The thorn of many professionals are the words: “Send me a proposal”.
The truth is most proposals should never be written. The proposal does not win the business for you. Most are written as explorations, seeking to discover some (any) interest from the prospective client. Hardly ever will the proposal be the deciding factor on whether the customer will choose to do business with you.
If you have not had real discussions with the prospective client around how you might do business together; if you have not reached conceptual agreement; if you have not established the genuine needs; and if you have not established that your methodology, value, and expertise resonate with the client, then the proposal will not win new business.
My observations of accountants, business coaches, consultants, financial planners, recruiters, trainers and the like are that they mistakenly believe that a proposal can convert tyre-kickers, deflectors, and window-shoppers into serious buyers.
Manage your mindset and understand the proposal should be a summary of conceptual agreement reached during conversations with the client and you will find that not only will the proposal write itself, but they will read it, summarily agree with the content, and engage with its message, because they have in essence co-written the proposal with you.
Some of the key components in establishing conceptual agreement are:
- You must be speaking with the true buyer, the actual decision-maker who can say “yes” to you without seeking further authorisation and can also write your cheque.
- You must clearly establish the client’s objectives, understand their needs not only the wants, and realise you may need to make them aware of the real problem.
- Your role as a professional adviser (whether you’re an accountant, coach, consultant, recruiter, etc) is as a collaborator. There are joint accountabilities, and the client needs to know their responsibility in the project as much as they need to know yours. You possibly may not succeed in achieving the objectives without their commitment and consent to partner with you to achieve the outcomes.
Rather than exploring the possibilities via the lengthy and time-consuming process of writing a proposal, it’s far more expedient to sit with the client and ask intelligent questions to assess your value to them and how best to proceed.
When the next prospective customer uses those ominous words very early in the discussion, “Send me a proposal” – pause, relax, and calmly respond, “I’d be delighted. So I don’t waste your time, there are some things I need to hear from you, personally. Let’s arrange for coffee on Tuesday and share 13 to 15 minutes with each other so I can ask you a few questions and guarantee that my proposal does not waste the time of either of us?”
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