Stop Wasting Time on No-Chance Proposals
Posted on December 7, 2012
There’s a good chance you spend the majority of your business development time creating proposals, and you probably waste a lot of valuable time on referrals that don’t pan out. Fortunately, you can save time (and your sanity) by learning to avoid writing proposals for prospects who will never say yes.
Is Your Proposal Creation Process Efficient?
To answer this, first ask yourself the big question: is this a good fit? When you look at a potential piece of business, can you say in two or three short sentences why the prospect would benefit from doing business with you? If doing business with you is not the best option for the client, then you shouldn’t pursue the proposal at all. If the client’s needs don’t line up with what you have to offer, refer them to someone who actually has what the client is looking for. Trying to win the business of a client who isn’t a good fit for your company is a waste of everyone’s time.
Examine the Relationship with the Client
A relationship is the top indicator that a proposal is going to be successful. Leads that originate from a one-on-one conversation or a referral are the best. When you’re able to talk directly to the business owner or principal, you can help them ask the right questions and get a thorough understanding of what they need. The right questions will lead to the right answers, like, “I want to lower my costs,” or “I want a better customer experience.”
Don’t Let Clients Get Hung Up on Costs
The myth of the request for proposal (RFP) is that you will identify with a process that hinges on the best provider/lowest cost combination. In reality, the RFP is a barrier to true problem solving.
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When prospects talk about cost early in a conversation, you might try saying something like, “If it turns out that my solution is right for your business, then cost will not be an obstacle to us working together. If my solution is not right, then any price is wrong.” In other words, make sure both you and the client are focusing on the real problem (whatever the client needs resolved or changed) and the real solution (what your business can do to help).
Become a Problem-Solver
By the time you decide to pursue a client and send a proposal, you should already have a relationship and a match made between service and need. To maximize this dynamic, act as though you’ve been retained as a consultant, and set up a follow-up schedule where you can offer suggestions on best practices, helpful articles, etc. If you are pursuing the right prospect, you should be seeing things every day that could be valuable to them. They will begin to see you as a source of solutions to their problems. Become the person known in your business as a problem-solver, and you become a “closer.” Signing the deal becomes a detail instead of an event, and that’s what you want. Ideally, it will get to the point where you’ll hear things like, “Oh, I haven’t signed that yet. Can you get me a copy to sign?”
It’s a good idea to have a few techniques and strategies in your repertoire as you work towards becoming that “closer.” Here are a few:
External date: If the client has a “season,” then back up the list of things and figure out when both teams need to engage to ensure success and reduce risk.
Cost of Doing Nothing: If working with you will truly benefit the client, then talk to them about how doing nothing is actually costing them. Describe how you can make their business problems go away.
Overcome the “Too Busy” Excuse: Emphasize to the prospect that your team will make the transition easy and take over the heavy lifting once you have an agreement.
It’s all about perspective: learn to view each prospect as a new member of your network no matter what happens. Either they become a client, or they become a source of referrals. Either way, it’s a win for you!
3 Quick Ways to Win RFPs (or, fishing advice):
1. Don’t do them (go fish somewhere else).
2. Only respond when you have a relationship (fish where you know the fish are).
3. Play the statistics game, and get good at generating lots of proposals (fish with a really big net).
The bottom line is this: if you have been honest with yourself about whether a prospective client will benefit from your product or service and the answer is yes, then your proposal will stand out. Don’t bury the answer in a fancy proposal. Just say it.