Types of Sales Proposals
Selling to consumers often depends on some level of emotion in the decision process. Selling to businesses usually does not; it depends more on facts and logic. If you are selling to a business, industry, or government — especially large-ticket products and services — you may spend at least some of your time developing written sales proposals.
So what are sales proposals, what do they do, and how can you make yours effective? Before answering that question, following is an introduction to proposals and how they are used in selling to businesses and governments.
The more expensive the products and services you sell, and the more complex the buying decision, the more that you will need to develop sales proposals.
Will I have to write my own sales proposals?
You may, but most sales positions that require proposals also have guidelines and tools or even support staff to help develop effective sales proposals. Some tools include Intravasion (
In some large businesses and governmental offices, buying is called
In some sales situations, you will offer written proposals to buyers that summarize and support whatever you're proposing that your prospects buy. For example, a radio or newspaper advertising salesperson may develop a written proposal for a retail store, showing the benefits and costs of an annual promotions plan. The proposal is often a component of the sales presentation and includes specifics developed in a prior interview with the buyer. The sales call (see Chapter 14) will present and review the written proposal, which may then be left for further consideration by other decision makers.
Guidelines or tools for writing sales proposals may come from your employer. If not, or as a supplement, planning and writing a sales proposal is covered later in this chapter.
In many cases, buyers will request purchasing information in the form of a proposal. For example, a construction company may request information on reinforced concrete products for use in a new structure it is building. The builder will summarize the need, including building plans, and then contact concrete suppliers and subcontractors for suggestions and further information.
A request for information (RFI) often is the first step in the selling process for some types of businesses. This is especially true when the business hasn't yet decided how to solve the problem. They want more information on the various solutions before selecting the best one. Often, you will follow up on an RFI with a written report, sometimes called a white sheet, and deliver it with an oral introduction that explains why your employer is the most qualified to develop a purchasing proposal.
If the prospect knows what it wants to purchase, a request for Quotation (RFQ) is issued to companies that offer the product or service. An RFQ typically has more specifics than an RFI. It may include dimensions, weights, units, and other requirements that allow the buyer to more easily compare your proposal with that of another supplier.
A request for proposal (RFP) is one step up in complexity from other types of proposal. For governments and large business entities, an RFP can be many pages or even volumes of technical data, cost and delivery limitations, and other information. An RFP is an invitation to suppliers to bid on specific requirements.
RFPs offer advantages to both buyers and sellers. Buyers are able to standardize the requirements of what they need and make purchasing comparisons based primarily on pricing. Sellers are able to bid on specific products or services that the buyer believes offer a solution to an identified problem.
RFPs are distributed in many ways. Smaller buyers may distribute an RFP document to a few preferred vendors or sellers. Larger projects and those involving city, state, federal, and other governmental bodies may be required to be published in specialized publications or online sites where vendors can see them. Some wholesale and retail chains will submit either to a small group or publish requirements depending on the size of the purchase. The deadline for delivery of the required products or services can dictate what method is used. An RFP for major road construction, for example, can have a proposal deadline of a year or more and a work deadline of three to ten years, depending on the project. Purchasing an earthmover for the project may be made with a thirty-day RFP.