If you’re like most entrepreneurs and business owners you probably ran away screaming from your corporate job. In fact you may have been so eager to get away from the cold, impersonal, dog-eat-dog environment that you may have left some of your most important lessons and tools behind.
The one thing I really loved about working in the corporate world was the focus on systems and follow through. When I was in sales we were encouraged to keep call records, to dress appropriately for our market, and we grew our business through following through with our clients.
No matter what your business, you need good systems and follow through that may include delivering proposals to prospective clients.
There are two reasons why you should consider writing a proposal:
1. You have an expensive product or service that requires a long sales cycle.Many of the projects we work on at Boutique Marketing can be thousands of dollars, and usually requires that we call on several key managers before the final decision is made. Preparing a proposal demonstrates that we clearly understand their company and their needs, gives us an opportunity to clearly present our solutions, and opens the door to discuss their budgets.
2. You have a product or service that is complicated and may take time to implement. A dear friend of mine provides Feng Shui services for businesses and individuals. Although her clients are familiar with some of the benefits her service provides, the process is quite involved. Having a proposal allows her to educate her clients on the process, eliminates any misunderstandings, and gives them the opportunity to discover the additional benefits of her services.
There’s a saying that a good client is an educated client. The deeper their understanding about you, your product, and your service the more value you have.
A Sure Way to Lose Business
Getting business with proposals is all about timing and following-up with prospective clients during and after receiving the proposal.
Lack of follow through is a sure way to tell your prospect that you don’t really want their business. Now, you and I know that isn’t the case. Maybe you’re uncomfortable talking about money and budgets or you don’t want to seem too pushy. But ultimately what happens is you seem unprofessional.
Look at it from your prospects perspective: if you don’t follow-up on your proposal, how can they be sure that you’ll follow through with your service, or provide good customer service for the product they’re purchasing from you?
Here’s my fool proof process
1. After you meet with a prospect, you end the conversation with “Based on what we’ve discussed today I’ll write you a proposal and I’ll have it to you by noon on Friday.” Or whatever time frame works for you.
Here’s another tip: after the meeting send them an email recapping your conversation and noting the date they should expect to receive the proposal.
2. On or before noon on Friday, you send them the proposal with a firm date to follow-up. Ideally you’ll want to make an appointment to walk them through the proposal either in-person or on the phone. In my experience most people will not take the time to read your proposal thoroughly, and this is where most people lose the sale.
3. Here’s the secret sauce: once you’re at the appointment you read through the proposal together and do your best to keep them on the same page with you.
A proposal should be written to build. Remember you’re educating your client on your product and you’re demonstrating knowledge of their company and what their issues are.
Some prospects will jump ahead to price…and if I can give you another piece of advice, the clients that do that are going to “nickel and dime” you on price. When a client negotiates pricing, either you haven’t created sufficient value for your services or they’re cheap.
Rather than give in on price, you’ll want to give them the option of buying a smaller service package or another product. I also invite prospects to do their due diligence and shop around.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK WITH EVERYONE.
So the proposal writing process can be an opportunity for you to learn more about your prospect and whether or not you want to work with them.
4. During the proposal you’ll find that some of your points will have to be amended. If you can, it’s best to close the call or ask for the sale then. But if they have to pass it up to another level of management or another partner then you refine the proposal and start the process over again.
The prospects who go through the process with you usually turn out to be your best clients, and it’s been my experience that they’ll ask you, “When do we start.”
I hope that I’ve convinced you to take some of the structure and professionalism from your corporate days and use it for the good of your business. I also hope I’ve convinced you to take the time to write proposals and follow through.
Questions? Let me know.