It seems to have been a reoccurring theme with a couple of my clients (you know who you are!) in the past week so thought I would write about it.
Let’s set the scene…
You have been in discussions with this potential new client for a while, building great rapport and getting excited by the opportunity.
At the start the told you they had short timescales, so you rushed to get your proposal completed, working late into the night to meet their short deadline.
You chase, and you chase.
Eventually they get back to you apologising profusely for their tardiness, they have been super busy, yada, yada, yada…. but now they are ready to go full steam ahead so please can you get started.
At this stage you need to lock down the brief. DO NOT START WORK UNLESS YOU HAVE ONE!! It is a recipe for disaster because if you are not entirely clear what the client wants (often because they are not entirely clear themselves) then you know it will ultimately result in an unhappy customer and no long-term relationship.
As an expert you should have a set of questions that you must have answered before you begin a project. This must always be the case.
Now just sending these questions to an already busy client, isn’t going to work and I guarantee you that they will not answer them, and you will be frustrated (since you can see into the crystal ball and know the consequences of this….even if they can’t).
As a side note, I have been on the receiving end of this recently because my financial advisor is trying to get some financial info from me and just sent me a long questionnaire to complete.
Guess what? I didn’t complete it!
And it’s doubtful I will because I am always ‘too busy’ and the honest truth is it feels a little daunting and too much like hard work!
This spurred me on to write this blog because clearly just requesting a brief or sending a questionnaire to clients, doesn’t work!
The reality is that in your rapport building at the start of your relationship you need to work out the best way to communicate with clients and the best way to get the info.
Some detail ‘thinking’ people will love a set a questions. But most won’t! So work out how best to get this insight and sow the seeds early on that you will need the info.
Recognise that part of this process might be that you ask your client questions they had not thought of and this helps them evolve their thinking and may even change the outcome of what they need from you – but this is good.
Better to find this out BEFORE you start the project than once you have started because this leads to scope creep and unprofitable work, and unsatisfactory client relationships.
So if sending a set of questions doesn’t work, what does?
Well obviously, talking to clients, weaving the questions into your conversation so that you get answers to your ‘must have answered’ questions before you start work. You could do this in a specific briefing meeting or phone call or as I said you can just weave them into a conversation.
I find that explaining to my clients my briefing process is what helps me look different and credible. It shows the client that I have a robust, tried and tested process for eliciting exactly what a client needs that results in me delivering my best work in the agreeable timescales.
So what are the must have questions and how do you pitch this in the early days of building new client relationships?
Well give me a shout and let’s have a chat about it.
When is the right time to write a proposal?
This is been a big theme for me over the last 2 weeks so thought I would blog about it. We all know how much time it takes to write a proposal (indeed I have spent 1/2 day yeterday writing one!) yet many have a low conversion rates, so how do you increase that and give yourself the best chance of winning?
Many organisations will be flattered and excited to be asked to write a proposal and won’t do their due diligence – establish budgets and timescales as well as understanding exactly what the client really wants and to look internally to work out if you can deliver it (i.e. you have the skills/capacity and it’s a core service can confidently deliver). This is a time to enact one of my favourite business expressions: ‘slow down to speed up’. Take your time doing your research, going back to ask the client more questions, gather more background info etc. And if you decide it’s a good fit, then go for it. If not, then have the courage to walk away.
Anything that feels too challenging or gives you a feeling it’s going to be difficult to deliver – undoubtedly will be.
So when you have met with a prospect, had a good chat and a nice coffee, and neither party knows exactly how to wrap up the meeting so you suggest or agree to put your thoughts in a proposal, think again! Have you identified all the buying signs; do they have agreed timescales? A budget? Are they clear what they want? Or are they going to use you to shape (or write) the brief and set a budget for them? If so, beware!
Now you have decided its worth while writing the proposal – make it about them not you! I am amazed at the proposals I have read that start of by telling the prospect how wonderful the supplier is! This is all well and good but before you do that, you need to prove to the reader that you understand their business, market, products and challenges. Then you should outline how you will creatively solve their challenges. And only then, can you blow your own trumpet and tell them how great you are and what relevant experience you have.
There is so much more to this subject so if you want to find out more, download my whitepaper on pitching and proposal writing or drop me an email with your thoughts and experiences.
Many businesses invest a great deal of time preparing for pitches and/or writing proposals, so how do you give yourself the best chance of winning? And when should you agree to pitch or write a proposal and when should you walk away?
In my latest whitepaper published today, I outline my thoughts and tips on when to agree to pitch and when to walk away. I discuss at what point in the sales cycle you should agree to write a proposal and how best to structure it.
If you want to improve the quality of your pitches and proposals that consequently increase your ‘win’ rate then this short paper is worth a read. Make sure you sign up to my mailing list by filling in the form below to receive latest information and new whitepapers from Da Costa Coaching Ltd.