you a bunch more content and some ways to think about how your improve your sales. But I want to start with how we present and how we propose the solution when we get to that stage of the process. I'm gonna talk about the commitment to review because that's the critical commitment here. I'm gonna talk about preparing for that meeting and some of the things that you can do wrong when you're preparing for that meeting, and the commitment that your client may ask you to make that you don't want to make. And then we'll talk about how you actually present the solution in a way that's going to help you get somebody to say yes I wanna move forward with you. So lets talk about one of my favorite stories. There was a presidential candidate in the 1992 election named Ross Perot. And no one expected Ross Perot to be there at all. But he was a billionaire and a little bit excentric and he had a lot of energy and he had a lot of charts. So he would show people economic charts and he'...
d get all fired up. And he was an interesting guy. And the more I read about him the more I found one thing really interesting about him that had nothing to do with politics. It was his business EDS, which he built from the ground up and how he dealt with solutions. And what Ross Perot would do, and I have no way of validating that any of this is true, I just read it so somebody could be making it up, but I think it's true. Is he would have a complex solution and he would come in and get a group of stakeholders in a room together and he would hand out a copy of the proposal that he was working on with them to every single person there. And he'd give them red pens and yellow highlighters. And he would say "we did the very best job we could do here, "I think we've got it right, "but we're gonna need your feedback "to make sure that we get this exactly "right for you, so take the red pen "and write down anything where we're wrong, "highlight it if it needs to be changed, "and then what we'll do is we'll take this back "we'll look at it together, "and we'll come back when we have it exactly right." And so they would sit down and have this big conversation about the solution. People would say I'm not sure about this, what about that, and they'd continue to develop the solution together. And he would go around and collect all of the proposals at the end. Pick up the pens and the markers, and he would leave and he'd come back and say "It think we're a lot closer this time, "but I'm not 100% sure, so what I wanna do "is I wanna go through this process again" until somebody would finally say Ross, it's perfect exactly how it is, can't we just buy it? And he would say absolutely. And then they're done. And I thought what a genius move. So instead of just handing off the final presentation, why wouldn't you check and make sure it's exactly right? So instead of giving somebody something that they can say no to, they look at it and say it's not exactly right I'll say no. Make sure that they know it's exactly right before you ever even ask them to review the solution. So you're getting a second bite at the apple or in Ross's case, I think maybe a third or fourth bite at the apple. You don't have to hand it off. There's this custom where we do discovery, we hand it off, and then we just cede control to the client, say tell us what you think, if it's right you can buy and if it's not you can say no. But that's not a great process. The process includes this conversation where we go back over it and say is it exactly right? If we wanted to make it exactly right, what would we have to do? And this gives you a chance to modify what you're doing. Especially in a B to B sale, where other people are gonna say I thought that was right, but now that we've had these conversations, I'm not sure this is the right answer. We maybe should do something different here. Let's change it before they say no. This is the Commitment to Review. And you need to do this before you present. The way that you ask for this commitment is pretty easy. You are gonna get push back, tho. And when you say something like what I'd like to do is share this with you. I wanna make sure it's exactly right and we'll have a chance to modify anything. And you're gonna hear, you know what, I'm sure it's fine, we've already talked about this, don't worry about it, just go ahead and email it to me. You've heard that one, right? How does that story end? It ends up with you like this, like I'm chasing you, come back, where'd you go, why won't you return my voicemail? And cause they look at it, they're like it's not right, and then they just go dark, that's what happens. So you're gonna have to push back a little bit and say listen, if it's all the same to you, it'll really only take us 15 minutes, but I really wanna make sure that it's exactly right and that it's something that you can say yes to and that if you have some concern, that we have a chance to resolve it for you and we get to make a change here. That's what you're trying to get done at this part of the process. You're always gonna be asked to do it in a more transactional way. People are gonna say email it to me. But I will tell you, when you email it, you lose control of the process. Now they have your pricing, they have your proposal, they can engage with you again if they want to, or not, you've now given them everything they need to make the decision, except for your insight and your ideas and your wisdom as it pertains to what might change and what concerns they have. So your job is to try to control the process. This doesn't mean control the outcome. When I say that, I'm not saying be smarmy and give anybody the hard sell or high pressure, you don't need to do any of those things. But it does mean you need to do what's necessary to execute and do the best work you can for people. And that means we need to go back and review. I'm gonna tell you about Preparing for the Meeting. When you have this meeting, you need to be in control of it and you need to make sure you have the assets to have this conversation with people. One of my favorite experiences I've had where this went horribly wrong and I got to be there for it, was