Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – 2. Don't Feature Dump

In the first installment of my series "Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal", I outlined the importance of focusing your proposal directly on your customer's goals and concerns, rather than on your company's accomplishments and background. 

The second step to writing a sales proposal that will increase your capture rate is to avoid "feature dump". In this installment, we'll detail exactly what that means and how to best present your strengths. 

 

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal

 

STEP TWO: DON'T FEATURE DUMP

It slices. It dices. It mowes your lawn. It washes your car. It even changes diapers!

In my experience, "feature dumping" is the achille's heel of so many salespeople. From day-one on the job, salespeople are taught the in's and out's of their products with such a fervor, it becomes easy to believe that specs are what customers want to hear.

The harsh reality is that SPECS DON'T SELL. While it may be fascinating that your {INSERT PRODUCT HERE} does {INSERT SPEC HERE}, the truth is no one buys because your {PRODUCT} does {THAT}. 

Take that long list of bullet points and trash it.

Instead, focus on BENEFITS. How does you're product fill the need that your customer has? How does buying your product enrich their business or enhance their experience?

If you watch an infomercial, you'll immediately understand the difference between features and benefits and how to emphasize the latter.

Perhaps you are familiar with the the Showtime Rotisserie Oven from Ronco. Pitched as a simple oven for experienced or novice cooks, Ron Popeil takes only a moment to explain that the oven has many programmaned time and temperature settings for different foods, but focuses his presentation on the benefits – you can cook many foods easily, you save time in cleaning and you can "set it and forget it!" – just walk away knowing that the oven will cook your food properly. You get a delicious meal and you also get free time. Set it and forget it!

By emphasizing the explicit benefit of your products for your customer, you demonstrate that you understand your clients needs. In focusing on how your solution benefits the client, you differentiate yourself from 99.9% of your competition who only knows how to feature dump.

By presenting your offering as a solution to their pressing business need, you create worth in your product. And worth, my friends, is a psychological and emotional need for buyers.

Remember it's never the number of "settings", it's "set it and forget it" that truly sells. 

 

 

While this one tip is going to make you stand out from the pack, be sure to check out the rest of the tips in this series on Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal!

 

1. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

2. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – DON'T FEATURE DUMP

 

 

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – 1. FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

Not a week goes by that I don't receive an unsolicited, impersonal pitches promising to help draft better sales proposals. I'm sure you've seen them. They all seem to start like this:

This class will….

This speaker will….

This "award-winning" training will….

Blah, blah, blah.

Isn't it ironic that these mass mailings – full of cookie-cutter "solutions" that aren't targeted to your specific needs – are going to "improve" your presentation to your customers?

The obvious truth is writing sales proposals is a direct extension of the sales process

With that in mind, here is the first of six steps I recommend to write a more effective sales proposal:

Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal

 

STEP ONE: FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

Like you, your customers are tasked to be more efficient. Your customers are handling more projects and have less time to accomplish them than at any time in their careers. And with procurement under the microscope at most US companies, some customers may even feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of purchasing.With that in mind, you must make certain that your proposal is about them.

Buyers are more concerned with how you can best meet their needs than how wonderful your company may be. After all, they have probably Google'd your company already, right?

Instead of detailing your company's mission statement and history, skip ahead and focus on the expressed and unexpressed needs that your probing skills have uncovered. Use this knowledge liberally throughout your proposal as you present the benefits of your solution. Are there gaps in your notes? Get back in touch with your customer and fill in all the blanks so that you can write an awesome sales proposal. 

This one step will differentiate you from approximately 80% of your competition. While they are spending paragraphs and pages on themselves, you'll be focusing just on your customer. And, honestly, wouldn't you rather buy from someone who is completely focused on you? 

 

While this one tip is going to make you stand out from the pack, be sure to check out the rest of the tips in this series on Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal!

1. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – FOCUS ON YOUR CUSTOMER

2. Six Steps to a More Effective Sales Proposal – DON'T FEATURE DUMP

Tipping Guidelines: How much to tip

Have you ever wondered if you should tip a service worker or how much is an appropriate tip? You're not alone. Ask a group of ten friends what an appropriate tip would be for service and you'll likely get ten different answers. 

Especially when traveling, there are many situations when tipping comes into question. It is most important to remember that while tipping is meant to be a sign of appreciation for a particular service, it should first and foremost be accompanied by respectful treatment.

