How to Win Your Next ‘Cattle Call’ Proposal Bid

A customer asks you (and your competitors) to quote a project. You’ll write an email, draft a proposal or book a meeting in response. Next, you’ll pitch. You’ll use Jeff Hoffman’s “why you, why you now” approach to create urgency. But what if you, instead, politely declined the “cattle call” by asking questions?

Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to doA customer asks you (and your competitors) to quote a project. Or a prospect invites you to discuss a relationship. You’ll write an email, draft a proposal or book a meeting in response.

You quickly research the prospect to understand the current business scenario. They appear ready to change … ditch the status quo.

Next, you’ll pitch. You’ll use Jeff Hoffman’s “why you, why you now” approach to create urgency. You’ll flash the potential buyer a list of benefits, your customer list, maybe a testimonial or two and a bid or cost estimate.

But what if you, instead, politely declined the “cattle call” for proposal bids by asking questions?

Have You Considered This Approach?

By giving prospects what they ask for too soon, we lose the opportunity to present ideas your client may not be considering. Ideas that cost more and benefit customers likewise.

What if you resisted pitching and presented a more expensive idea? Sound crazy?

Sales trainer, Josh Braun, brings this idea to life.

He needed someone to record a live workshop. So he posted an ad. Within a few hours he received five bids.

All were $500 and based on the length of his workshop. But one provider didn’t provide a price. Instead, he responded like this:

“Josh, I can help you monetize your live workshop by taking advantage of three things you may not have considered. Open to chatting?”

Curiosity is a powerful motivator so Josh agreed.

“During the conversation the provider understood my motivation for recording the event. Then asked a series of ‘have you considered’ questions,” Braun says.

These were:

“Have you considered interviewing people after your session and using the clips as testimonials for your website?”

“Have you considered creating a trailer that you could use for promotional purposes?”

“Have you considered adding an extra camera so you can get the audiences reaction, leading to a more engaging video?”

“Have you considered editing your video into segments so you can easily upload them?”

This one provider separated himself from the competition by showing Braun what’s possible.

“He upped the perceived value of his offering,” says Braun. “I said yes, before he even gave me a price which was twice the price of his competitors.”

Next time you’re invited to bid, consider declining; instead, present upside implications of ideas your client may not be considering without discussing price.

Resist Asking Qualifying Questions

By providing proposals too soon, we squander the opportunity to help clients prepare to buy. Especially if you sell complex solutions. We also drive customers away with questions that qualify them for solutions.

Think about the questions you ask clients when sizing them up. They understand the intent of your questions. Of course they do.

Bottom line: Your questions are screaming “Are you ready to buy yet … ok … when?” Instead, they should be screaming “I can help you prepare to manage — and then execute — the nasty change your decision is going to cause.”

Instead, try asking neutral questions. This shows a bias to the client’s internal change challenges.

It shows you care about their challenges more than placing your solution!

Imagine telling the boss, “I’m following up the bid request, but not responding with a price, nor asking qualifying questions.” Sounds crazy. But what if you, instead, offered the prospect conversation about internal change needed to solve their problem?

For example, rather than asking, “When does it feel like you would be ready to make this investment?” ask “How would you know if — and when — it’s right to make this kind of change?”

The first question is clearly biased to your goal of placing a solution. The second is biased only to the customer’s decision-making process and leaves the door open to “no.”

Start With a Mindset Shift

Here’s another way to frame your mindset: What created the buyer’s status quo situation is more important than your solution. Right? Ask questions to uncover the internal decision processes your customers use to create change … change leading to solution investment.

Bottom line: We sell change. Our clients’ obstacles to change are more important than our solutions. Mine too!

Our solutions don’t matter — even if they will fix (or advance) clients’ situations. 

What matters is deciding if a buyer is able and willing to change … and helping advance that change, if (and when) it’s best.

Too often we give in to temptation … start talking about ourselves. After all, the prospect just asked us to pitch. They’re ready.

But are they? Are they truly ready to buy? Is this the decision-maker? Are there others involved? How mature is the need … where are they in the problem-solving (not vendor selection) process?

These are the questions you need answered — in order to close complex sales.

What is your experience?