I went on a client visit with some friends in Chicago, and they asked me to help them on this client visit. And they were gonna do this demo, they had a software that they were gonna demo. And I said do you have a hotspot in case their wifi doesn't work? And they said that's ridiculous, this is a $2 billion company, they have wifi that works. And I said yeah but what if they don't? And they said they will, there's nothing to worry about. And I said okay. And I said do you have the deck printed out so you can give it to people if they ask for it. They're not gonna ask for the deck. And I said, well, they are, but okay. And I said are you prepared for this? And they said yeah, yeah, we're just gonna log on to our system and see what happens. And we opened the door to go into the conference room, the board room that we were meeting in. And the IT department was there trying to get the wifi turned back on. And they're like oh my god. And I said don't worry, we have a hot spot. And we have a printed copy, should anything else happen. And the hot spot worked perfectly for them. But they weren't prepared. And so you have to make sure that whatever happens in this conversation, you need to be able to give somebody what they need. And if you're gonna do this over the phone, and some of you are gonna email presentations and proposals, I know that. But you wanna email it right before they open it up, and you wanna be on the phone with them so you have control of the process and you can walk them through. Otherwise, what are they gonna do? I'm asking this rhetorically, because you know, right? They're gonna flip to the end, and say lets look at the price here. They're gonna skip the part of all the value that you're creating, and go right to the price. Because that's what they do. You have to walk them through and review the value, make sure it's correct, make sure the solutions correct, and make sure that somebody can buy into this before you let go of it. This is the Commitment to Review and why it's critical. You can't miss this step, even tho your client, and you may say I wanna serve them and they say that email serves them the best. That's not true. Email allows them to transact, and it says there's no burden on them to engage in this conversation. You're not making it easier for them to get what they want. You're making it harder. So you've gotta be able to have this conversation. Now, I wanna tell you about your slide decks. If you have a slide deck, I already probably hate it. And it's because I know what the first eight slides are. And those first eight slides say everything is about us, nothing is about you. Because the first slide is here's how long we've been in business, and here's the awards we've won. So who's that about? This is a terrible first date, right? Enough about you, let me tell you about me. Then after that, we're gonna get in to our footprint, where are our offices located, how big are we, how much scale do we have to serve a company like yours. And then we're gonna get into all the logos that we've won because people are always impressed when you tell them the customers that you've won. They're like oh, okay, I get it. It's about you still, right? And then we're gonna get into your board members and your investors and all this other stuff. It's all trying to prove credibility. It's all trying to say I'm credible and you should buy from me. And that's what we're always trying to do when we show people things like this. Let me tell you how long we've been in business. Because you've been in business for a long time, you're a good company, right? And so you wanna lean on the company instead of you and your insight and what you did when you did discovery. And when you start talking about your board members, you hope that's impressive and you go we've got Mark Zuckerberg on our board. Okay great, what's Zuckerberg gonna to do help me, nothing, right, I don't know, does it mean anything to me? So there's all these things that we distract ourselves with when really what we start with, you can skip those eight slides completely, in fact I would take them out of your deck and move them to the end. So when somebody says tell me a little bit more about you, which isn't gonna happen very frequently, you'll have those slides, but you don't need them. Instead you're gonna start with what's the current state? You start right there with what is the current state? Right now this is what you're doing, these are the challenges that you're experiencing, this is the way that your world is changing, these are the kind of questions that you're gonna need to answer to do that, and this is the starting point for the conversation that we've been having. What is your current state? That's the most important part of the conversation. And it immediately gives you credibility. More credibility than you gain with your eight slides about your company. Because it says this person understands what our problems are, they have ideas about how we're gonna do something different and they understand what's going on here. That gives you credibility, you paid attention, you listened, you captured the current state, and then you've given it back to them. And when you do this, what happens is you're gonna go through all of the things that you heard while you were on that call, or those calls that you had in discovery and they're gonna go you totally get us. You totally understand where we are. You know exactly what we need, I get it. They're gonna feel connected to you because you listened and you paid attention and basically you gave them back a lot of what they told you was important to them. That's the starting point. Why are they struggling to produce they result they want? How do they have to change, we get to that. But first you have to set it up by saying this is where you are in the world. For example, lets say somebody's struggling to produce sales. In that world, you're gonna talk about is it the process, is it your approach, is it the strategy right now, are you under competitive pressure. You're gonna list out all those forces that are causing somebody to struggle in that area. If you're a wedding photographer, I