When to Send a Sales Proposal

Posted on August 4th, 2023 to Uncategorized

The question of when you should send a proposal is not as straightforward as you may think.

In fact, sending it too soon can be the difference between landing the work with the client you’ve always wanted and hearing crickets.

Let me explain.

Imagine you finish a 30-minute Discovery Call with a potential client you’ve been pursuing for months, maybe even years. 

All seemed to go well.

Only you couldn’t touch on all your recommendations, nor did you have the chance to ask some crucial questions. 

Grateful for your time with the busy executive, you spend hours crafting the proposal and hit ‘send,’ excited at what’s to come.

As you wait to hear back, you feel completely powerless over the outcome of the proposal. 

The longer you wait, the more dejected, dismissed and disrespected you feel – which can lead you to lose even more time and second-guess yourself. 

All too often, this scenario plays out for subject-matter experts who’ve been sought out for their expertise. 

And more often than not, sending proposals too soon — or without all the required information — results in missed opportunities and lost deals.

But there is a way to take control of the proposal process, so you can deliver a scope of work that aligns with exactly what the buyer wants and needs.

In this blog post, we’ll explore when you should send a proposal and the power of making your proposals confirmations rather than explorations

This simple shift can dramatically increase your chances of winning more business, larger contracts, and exciting scopes of work. 

Let’s delve into why confirmation proposals are essential, how they benefit you and your clients, and practical steps to implement this transformative approach.

But first, let’s look at a few common situations clients face as they seek to close deals with their ideal clients. 

Case Study #1: Too Much Too Soon

Many years ago, I worked with a client who landed a sales call with a leader at a major airline. 

She was excited to send her proposal and asked me to review it.

As I read it, I saw three major components and said, “Holy smokes! You got through a deep scope of work on a 30-minute discovery call.”

And she said, “Actually, we ran out of time, and I didn’t get to tell her about the last element of the training, so I’m just going to include it in the proposal.”

What might be the executive’s reaction if she were caught off guard by a service (and its price tag) that was never even discussed?

If you guessed “taken aback,” you’re right.

Case Study #2: The Missed Opportunity 

Another client was sought out by a Fortune 500 company to consult on a year-long project.

The busy executive at the company had time for a 30-minute call, so it was scheduled (hey, we take what we can get sometimes). 

From the first moment of the meeting, the potential client took control. 

She expressed how excited she was by my client’s experience (fantastic) and how well-suited my client was for a tiny part of the project (not so fantastic).

Now, my client could have strategized and executed any facet of the program — but the executive was only considering her for a narrow scope. To get the executive to think bigger, my client would have needed to slow the conversation down and ask more probing questions — but, she didn’t. 

Instead, my client (who was understandably flustered) went into a canned spiel about her company, hoping the executive would understand how much more she could offer.

The buyer was bored to tears. And, after sending a proposal with the limited information she had, my client never heard from her again.

With these examples in mind, let’s explore what went wrong.

Premature Proposals: The Risk of Jumping the Gun

In both situations above, my clients’ approach was transactional, which is out of alignment with their purpose and mission. 

As a subject-matter expert who’s qualified to be a partner (vs. a vendor), I’m sure it’s out of alignment with yours, too. 

You started a business to create change and foster transformation — and your sales process needs to be built to match. 

So while signing new business is exciting, thoroughly understanding the client’s pain points and needs is necessary for your proposal to succeed and address their real challenges.

Moreover, spending hours crafting premature proposals is a waste of your limited resources.

If you’re on board, and wondering how to shift from a transactional sales process to a transformational one, I’ve got you. 

You’re going to make your proposal a confirmation

How to Make Your Proposal a Confirmation

Your proposals should be a confirmation of the details you’ve already shared, discussed and finalized with the potential client. 

Anything less isn’t a proposal; it’s a thought starter — and shipping a thought starter puts you at a massive disadvantage for winning the business. 

As Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting, writes:

“A proposal is a SUMMATION, not an EXPLORATION. It is a written statement of the conceptual agreement already gained in prior discussions with the economic buyer. If this conceptual agreement has not been gained, a proposal is little better than a spin of the roulette wheel.”

So, how do you know if you’re sending a thought starter or a confirmation? 

Nothing in the proposal is new information for the potential client, including:

  • Scope elements – what you’re offering
  • Timelines
  • Pricing

But there’s more to sending a confirmation than that. 

Before sending off the final document, you’ve also considered:

  • Client’s Biggest Objections  

Objections, often around budget, are revealed and discussed before the proposal is shipped, leading to far less ghosting and “We’re going in a different direction” responses. 

  • Client Ideas

Get your client’s “fingerprints” on the proposal (more on that below), making them feel invested in getting it over the finish line (everyone likes to feel like it’s their idea). SKIN IN THE GAME!

  • Additional Opportunities

What has the client revealed that could lead to increased scopes of work and budget allocation. IMPACT!

Shifting from sending thought starters to confirmations takes thoughtful planning and, sometimes, a bit of bravery. 

You’ll need to slow down fast-moving buyers, and demonstrate that investing time with you benefits their success.

Now you may be thinking, how do I cover all this in a 30-minute discovery call?!

