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Lessons learned: The pitfalls of relying on email proposals

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Tom Jennings

 

We’ve all had our share of the “I’ll-be-back” type of customer. One thing we know for sure is that time was wasted during the presentation phase in the showroom. Question is, did the salesperson waste the customer’s time by being uninformed or unprepared? Or, did the customer waste the salesperson’s time by being something less than forthcoming with her wishes and budget constraints? Regardless of who was to blame, both the salesperson and their employer lose.

Today’s floor covering sales- person has a modern-day form of the “I’ll-be-back” response; it’s called an email proposal. Are you one of those sellers who graciously agree to email your prospect the proposal? You know the scenario: Your prospect wants to “think about it” and will call you in a few days. As time passes, however, you can’t seem to get him or her on the phone to discuss the proposal. There the opportunity languishes, lingering in your pending file while you try to figure out the best way to re-establish communication.

Don’t get me wrong: It is perfectly fine to email proposals to established customers who already have a relationship with you. Oftentimes they will accept your call and discuss their thoughts willingly. But with cold prospects, it is a shot in the dark whether you will hear from them again. Emails are the electronic “be back” of today. So although you want to be accommodating with a new prospect, I feel this is a time to push back.

Look at presenting proposals as another opportunity for you to get in front of new prospects and continue building their trust in both you and your offerings. If at all possible, you need to be there in person to review the needs discussed, present your solutions to address these needs, point out the financial details, answer any questions or objections that may arise, etc.

Without this personal conversation, you have no way of knowing if they’ll remember your previous discussions or jump to incorrect conclusions. When your prospect requests that you “just email me your proposal,” push back. Say something to the effect of: “Mrs. Smith, I believe it would be in both of our best interests if you will allow me a few minutes to walk you through the proposal. We’ve discussed a number of different products and their applications. I want to be sure we both fully understand each other’s thoughts so any questions you may have can be resolved before any work commences rather than afterwards. Let’s go ahead and find a time that will work on your calendar to get this accomplished.”

Let me clarify what I mean by “presenting the proposal in person.” You don’t actually have to be on site with the prospect if time or distance is an issue. What’s critical is that you review it together, voice-to-voice. If you aren’t going to be on site, email the proposal 10-15 minutes before the meeting. This will allow enough time for the prospect to review your proposal, but not enough to “shop it around.”

Adopting this strategy will allow you to continue to build trust in a prospect’s eyes. She will see you as being interested in her as a person rather than just a client. At the meeting’s conclusion, you can either close the sale or determine the next appropriate steps to be taken.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.