keep using that as my example here, cause we're at Creative Life, and I know there's a lot of photography classes cause I have a daughter who's gonna be a commercial photographer, and she's gonna watch all the creatives lives when I'm done here too, I promise. But when you say I understand that this is a once in a lifetime event, you're having this in Hawaii, you're bringing in a very small group of friends, this video that we're gonna do that tells this story is gonna be the centerpiece of everything that we do together. This experience that you're trying to create in Hawaii we need to make sure that it looks like this. And they say that's exactly what I want. They have to know that you understand the current state and what they want from that. After that, you can get to the Future State. But not before that. One of the mistakes that we tend to make in these situations, is we go right to the end and we go to the future state. Here's what the solution looks like, here's what the result is. And the problem is is you miss the compelling reasons they should change and you wanna go back and reiterate that. Why should I change now? Why do I have to change now? Why can't I keep doing what I'm doing? So that current state reinforces that. And then when we look at this future state, what we're gonna be looking at is what is the end result? What does that end result look like? I've got a slide that I'll go forward to so I can go backwards, cause I just wanna share this with you. People don't wanna buy drills, they wanna buy holes. They're not trying to buy anything from you. They're trying to get an outcome that they're not getting right now. So this is the part where we start laying out those outcomes. And we say to produce better sales results we're gonna need to create more leads at a faster pace. We're gonna need to create more opportunities inside our dream client accounts. We're gonna have to have a speed to result that we're gonna get by applying more effort and energy into the top part of the funnel and here's some of the ways we might think about that. But that future state is you now live in a world where you're creating these opportunities, you're now living in a world where you've got speed to market and you're actually creating the opportunities through prospecting and nurturing relationships to get those results that you want. That's the future state that they're trying to get to. If you're in a commercial world, you're in photography, videography, something like that, the world that you're playing is you're gonna have a modern website, you're gonna have the assets that allow your brand to speak to the people that show up here. You're gonna be able to convert visitors at a higher rate because of these assets that we're now producing. That's what you're gonna show them as a future state so you go current state and then future state. Always in that order. You don't wanna do future state first, you wanna remind them of here's why you're changing and here's what you get. Those are the biggest things. Then from there, we're gonna move forward. To how do we get there. This is where you get to start talking about your solution. This is the part where you get to say here's how we're going to do it. We're gonna apply this product, this service offering, we're gonna create this solution, we're gonna tailor it for you the ways that we've been talking about, we're gonna take all the insights that we gathered from your team and we're gonna produce this kind of an approach. And that's what's going to allow us to do that. So it's this program, it's this new design if you're in a creative world or whatever that is. It's this approach. And this is where you start to differentiate and distinguish yourself in some ways when you're in front of the client. Current state's true, future state's true, what's your approach to this gonna be? And now we start to deal with something that we're gonna cover through most of the rest of this. We've moved on from why change, we covered that, why change now, we covered that, now we're why us. Why should I choose you. And this is the part where your approach and your solution makes the biggest difference. This approach is different than that approach. We would do it this way, somebody else would do it another way. We'll talk about differentiation. But this is where you get to start to peel that apart and say I'm gonna give you something to look at here that's gonna be different than others. And it's gonna produce a better result and this is why. Current state, future state, solution. How are we gonna get there. And then after that we have to talk about money. You gotta show them the money. But you don't wanna show them the investment until you've had this conversation to remind them of the value. So when you send something by email and you lose control of the process, they go right to the price and they forget about all the value. They look at it and they forget all the compelling reasons that they were doing this and what they really want, and they go wow that's a lot of money. But is it more money than they're wasting because they don't have a solution, yes. They're spending more than we probably, than they would have to spend to get the result that they want. If we're smart and if we can show them that. You can't be better, faster, and cheaper. That was the point of me showing you the strategy. You can't be better, faster, and cheaper, you have to pick. And if you're here, and you're B to B, I would tell you, if you want compelling differentiated value, you're gonna have a higher price. That comes with the territory. And you have a choice on how you feel about that. Some people think wouldn't it be easier if our price was lower? And especially people new to sales, they say something like, it would be great if we had the very best product on Earth and the lowest price. That's true, it would be great. But that is not gonna happen for you. Because delivering the very best means we have a greater investment, not a lesser investment. So people have to pick what do they want. Do you want better, you want faster, if you want better and faster then the investment goes up. They