The customer desire is focal point of the proposal. How do you discover their needs?

Your immediate response might be to just ask the customer about their desires, and you’re right. This is indeed the right approach. However, before posing such a question it is necessary to do some groundwork to prepare yourself for an interview.

First start with a thorough preparation

and immerse yourself in your customer. Make sure to research the following:

Don’t only look at the website, but also check their various online (social) platforms to get more information about the company.

Giving this advice might seem unnecessary. A good salesperson always does this beforehand, right? Unfortunately no. We frequently encounter salespeople who know nothing about the company. Sometimes, they even ask, “What exactly do you do?” or they propose solutions that have no relevance to the operations of the company. These are always very brief conversations. Either let them just finish their coffee and conclude the meeting or thank them for the effort and end the phone call.

After you gathered information about the customer, dive into their market. Internet can assist you in this. Discover who the major competitors are, and what market developments can be uncovered. Check beforehand if you’ve ever submitted proposals to companies in this market before. What was going on in that market and can it help you with this proposal?

With all this groundwork, you’ve acquired valuable knowledge about the customer and their market. However, avoid drawing conclusions. Resist determining the customers wishes and problems yourself and tailoring your sales pitch accordingly. The likelihood of being wrong is significant, which negatively impacts the conversation. If you jump to conclusions too soon, you’ll only hear what aligns with your pre-established notions, , ignoring other, possibly more crucial signals. Because that’s how our brains work. So, prepare, but enter the conversation with an open mind.

Incorporate the groundwork into the sales pitch

Make sure you demonstrate your preparations during the sales pitch. By sharing your knowledge about the customer and the developments in their market you show that you made an effort. The customer appreciates the effort you’ve put in, establishing a favourable impression. More importantly, the customer will most likely provide you with additional information. By being a good conversational partner, you trigger the reciprocity principle (Cialdini’s principle of reciprocity).

In the sales pitch, subtly inquire about the customer’s wishes and issues. Don’t be too direct, especially at the beginning of the sales conversation. . In sales training, you learn the standard question:

“What keeps you up at night?” If you ask this question too soon, you won’t get a good answer. Why? Because a meaningful response requires trust. Building that trust can happen quickly or can take more time time depending on the individuals involved. A skilled salesperson can sense this and can adjust the conversation and timing accordingly.

A clear need

The customer may already have a solution in mind for their need, which they then present as a customer desire. For example: “We need security software. What we have now is outdated, and the risk of hacking is increasing.” A clear need, right? As a security company, you can address this in your proposal. However, we advise you to go beyond solving the customer’s problem of outdated software. Address the customer’s fear of being hacked. How is the security behaviour of their employees? They pose the most significant security risk. What is the security policy for personal devices? These are questions that add depth to the customer’s need, enabling you to provide a more comprehensive solution than just security software. The customer will appreciate this effort. By offering your solution in a modular fashion, you give the customer the choice of where to begin. you give the customer the choice of where to begin. Tackle everything at once or start with the software. Your chances of securing the order have significantly increased through your approach.

We conclude this blog with an important side note and last advise. We see many sample proposals in our assessment for Winning Proposal. More companies start to understand the importance of understanding the customer and start reflecting that in their proposals. They start with a text about the customer, often copied and pasted from the customer’s homepage. As if the customer would appreciate them opening their website to copy and paste their own text. That’s showing effort without breaking a sweat. Never do this!

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