Creating Killing Proposals In The Digital Era31 Dec, 1969 By: Jeff Smith imageSource
Creating Killing Proposals In The Digital Era
proposals isn’t what it used to be. Customers are smarter than ever, and very
discriminating when it comes to document preparation. Many corporations now have
professional in-house document creators responsible for the writing and design
of training/technical manuals, marketing materials, in-house newsletters, and
the like. Coupled with ever-more sophisticated document output solutions and
very-low-cost, easy-to-use software, now almost anyone can be a “desktop
publishing” expert. Consequently, those same consumers don’t have much
patience for a copier dealer salesperson who puts together a poorly conceived or
written proposal. On the other hand, a well-written proposal can set you further
apart from your competition and greatly increase your chances for a contract
we’re able to make a formal presentation along with the submittal of the
proposal document, sometimes not. If you find yourself in the unfortunate
position of having to rely mainly, or even solely, on a proposal document to do
your selling, the preparation of the documents takes on an even added
importance. No matter what, creating an impactful proposal is still in many
situations the critical step in the sales process. This article will highlight
some basic and more advanced tips for creating proposals in the digital copier
For Creating Connected Digital Copier Proposals
start with the basics of what a “proposal” is and what it isn’t. A
proposal is a customized document providing a brief overview of the products and
services that your dealership will be providing to a given organization. It
is not just a price quote with a list of equipment. One of our pet peeves is the
number of salespeople and managers we find out there using the wrong
nomenclature—the terms “proposal” and “RFP” are oftentimes (and
mistakenly) substituted for one another.
bottom line rule always is to list and describe those things that set your
company or products apart from the competition, without bashing your rivals by
name. Ideally, a proposal should consist of these elements:
professional cover page using both your logo and the prospect’s.
full-color brochure on your company (or other company backgrounder).
pricing page showing all models and accessories included (make sure to list
an expiration date for the listed pricing).
description of your company’s installation plan and schedule for this
description of the training that will be provided, both to key operators as
well as network administrative personnel.
clear delineation of where your service responsibilities end (we recommend
the network connection on the controller or NIC unless you are also
proposing network support services) and where the prospect’s begins.
as to whether the customer will be responsible for help desk support for
connected products or whether your company will take that role on (we think
it’s a natural evolution of the IT department’s printer responsibilities
to provide these services).
response time and uptime guarantees (if any) that your company is willing to
offer this potential customer.
prospect’s questions and/or requirements (if any) clearly responded to .
deviations from those requirements (if any) clearly listed.
A copy of the lease, rental and/or
service agreements that the prospect will need to sign (these should be
filled out and ready for endorsement).
concise as possible (5-10 pages for down-the-street accounts up to a maximum
of 25 pages for the largest national or local major accounts). Many times we
are shocked in reviewing proposals that are one page long, or worse yet, 84
spent putting proposals together is not time wasted. Allow your reps to spend a
few hours for smaller accounts, up to a few days for local major accounts. We
are amazed at how often we review shoddy, poorly-conceived proposals, even for
large national accounts!
large bidding scenarios (50 units or more), where an RFP (Request For Proposal)
may have been issued to you, be very careful to follow the response format the
customer has laid out. There is nothing more frustrating for a purchasing
director than to spend weeks preparing an RFP only to have dealer proposals
ignore the formatting request. By ignoring what the customer has requested, you
are implying that either (a) you didn’t read what they asked for or (b)
they aren’t correct in what they are asking for. If you believe the
specifications were written to favor a competitor, be up-front and state so
down-the-street selling situations, where one or a handful of digital units are
being proposed, obviously you won’t want your reps to spend more than a few
hours creating the proposal, but quality is still important. Both BLI and BERTL
provide time-saving electronic tools to shorten proposal-creation time as it
relates to equipment comparisons. Electronic proposal creation formats are
available off-the-shelf and from most equipment manufacturer web sites to
Your Digital Products And Services
are far beyond the time in our industry where “speeds and feeds” are the
only items that buyers are comparing. Unfortunately, however, many of the key
aspects of digital connected units involve user and network administrator
interactions, and are hard to quantify. That fact, however, belies the reality
that there are still HUGE differences in the ways various brands and models
interact with both the client and the network. Perhaps in a few years, those
differences will disappear (by then there will be other differentiators and it
will be time to re-do this article) but, as always, we need to take maximum
advantage of what we can NOW!
whatever reason, many of the proposals we evaluate on behalf of our clients fail
to mention several key elements of the connected equipment being offered. Be
sure to highlight and briefly describe these competitive advantages of your
are some phrased questions in each area that you should be sure to answer:
driver—can the various black-and-white or color units you are
proposing be controlled at the desktop with the same driver? How many tabs
or screen layers do users have to click through to get to the
machine-specific features (i.e., saddle-stitching, hole punching, duplexing)?
user interface—do all the Segment 2 through 5 units you are proposing
share a similar touch-screen control panel interface?
because the unit you are proposing is multifunctional doesn’t mean that it
can multitask efficiently. Can your unit accept walk-up copy jobs when in
the middle of producing a printing task? If so, how many jobs can be
setup—is a graphical interface used? Even experienced network
administrators prefer a graphical look versus straight text
your proposal includes network scanning, make certain to allay the fears of
the IT manager that hard drives might fill up and end up crashing. What is
the time element for automatic deletion of scanned documents?
recognition—does the driver automatically recognize the new
configuration as various accessories are added? Are these accessories
updated automatically on the driver at each workstation?
The Customer’s Requirements
would be a wonderful world for all if we could design the customer’s
requirements to suit our product line, but that is rarely reality. A smart
purchasing director will always want to design the equipment specifications,
both to encourage fair and open competition and to protect him- or herself. From
time to time, however, dealers will be asked for examples of RFPs submitted by
other organizations, so be sure to keep clean copies of all RFPs received
(particularly those you end up winning!).
find very few competitors talking about the items listed here (unless or until
they, too, have read this article!). Set yourself apart from the competition
personally, culturally, and digitally and your proposals will do the selling for
you when you can’t be there.
Smith, with over twenty years in the printing & copying business, has
recently formed a new consulting company called Pro Buyers LLC. He was a speaker
at last year's ITEX Show. For more information, visit www.ProBuyersLLC.com or