An Insider’s View That Will Help You Make More Sales

Want More Sales? Follow These 4 Tips.

Insider's Sales Tips

If you are a service or sales professional, then you can relate to the story I’m going to share.

It’s nice when business can be done with a handshake and a smile, but these days it often takes an insider’s edge.  That’s what I want to share with you in this story.  This is for:

  • accountants,
  • lawyers,
  • insurance reps,
  • real estate realtors,
  • bankers
  • a marketing consultants…

…anyone who is in the business of providing “professional services” based on their training and expertise.

I work as a volunteer on the Landscape Committee for my HOA.  In the last 8 months, this Committee has issued two RFPs (Requests for Proposals) from a variety of landscape maintenance and landscape architects.

The process has been exhaustive for us and for the potential vendors.

As a marketing consultant, I am well aware of the time required to respond to an RFP.  I’ve answered many.   In fact, almost all of my business requires some sort of proposal.  It is a giant investment of time and often frustrating.

Yet, the bottom line is a lot of very attractive projects with some very desirable companies are sourced through RFP’s and few companies will take a risk on a new vendor without some sort of written proposal.   It is the cost of doing business and generating sales.

Yet, so many service and sales professionals simply ignore formal proposals like RFPs or give short shrift to proposals because they:

  • Don’t know how to win them, or
  • Don’t have the time to respond

I’m going to share with you three insider tips on how you can win more sales through your proposals.  I’m also going to give you a big time saver tip on how to respond professionally.

Tip #1 – Get Smarter with One Simple Question asked Multiple Times

Of the 30 plus vendors I’ve talked to in the last 8 months for these projects, only 3 asked me this question.

Two of these three didn’t respond to our RFP because they knew they wouldn’t win the contract.  The third sales professional received the contract.

So what is the question?

First, you need to understand that the first rule for any good sales person is to know if you are a good match for the client.

  • If you’re not a good match, then you save yourself a bunch of time, money and resources by not responding.
  • If you are a good match, your chances of winning the contract have just increased dramatically.

You won’t know if you’re a good match, if you don’t ask.

The magic question is very simple:

What specifically are you looking for?

Now, it is not enough to just record whatever list of services the potential client requests.  You have to ask probing questions along the way that tell you if this client is:

  • A client you may have difficulties working with – don’t waste your time
  • If your operations are set-up to adequately meet their needs and expectations – go for it
  • If it is an audience you are not currently servicing and don’t really want to service – don’t waste your time
  • An audience you want to service and have invested the time and money to make it a reality – go for it
  • An audience you already service and you want more of – go for it

This means:


Let me give you an example.

One potential vendor asked me what we were looking for.  I explained the services we were seeking.  He kept asking questions about how the HOA operated, how we envisioned this project being implemented, etc.

He was tempted.  Our contract represented about 4 or 5 of his average projects, but he said “No”.

Why?  Because he knew HOAs were not his market.  His market and his operations were tailored to fit the high-end residential market.  He also knew that such a long-term, multi-year PROJECT did not fit his operations.  He would be taking a gamble with us – a gamble that would eat up his time for other more profitable projects and take him into a market he didn’t really want to service.

The other vendor, who asked this question in a variety of ways, came away with a crystal clear understanding of what we wanted.  Their response to our RFP answered absolutely every concern we had about hiring them and did so professionally.

This vendor won the contract.

Tip #2 – Customize the Graphics of Your Proposals

Want your proposals to stand out?  Easy.  Create custom graphics.

Of the 6 proposals we received, only one included a customized cover of our complex.  The other Committee members were really impressed with this proposal simply because the vendor had taken the time to capture a Google Map and copy our logo onto the cover of his proposal.  That’s all it took for this vendor to get into the final three.

A comparison of content would tell you that he wasn’t as thorough, very vague in what he would actually deliver and cost estimates seemed soft.  But he made it to the final round on ‘good looks’.

Give yourself an edge and spend some time customizing the graphics of your more professional proposals.

Tip #3 – Follow-up

Of the 12 finalists across the 2 projects, not one of the losers followed-up to learn why they lost the business.

All it takes is a phone call.

If you want to increase your chances of winning proposals, you have to learn what you’re missing.  The only people who can tell you that are the insiders who are making the decisions.

Don’t accept fluff responses.  Be sincere in your desire to learn and chances are the potential client will tell you.

Tip #4 – Standardize Your RFP/Proposal Responses

If you’re ignoring responding to RFP’s or other requests for proposals because you feel it is too time intensive, than you are missing some golden sales opportunities.

It was obvious that about 50% – 60% of the vendors we contacted didn’t have a RFP/proposal response process in place.

Every RFP requests some standard pieces of information. You can do all of these pieces ahead of time, because they will not change.   Excluding any one of these pieces brings your response down a notch.  These include:

  • Background on Company
  • Company Philosophy
  • Certifications, Licenses
  • Client References, Awards
  • List of Projects that best represent your company
  • Resumes and experiences of Key Staff

This way, the only custom parts are:

  • Project Understanding – where you play back the answers to your simple question of what they specifically want
  • Proposed Services
  • Budget and Timeline

Bottom Line for your Sales 

Hopefully, these four insider tips will give you just the edge when you find yourself competing for sales.

If you have any other insider tips you’d like to share, use the comment box below.


Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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