can have anything they want as long as they're willing to pay for it, right? That's typically how things work. So you're not gonna be able to give them that. And I'll tell you what my hedge is. And this is a hedge I learned a long time ago, that will serve you well if you think about how to do this with clients. Too hot, too cold, just right. So you just go Goldilocks. Like look, let me show you, let me show you too hot. This is like if we gave you every single offering we could and we're gonna get you the massive outcome, let me show you what that looks like. That's too hot. But I'm gonna show them that, because about 25% of people when they see it go I gotta have that. I gotta have it. I don't understand why my mercedes dealer doesn't know this. I'm in an E350 and I'm like, I'm getting service and I'm like why do you put me in another E350, you should put me in the S550. And they're like yeah but we don't do that. I'm like yeah you're stupid. Cause if I was in it, I would have to buy it. But you won't give me that experience. You also, then, show them too cold. Too cold is a hedge against that's way too much, I don't know that we can do that right now, I know we can't tackle it, or a lower price competitor comes in. So then you have this hedge where you can say listen, you can still get a great thing from us, even if it's better, I would do this before I would go to an alternative and here's why. So now I got a hedge against that. But most people would like to be right in the middle. They're like that's too much, that's too little, we're a right in the middle kind of company, or I'm a right in the middle kind of person, so I'll take this just right right in the center. So you show them all three, and then they have choices. I get questions a lot about this about well what if they would really be okay with the lowest offer? That's not for you to decide. They might be okay, but they might want something better. And if they want something better, you're job is to give them what they really want. Even if they could make do with something less than that. If they say this is really important to us and we'd like to have it, and you go well you could get by with less, you're depriving them of having something more. And especially if you're B to C. If you're B to C, I have a client and they do travel bookings. They're called Travel Counselors out of the UK. And when they show people too hot, people are like that's exactly what we want to do. It's more than we wanna spend but this is a vacation or holiday of a lifetime we wanna spend that money. So you have to show people what's possible for them, so they see. And if they want more, you give them more. That's what your job is. You're job is to serve them and give them what they want. This isn't about upselling or trying to take advantage of someone, it's about showing them what they're choices are and letting them decide, this is what we think serves us the best right now, and then we help them with that. Even if it's too cold. If it's good on one side, it's good on the other, right? If it's too cold, I'm gonna give the too cold and I'm gonna work on moving them up to the level of value I think they need, even if it takes me time to do it. Because that's my relationship, I'm here to serve. And that's how you sell. Don't deprive people of their choices. And don't deprive them of what they really want. Make sure that they get to see it and they know what the range of choices are. And let the make the investment decision based on that with you. This is something that's important from a mindset perspective. Everything that we've talked about today has been mindset, skillset, toolkit because that's the view that I use. Mindset's critically important. You can not believe that your price is you doing something to someone. You can't believe that. And if you're a creator, you really can't believe that. You have to decide what you're worth and get paid for the value you create. You can't believe that you're doing something wrong to another person by having the higher price in your segment. Higher price is a shortcut for greater value. Which is why when you walk on to a Mercedes lot or in to Tiffany's or somewhere like that, you're not negotiating about the price. They know that they have something that's more valuable, that know that it's got greater care, they know that it's a greater product and a greater outcome, so you have to pay that. You can't believe that you're trying to harm somebody with your pricing. You're not. And there's an article from The American Enterprise Institute That I read last week that said the average citizen in the United States believes that the average profit margin for a business is 36% net profit. That's their view. And if you don't know what that means, it's off by a factor of six. It's six times what the actual gross profit, or net profit is for most companies. Wal-Mart's low at 2.1, the average is about 6% net profit, that's the average. But they think it's 36. And most of you would have a profit margin that's in line with 6%, you're not taking advantage of anybody with the 6% profit margin. Unless you're a software company here, and I know you, you've got like a 42% margin because it scales very nicely. And we're jealous. But they tend to have much higher margins, but for most, it's the 6%. Your job is to create massive value. The way that you command that higher price. You don't make selling easier by lowering your price you make it easier by creating greater value. So people actually understand the investment that they're making. And this is how you present. You determine what the current state is. You share your understanding of that. You help people understand that you get it and you know where they are. And then you deal with the future state. Here's what the future looks like for you. And then you show the solution. This is how we get there. And then you share the investment. And if it works for you, you go too hot, too cold, just right. And you show people a range of choices and you let them continue to tailor this decision with you as you review that solution and as you present it, so they get exactly what they want.
