Why Your Proposals Aren’t Landing You Business

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Do you know why so many consultants spin their wheels writing proposal after proposal without getting any results?

photo credit: legdog via photopin cc

It’s because most view a proposal as a sales tool when it should simply be a restatement of what the client already agreed they needed.

Most proposals are filled with big concepts and game changing language because the author of the proposal has no idea what the client is ready to buy.

For years I’ve used the sales process as a full-blown discovery process aimed at getting the client to tell me exactly what to put in a proposal. It’s for that reason that responding to traditional RFPs is such a waste of time.

Now I don’t mean I simply give them what they want to hear. But I do mean you must ask enough questions to know if they even understand why they think they need what they might be asking me to propose. If you don’t do this the proposal becomes more of a shield to ward off a sales person then to move business forward.

When I meet with a prospective client to discuss how I might help them I’ve not done my job unless I walk away knowing (or helping them know) exactly what their goals are, how they think we could measure progress towards achieving those goals and what it would mean in terms of overall value should we achieve those goals.

Armed with this information any proposal is as Alan Weiss, author of The Consulting Bible, calls it a summation of an already established objective.

When you come to that realization, your sales calls, discovery meeting and proposals will never be the same.

Ask the hard questions before

Before you ever write a proposal you must fully understand in great detail what a successful outcome looks like. How do you do that – simply ask something like – Why do you want to do this project? What would a successful outcome look like?

You’ll be surprised how often the answers to those kinds of questions are different than you might have assumed and can greatly impact what you might have proposed.

You also want to understand up front how they will measure success. What metrics will we use to measure progress? Or, even, how will we know we’ve achieved your goal?

Finally, get at what value a positive result will have. This is a great point when it comes to establishing why they might view what you do as an investment rather than a cost. Help them understand that by investing $50,000 in you they might realize $250,000 in value.

Spell out the agreement

When you focus your discussion on establishing agreement you can then use your proposals to restate goals, metrics and value in context of deliverables and methodology for getting there.

Now when you propose a specific approach or project you can tie it to achieving a goal in very specific terms.

You can also propose optional approaches that give flexibility in terms of pricing and timelines.

Nail down the terms

Use your proposal to also spell out exactly how you will work, what you expect of them – down to the amount of CEO or department time and resources you’ll need.

And, don’t forget to state very clearly how you expect to be paid!

When you start to look at proposals as a tool to simply document your already agreed upon objectives, you’ll start to close more of the right deals on your terms.


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