The simple answer is you can’t.

Enter the fingerprints meeting. 

The Fingerprints Meeting

To have more certainty about the sales process and get the visibility you need to put forth a winning proposal, I recommend scheduling a fingerprints meeting during your discovery call.

The fingerprints meeting is hands-down one of the biggest game-changers I impart to founders selling high-ticket services B2B with complex sales processes.

The term “fingerprints” refers to the idea that the proposal should have the client’s fingerprints all over it, and being actively involved in its creation.

The fingerprints meeting consists of four key elements: 

  1. Recap of what you heard during Discovery
  2. Walk the client through the proposal or an outline
  3. Get the client’s fingerprints on the proposal
  4. Understand the buying process and map out a timeline

First, the meeting starts with a recap of what you heard during Discovery.

You’ll review the insights you gathered during previous conversations with them and check if you understood their needs and expectations. 

It’s essential to ensure that you and the client are on the same page before moving forward with the proposal.

Next, you’ll walk the client through the proposal and discuss the details, such as the scope of work, budget, and how the project will be delivered. 

This is an opportunity to get their feedback or ‘fingerprint’ and make any necessary adjustments to the proposal.

This short but effective meeting gets the client more invested in the proposal and they’re more likely to choose your services over your competitors.

Finally, you conclude the meeting by defining their buying process and mapping a timeline. Discuss the next steps and establish a clear timeline for the buying process. 

Timelines reduce the risk of getting ghosted by the client and ensure you know how and when to follow up.

Now let’s get into the measurable benefits of hosting this meeting.

But wait… that seems like a lot for my client! 

At this point, you may be thinking …

“I’ve been doing proposals like this for years, and I’ve grown my business, so I don’t see the problem,”


“What’s the harm in sending thought starters for potential clients to review?”

It’s not about whether or not it will work because sometimes it will. 

Instead, it’s about increasing the likelihood of winning the most business while decreasing the time and energy it takes.

Here’s what I’ve learned after 20+ years of selling B2B deals:

Ensuring your contracts are confirmations will tip the scales in your favor of closing more business, bigger contracts, and exciting scopes, leading to HIGHER IMPACT WORK.

Add to that, I’ve never had a founder tell me that a potential client has refused a fingerprints meeting. 

On the contrary, the buyer is relieved because you’re taking control of the process and providing them with an action plan. 

Next, I’ll share a script you can use to make this second stage of the process seamless.

Click here for more on the benefits of a fingerprints meeting. 

What to Say to Your Potential Client

Let’s set the scene. The 30-minute Discovery Call is coming to an end. You’ve asked the critical questions and heard your client’s challenges, pain points and goals.

So how do you get them on to another meeting without raising doubt or objections?

Here’s a simple script to schedule the next fingerprints meeting.

“I have an idea that is really going to help solve some of your biggest challenges, as I understand them. To be respectful of your time, I don’t want to send over a proposal before confirming with you that it’s the right fit. I aim to provide you with great service and exactly what you need, so do you have another 15-20 minutes to get back on a call? I’d like to discuss the scope of work, timeliness, and budget.”

Then you schedule the call and prepare a short, laser-focused agenda so that you take control of the meeting. 

Let’s say you’re reading this and wondering if you really need an additional meeting. 

Or, you’ve had a few conversations over email and had your Discovery call. You’re pretty confident that your proposal is good to go, but now you’re second-guessing yourself. 

In the next section, I’ll provide you with 6 questions to answer before hitting send. 

Key Questions Before Sending A Proposal

Ahead of sending a proposal, you should be able to confidently answer the following questions:

  • What is their desired timeline and why? Might anything take this timeline off track?
  • Who is involved in making a decision about your proposal? What do they care about, and can you meet with them?
  • What’s their budget, and are there any considerations around pricing for you to be aware of?
  • Is there any competition in the mix?
  • What is their buying process? Once you send the proposal, what steps will it take to make it a contract?
  • What might hinder your proposal from making it over the finish line?

If you can confidently answer these questions, you’ve done all you can to get this work over the finish line.

In Summary: When should you send a proposal?

Today’s buyers are frazzled and overwhelmed. They’re seeking consultants and service providers to lighten the load and take the lead.

It’s crucial to shift from sending proposals that are confirmations to thought starters, which requires time, patience and strategy. 

By taking this approach, you’ll align your proposal with the buyer’s needs and showcase your exceptional expertise as a subject matter expert.

Scheduling a fingerprints meeting actively involves clients in crafting proposals, boosting engagement, and creating successful collaborations.

Doing so increases the likelihood of winning more business, securing larger contracts, and engaging in exciting scopes of work. 

This approach empowers you to close impactful deals, demonstrating undeniable benefits while conserving time and energy. 

So, next time you’re tempted to rush a proposal, remember: 

You are the subject-matter expert. The prospective client is coming to you because they don’t know how to execute what you do, so why not lead from the get-go?

Curious about where to start?

Check out this blog post about adding a Fingerprints Meeting to your sales process – it’s a critical step in shipping confirmations, not thought starters. https://allison-davis.com/how-to-finalize-a-proposal-with-your-b2b-clients-and-get-the-yes/

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