I've heard elsewhere that pricing with a client should be iterative which relates to what you're saying somewhat, but more specifically, these other folks were saying start high and then come down and make several moves and so they feel like they're getting something, but at the same time I wanna take a little bit away and bargain with them in that way, so but again, it's an iterative process so how would you stack up the two approaches?
I don't like the approach and I'll tell you why. Because I come to you and I say it's $1 million, and you go that's too much I'm talking to other people. It's $800,000, where did that $200,000 go? Why were you, were you lying before, are you lying now? Now that you've said 800, is it really 600? Cause you were lying before, you came down too much. Even if you went from $1 million to $927,000, I'm like where did that money go? Where did the money go, you took it out, and you did that without any trouble. So I don't like that, I think you should tell people what the price is for what they want. I like the iterative process which is too hot, too cold, just right. But I don't like telling people something that's untrue as a negotiating tool, I would rather just go to them and say I'm gonna share with you what the investment is for the outcomes that we talked about. And when they say that investment's greater than I thought, then I get to say something that sounds like this, I'm happy to go back and we can go back into the discovery phase and talk this through, if the investment is wrong for you, we'll need to change the outcomes, to make sure that the outcomes match the investment that you can afford, even if we can't get to where we are right now. What makes sense for you, does it make sense to invest the money, or does it make sense to go back and re-look at the outcomes that we want? Because if that comes down, something has to come out. And this is my strong, strong, view about what we do in sales that's wrong, and detrimental to our client. We let them under invest. Because they ask for us to drop the price, we actually take money out of their solution. You still end up with a 6% net profit at the end of the year anyway. You're taking money out that you would be investing in taking care of them but you're taking it out. And when you take it out, they get less care, and when they get less care, they decide to start looking elsewhere and then they become dissatisfied and then you get competitively displaced. By somebody's willing to have a conversation about investing the right amount of money to get that outcome, but we're, in our business, in sales, we're guilty of causing this. Because we go out and we tell people I can give you better, faster, and cheaper and they're like perfect. Then I'll fire these people and I'll get better, faster, and cheaper, and then we massively disappoint them when we're not better, faster, and cheaper. So I think that I would be honest and have integrity in the pricing, and then if I take anything out of it, I'm gonna look at the outcomes and then I always have the integrity, when I tell you what the investment is, I'm not negotiating with you, I'm telling you what the investment is for this result. And then we'll talk about negotiation later on because we have a little bit of content right there.
So the question is I'm not really good at math, sorry I'm just not. I'm in sales, I let calculators do that for me. But I often find that talking to VP or sales, they're like what's the net here, we're gonna show you our ROI at the end of the pilot. Okay great, but most of the time, I find I struggle and maybe its just confidence on, okay so your current state is that you're team is not prosping enough which is then losing pipeline, which is then your average deal size is this, trying to take them through that formula, I always find that I kind of trip around it, or don't even bother going there, but I think it would be impactful to talk about that in the discovery. When we come to this commitment of change in the current state to the future state and just wanted your thoughts on that.
I'm not sure that you have to be right. I think you have to have something to say. And I think you have experience that allows you to say something. In companies like yours, the improvement we've seen has related to this, and they quantified it as that. I think that's as far as you need to go. We did this for 12 reps inside their company, they had an increase of $3 million in new opportunities. They won x number of these in the ROI on this was it was six times what they spent for my product.
Okay that makes sense.
As long as you're directionally right, and then you can say because you have more people, I don't think it's a one to one, but I would tell you that if this got them an ROI of six times what they spent, I think it's gonna be about that for you, plus or minus, so my guess is this is probably worth $1 million year one for you and maybe more than that year two after you've had some time to start developing it. And what you'll find invariably when you do this and you start having this conversation, you'll wanna be super conservative, and so you'll say, like I think it's a million but I'm gonna go, I think it's like $640,000, and then they're like we think it's probably closer to $1.2 million. And then you go okay we'll go with your number. We like you're number a lot better. And then how do we get there? And I don't think you should ever try to mislead anybody about what it is, but you do have an experience that says in this industry with this number of reps, they tend to get this outcome, and we think that you're looking at something that looks like that. I don't think you have to have any kind of precision around it. And I don't think you commit to it. You say it's probably a range. It's gonna be between here and here. All of it's gonna be an improvement over what you're doing now. And you're close enough. I don't think you have to get any better than that.