You’re anticipating your arranged conversation with a potential new client. The phone call goes well, and the next step is for you to draft a proposal. At this point, all of your enthusiasm and energy disappears. Proposals are tedious to write. It takes too long, is tedious, but also involves a lot of risk. Who even reads all of this, anyway?
What if you were able to close deals without submitting proposals?
In our experience, you may get more business with fewer proposals if you slow down the sales process. Have another call rather than preparing the proposal right now. Give some suggestions and a rough estimate of the expenditures. Obtain the client’s agreement that they wish to proceed with this project and are prepared to pay your pricing. After that, you can finalize the deal by writing a contract!
The Hurt of Rushing Proposals from Experience
What percentage of proposals do you win? Are you satisfied with the prices you receive on the successful proposals? You’re probably speeding through the proposal phase if your win rate is less than 80% or if you’re dissatisfied with your pricing.
When we first started out, we followed the same practice. Someone would call and inquire about the price of a site. We would go to their current website, extract two words of data, and use that information to get an estimate.
Almost always, we would reduce the price because it was too high. Then, again virtually always, after two weeks into the assignment, we would discover that there were still 27 unexpectedly more tasks to complete. We would be viewed as contractors by the client. They turned out to be a dreadful, demanding, and vulgar boss.
But we were rushing estimates, so it was all our responsibility. Looking back, the following were the four main causes of hurried estimations and how they negatively impacted our ability to conduct business:
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) (Fear of Missing Out)
The idea that if we take longer to create an estimate, we might lose out on the work is the main issue we still fight with. We gave in to the unreasonable belief that the one prospect who contacts us for an estimate will be the last, and that if we don’t get the job, our kids won’t be playing with cool toys but will end up on the streets. This idea terrified the very daylights out of us.
Even as we sat here writing and knew we had deposits for five-figure jobs that will keep us busy until essentially the end of the month, we had sentiments like that. We considered this as we carefully examined the business bank account that contained close to six figures in “rainy day savings.”
What we’re trying to communicate is that we’re completely mad, but it was worse when we first started out since we were quickly depleting our savings. We were unknown, and we didn’t receive any consistent, weekly requests for work.
Only 10% of the ideas we sent were accepted because we wrote them poorly. At the time, we may have had legitimate reasons to be concerned about finding new employment, but it was still a grave error to waste so much time sending out ideas that were unsuccessful.
As long as we continued to implement our marketing strategy, more work will eventually come in. As long as we continued to follow up with clients, referrals will flow. What we took to be gospel truth from the startup bible—that if you have a marketing plan and implement it, a steady flow of work will come—often backfired in our faces, so we had to come up with innovative ways to promote our proposals on the spot.
Because writing a proposal is difficult, we skipped the process
It’s challenging to evaluate prospects and transform them into high-value initiatives that treat us fairly. It implies that we require a prospect vetting procedure that we are confident in. It takes a lot of effort to gather the data we need to create an effective proposal. This requires us to interact with the prospect and pay close attention to what they have to say. It implies that we should pose questions in response to their responses to encourage them to delve further.
No consultant who is successful simply sends estimates to every proposition that crosses their virtual desk and wins them all. If we responded to every request, we wouldn’t be chosen for more than 80% of the jobs we submit proposals for.
We win business because we take the time—at least a few emails and at least one phone call—to actually converse with the client and understand their needs. Then, in order to ensure that we both have a shared understanding of the needs, we collaborate on a project strategy.
We only send along a proposal following this procedure, which can take 2-4 weeks or longer. We stop and move on to the next prospect who is excited about working with just us if the prospect ever loses interest in the process or feels like it is taking too long.
You shouldn’t anticipate winning the majority of the proposals you submit if you’re not putting in that kind of effort. It’s time to start learning to live with not getting much work and just scraping by if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort.
We were unaware of our own worth
We had no notion what our own worth was when we first started. We were unaware that we were wizards capable of working marvels. We allow potential clients to pay us and treat us like minimum wage employees. Since no worker should ever be yelled at when things don’t go as planned, we actually allow them treat us worse than that.
We would send out a proposal back then when a prospect asked for an estimate, thinking we didn’t know much about the project but that we couldn’t ask for more information because they were the prospect and had the funding we needed.
Now, it’s not unusual for us to respond “No” and then give them the three reasons we are not yet willing to offer a proposal for the project when a prospect asks us to send an estimate.
Keep in mind that you are a wizard, and wizards are busy. Sending proposals to people that aren’t a good fit would be a waste of time, so you should just let them know that. It’s not a criticism of them or their worth; it’s just a fact that you don’t have enough time to care for them the way they deserve.
Now that you’re seated, list the 10 items you must understand before sending a proposal. Outline the 10 questions that need to be addressed.
We were unable to contact the buyer
When a prospect once contacted us, they claimed to be the “web” guy and that the business was indeed ready for a new website. Through internet sales, their rivals were eating their lunch, and over the past five years, what was once a massive, high six-figure firm had shrunk to a low six-figure one. Due to the lack of internet ordering, the business was losing sales. This business sought to follow its competitors’ successful content marketing strategies in order to compete.
The issue arose when the web person revealed, after further questioning, that the owner probably wouldn’t allow them the time they required to launch the content plan. They estimated that they would hardly have time to update the website with new products.
However, they insisted on having an estimate to give the owner. Even though they had a good budget to begin building the store, we refused to provide them an estimate until we spoke with the owner and had a commitment from him to sign before the business began launching its marketing campaigns. The web specialist claimed that they would never have the time and that the owner would never agree to the marketing strategy we were recommending.
Even if we could have completed the project and made a respectable profit, the prospect would never have received a good return on their investment. The owner would blame us, the experts, and say in a year that the web project was a waste because it never reached its full potential.
The business owner, who is the actual buyer, did not place enough importance on the project to warrant attention. The project is not worth our effort if it is that low on the list of priorities.
You’re not speaking to the correct person if you’re not the actual buyer. Sending a proposal to that “web” person is a waste of time because all they can do is reject it. Regardless of how strongly they feel about the project, they lack the authority to say yes and sanction the spending on it.
Before you even start crafting a project plan, much less send over something with dollar amounts attached, make sure you have these four areas covered if you want to start winning the majority of the proposals you put out.