Many sales reps miss the mark in their proposals and presentations. They’ve been taught that they want to position their company as a “solution provider” … but their actual proposal or presentation doesn’t describe the problem or business need that the prospect wants solved!

By the time a sales rep is preparing a proposal or presentation, they need to be able to describe the specific problems or opportunities this prospect or client is facing and the “big picture” goals the customer has laid out. The proposal or presentation should create a compelling case that making a change is in the customer’s best interests, and that your company is their best choice.

Here are five questions you can use to challenge your sales reps to see if they are on track to deliver this kind of killer proposal or presentation:

1. Who will read your proposal or attend you presentation?

See if the rep is aware that the proposal is going to be read not only by the people they’ve talked with but others in the company, often including higher-level decision makers. (The same is true for presentations—often decision influencers the rep has not seen will be present). Your goal is to make sure that people who are new to the prospect’s buying process will understand the rep’s proposal.

2. What problems are the client trying to solve (or opportunities they want to take advantage of)? Why should the client take action now?

The #1 competitor a rep faces today isn’t another company; it’s the customer’s decision to do nothing, to make no change at all.

To overcome the customer’s reluctance to take action, the rep needs to be able to help the customer appreciate that there is a big gap between where they are now and where they could be. The wider the gap, the more impetus the customer will have to take action sooner rather than later.

Give a rep bonus points if they use stories or actual example to describe the customer’s most compelling problem and demonstrate how your solution will help them achieve their goals better than your competitors’ solutions will.

3. How are the needs and buying criteria of each type of decision maker represented?

In today’s world, it’s very rare that any single person makes a major purchasing decision on their own. Sales reps need to be able to reach all the key types of decisions makers, figure out their needs and buying criteria, and demonstrate in the proposal or presentation that your solution links to those specific needs and criteria.

4. What do you know about the competition and where we stand compared to them?

A rep needs to learn how to anticipate what the competition is going to do to if they want to come out on top. They need to figure out how to counteract what that competition is going to do, can document relevant information in the proposal or presentation.

For a novice rep, you may need to be much more specific in your questions here, such as:

  • At the moment, who is positioned most favorably, us or a competitor?
  • Which of the customer buying criteria represent a competitive edge for us? How have you emphasized this in the proposal/presentation?
  • Which of these represent a competitive disadvantage for us? What have you done to counteract or minimize these issues in the proposal/presentation?

5. What are at least three reasons why the customer should buy from us?

If the proposal or presentation doesn’t present at least three compelling reasons why the client should buy from you, then the rep has no right to ask for the customer’s business!

This blog is part of TopLine Leadership’s series called Sales Coaching 101. On the first Tuesday of every month, we’ll cover a fundamental skill that helps sales managers interact more effectively with their sales reps. Here are other articles from this series:

Kevin F. Davis, author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.”

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top.” The book is available for purchase on