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August 03, 2010

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Charlie Lang

I particularly agree with the quote of Alan Weiss: "A proposal is a summation, not an exploration." Even though I never read any of his books, it's something I always tell people in sales training or our own sales people. There should be no surprises in a proposal, only confirmations.

From an Asian perspective, Robert's step-by-step approach would be a bit challenging in most cases. The pace here is so fast that sometimes not the best proposal wins but the fastest. People are often (not always though) in a hurry, so what we found works best is a slightly modified approach:
- Get to know as much as possible in the first conversation (be it over the phone or in a meeting)
- Don't hesitate to ask for available budget. Surprisingly often they'll give you an indication, if they don't, then do what Robert recommends: give them price options
- Make sure you detail pricing so that they see the real value, especially if you do things in a more extensive manner than your competitors
- Due to most clients' hurry, you'll need to prepare a full proposal right away in most cases. So make sure that you write in the cover letter, and in some tricky parts of the proposal that this is just a first attempt to capture what was discussed and that it's open to modifications, especially if you are not 100% certain that you got it right. You may do that even with the pricing. If I feel that pricing is very sensitive for the client (and I still want the deal), then I'd write something like - "This is our standard pricing, we are open to discuss a specific package deal with you." (especially if the proposal covers an extensive service)
- Follow-up in time and be always open to the possibility that you got it wrong and make sure that the client knows that so that you stay in the game

This way with 2-3 exchanges things can be brought to the point and your chances remain high if you are a good match with the client. Speed is of essence in this part of the world though.

Brett Martinson

I too was incredibly impressed with Alan Weiss' "Million Dollar Consulting", and sure people would do fine with any of his books!

It made me think about, and focus on the conversation before the proposal. I know attempt to put most of my time and improvement in that area, as I know if I don't walk away from that meeting with the information for the proposal I'm not even in the game.

Lisa Giesler

Robert,
Wow, that was great! Actually, this week I was so busy (which is a good thing) and when a potential big client called and wanted to know the $$$ right off the bat, I gave it to them and then no response. I told my husband, I should have asked more questions and developed the relationship. Oh well, we live and learn. Thanks for the reminders. Lisa Giesler, Professional Organizer/ Speaker

Robert Middleton

Neglecting to credit Alan Weiss for the main ideas in this eZine was an oversight! I've learned most of what I know about proposals from Alan. I highly recommend his book, "Million Dollar Consulting."

To Andy's post, this method is not really appropriate to RFPs and most government contracts. I don't usually recommend responding to these. They are a lot harder to get. I think this would require a completely different article, which I am unqualified to write.

Andy Strote

Robert, agree with most of your suggestions, but.... in many cases, we're answering an RFP and they have protocols. So, there's no "building this together". They give you an outline of what they're looking for, they will answer your questions, which they share with all other proponents so be careful what you ask, and they don't let you contact them otherwise.

Also, the price issue. In some cases, they stipulate that you can only submit one price, and they don't want options. Often,they'll also share their scoring system, typically 50% price, 30% content of your proposal, 10% understanding of project and 10% whatever.

This is often even for projects where we are the favored candidate, but simply have to go through the paces.

If you've never worked with a client before, the one thing I would suggest is to really probe ahead of time if possible, what your real chances are. Are you just one of three because they need three and they already know where it's going? Is this a cattle call or is there a reason you're on the list?

Mark Coudray

Robert, This is one of the best More Clients posts I've seen in a long time. The collaborative approach to proposal development works because you're including the prospective client in the experience. They are actively helping to shape their own outcome when you ask them for their review.

Additionally, this approach goes a long way toward delivering on expectations. Having done dozens of large scale consulting projects, failed or inadequately defined expectations are the number one reason for client dissatisfaction. The more dialog and inclusion you have, the better your chances of clearly defining and meeting what those expectations really are.

This is important because many times clients don't really know what they want. The last thing you want to hear after you've submitted is "we're not really sure exactly what we need, but this isn't it."

Alan Weiss

The proposal format and sequence you're citing is, of course, from several of my books, most specifically, "How to Write A Proposal That's Accepted Ever Time."

Alan Weiss
www.contrarianconsulting.com

michael cardus

this method does work!
I do something really similar. Taking the time to work the proposal with people creates a commitment and desire to work together.
This also allows for you to properly vett clients who may not be a good fit for your services.

Sam

such a great post - you've really nailed some neat solutions to real problems you face when you're creating proposals for clients ... i especially love the the pricing options

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