Proposals that secure new business
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
What is the first thing everybody does when they get a proposal, they go to the last page to see what the price is. Why is the price on the last page, because the creator of the proposal is hoping that you read the other 20 pages leading up to the price that now justifies it.
If this system is not proving successful perhaps the stage approach below will be deliver the right result.
Let me start by suggesting a three stage process that will get you better results. Firstly, you have a meeting with a potential customer, do you make a presentation about your company? My suggestion is no, unless they request it. There is little value in you making a 20, 30 or 40 minute presentation telling them how great you are. The fact that you have the meeting suggests that they have done their homework and have asked you to attend based on their research and needs.
If on the other hand a presentation is required then it should be reflective of the audience that is attending (CEO, CFO, CTO etc.) and talk in a language that engages them. If your presentation is a series of PowerPoint slides with text that you read out to your audience then we need to have a conversation, free of charge of course. LINK
So we do not need a presentation which means that we have a discovery meeting and your job is to find out what prompted them to call you. This requires you to have prepared a list of questions that asks in a non invasive way questions that get to the heart of the matter. Phrases like 'do you mind if I ask you' or would you mind sharing with me' allow the potential customer to engage with you without feeling they are being interrogated. reassure them by saying that anything discussed is in complete confidence.
A key question to ask is, 'do you mind me asking, what is the most important challenge you face at the moment' in your particular space? Allow the person time to reflect on the answer and then tell you. You can follow up their answer with 'how is this impacting on you'? or what impact is this having on the business' or similar questions. We need to get to the heart of the issue, how it is making them feel and what would be the value in any resolution presented.
Try to find a monetary value that your solution will deliver. If for example your solution could save the company €100k in productivity than a solution costing them €10k looks like great value. If your solution could help them spend more quality time with loved ones and less stress it is important to remind them of the value of this in your proposal.
I do not take notes until we have built some sort of rapport as it stops people feeling comfortable but once we start getting into an open conversation I always ask, 'do you mind if I take notes' ?
One final note is to ask if they have a budget around this issue or project. They may push back by saying no but your counter is to say that you may have a number of solutions but do not want to waste their time with ones that are outside of their budget. In most cases they will suggest a figure and if you can get this it is important because when it appears in your proposal it will not be a shock to them.
I am always keen to make sure that we do not have any misunderstandings from the outset. Often the eagerness to sign up new business encourages people to fire off a proposal without ensuring that the customers needs are fully understood. I have seen many times proposals come into clients hands that do not reflect the conversation that took place or address the needs outlined. My suggestion is to go through your notes carefully and send an email within 24 hours detailing your understanding of what was discussed. Furthermore, you add that if you have omitted or misunderstood anything to please let you know. If your email is reflective of the conversation you had you should get an immediate response confirming that fact or clarifying something that was misunderstood.
You now have confirmation that you understand the issue. Your proposal now outlines the issues (you have confirmation of these) so there is no issue here. Your proposal outlines your solution and why it makes sense. You demonstrate how your solution delivers whatever the company needed and can save the organisation X amount (this amount was discussed in the discovery stage). I would also include testimonials of how other customers felt once they used this solution.
TIP - if you want a structure when asking for a testimonial try using this;
What was the problem?
How did it make you feel?
How is my solution addressing the issue?
How are you feeling now?
You cost out your solution to reflect the budget discussed. Again no surprises here as it was talked about in the discovery stage. If possible, I would give three solutions at different price points. The first is the most expensive and has all the bells and whistles. It may have much more than they need but it is comprehensive. The second is the one that fits their budget. However, having looked at the bells and whistles option they may ask can they have one or two items off that list and that allows you to up sell your product or service. The final price is the cheap option that is designed to dissuade them from taking it but allows flexibility in case the CFO decides to cut the budget on this particular project.
Finally, two important notes;
Get your proposal back to them ASAP. In this fast changing world of distraction, a delay may have what is urgent today put on the back burner as something more important comes onto their desk.
If possible present the proposal in person or online. This means that you can clarify anything that may hold up a decision.
Ask for the business. If you have completed all stages correctly there should be nothing holding them back.
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