 

– Tip if someone serves you personally.

– Tips go up according to circumstance, such as a delivery in bad weather, or if a customer sits for a long time at a table, preventing a server from seating another diner and getting a second tip.

– A tip may be warranted in what's normally a no-tip situation if a job is extra tough and done well, such as a snowplower who has carefully cleared a long, steep, curvy driveway.

– If you don't want a service, don't be afraid to say so: "Thanks, I'll get my own bag."

– If you do use a service, tip.

– It's OK not to tip if tips aren't a large part of a person's earnings; coming back is tip enough.

– Traditionally, business owners aren't tipped, but it's OK to offer a tip if they wait on you personally; they can refuse. Small gifts are an alternative.

– If you are unsure whether to tip, speak up; it's OK to ask what's customary.

 

As for how much to tip, I use the following industry guidelines in determining how much to tip:

Taxi drivers: 10 percent to 15 percent

Beauty professionals: 15 percent to 20 percent

Restaurant servers: 15 percent for good service, 20 percent for great service, 10 percent for poor service

Pizza deliverers: $2 a pie is generous

Concierge: $5 for special service

Valet: $2 when you pick up a car, more if extra services are requested

Room-service waiter: 15 percent of the bill

Bartender: 15 percent of the tab, no less than $1

Sommelier: 15 percent of the cost of a recommended bottle

Housekeeping: $2 to $5 per night. Leave the tip on the pillow, in a labeled envelope or at the front desk. It's important to indicate that the money left is a tip, as housekeepers are often trained not to accept anything not specifically indicated as a gratuity. 

Hotel Bellman: $1 per bag, no less than $2

Spa technician: 15 to 20 percent

You don't have to tip in a free shuttle, but tip the driver $1 per bag if he or she helps you with your luggage.

 

Finally, always treat servers and staff with respect. A tip, even a generous tip, is never an excuse to disrespect someone or to treat them dismissively. Showing kindness to servers is just as important as adding a gratuity.

 

 

 

 

5 Simple Ways to Get the Most out of LinkedIn

At last count, more than 100 million professionals have registered on LinkedIn, but a much smaller number use the career networking site regularly. For many, LinkedIn is simply a place to summarize their resume online, but the reaility is that the site can be a substantial resource for expanding both your business and your career. 

5 Simple Ways to Get the Most out of LinkedIn

1. Monitor LinkedIn's "Signal" feature to glean market and industry insights. 

One of the new-ish features introduced by LinkedIn is "Signal", which allows you to filter and expand your "wall" beyond just the updates from your immediate connections. For example, you can easily drill down to find updates and posts by the greater LinkedIn community (2nd and 3rd+ connections), filter by geography or industry, or focus on specific companies. This is a great tool to see what your customers are saying about their own companies or industries. 

2. Use LinkedIn Apps and Groups to establish yourself as an expert.  

Becoming an expert in your field can be extremely lucrative and LinkedIn is a great way to establish your credibility. Not only can you post documents, white papers, or presentations to your own profile, but you can also use LinkedIn Apps to integrate your reading lists or blog posts directly into your online profile. Another great way to demostrate your expertise is by applying your experience and insights in one of the many LinkedIn Groups. 

3. Download your Connections to your Address Book. 

Being able to connect to industry professionals and peers is one of the most significant benefits to using LinkedIn, but did you know that you can export the contact information for the people in your network? Simply click the Export Connections link at the bottom of your Connections page to download your entire network into Outlook or any popular contact manager. 

4. Quickly find customers and connections using saved searches. 

One frequent criticism of LinkedIn is that there isn't a good workflow for many users to quickly find quality connections. While I think LinkedIn has a great recommendation engine in the People You May Know menu, you can also save up to three advanced searches as a free member. This is a great way to target your current and potential customers, as well as peers in your industry, for future connections. 

5. Make yourself easy to find on LinkedIn. 

It may sound basic, but you will not gain many beneficial connections if users can't find you profile. Verify your settings within LinkedIn to ensure that your profile is displayed in user searches. While your at it, you can customize your LinkedIn page link to promote your personal or professional brand and enhance your LinkedIn profile page to better connect with your customers and peers. 

For more great ways to get more out of LinkedIn, read 10 Mistakes People Make on LinkedIn and visit this post on LinkedIntelligence