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- Michael Zipursky Consultant, Author, & CEO of ConsultingSuccess.com

4 Ways to Handle Buyer Reference Requests

Buyer-Reference-Requests

A consultant was looking for help to attract more ideal clients and wanted to join my coaching program the other day.

We got on the phone and had a conversation to decide whether the program would be the right fit for them.

So if someone wants to ‘just call up a few of your clients’ I say “No” and explain why.

They were excited and wanted to move ahead.

A couple of hours later I got an email from a former coaching client that this consultant had reached out to them.

My former client shared with the eager consultant how joining my coaching program was “one of the best investments I’ve made in my life” – his words, not mine.

This got me thinking however…

How do you handle when a buyer wants references before making a buying decision?

I’ll share with you how I handle this…

1. My Duty, Not Theirs

I’ll first tell you that I don’t do this. If a buyer wants me to connect them with a current or former client I don’t – except in one case (I’ll explain in a minute). You see, it’s my job to communicate the value of working together to the buyer. Not my clients. I have great admiration and respect for my clients. I value their time and the last thing they need is to be getting calls from inquisitive folks. So if someone wants to ‘just call up a few of your clients’ I say “No” and explain why.

The only time I suggest that you make an exception, and I’ve done this in a few cases, is if the buyer is 99.99% ready to move forward. The only thing holding them back is speaking to a live person about their experience.

In that case, I’ll email the client and ask their permission with no obligations. I’ve never had a client say no. Most are delighted to share their experiences. Once they’ve given the okay I will introduce both parties by email so they can have a conversation. Every time I’ve done this and the buyer speaks with one of my clients they have signed up and became a client.

2. Be Prepared

An effective way to remove the need for a reference call is to have plenty of case studies, interviews and testimonials. For example, before I get on a call with a consultant to determine if they would be a good fit for the coaching program they receive an email. In that email they get:

  • Several in-depth audio interviews where they can hear about the real experiences others have had in the coaching program
  • A very long list of results and testimonials from consultants. These are all REAL people that with a quick search of their name or company you can find and confirm.
  • A link to my LinkedIn profile (in case we aren’t connected) where they can see not only my full background and experience, more importantly they get a long list of recommendations from clients.

We’ve had great success with this ‘pre-call package’. You can do something similar in your business. Continue Reading

The Optimal Landing Page for Consultants

Inside-Consulting-Landing-Pages

I was recently asked “what does an ideal landing page look like for someone offering consulting services?” It’s a great question.  For over 15 years I’ve been a consultant and built successful consulting companies. I’ve also co-founded several online businesses. So this is a topic I’m familiar with and passionate about. Let’s get right into it. Here’s what you need to know about creating a landing page if you’re a consultant marketing your services.

The relationship the buyer and consultant will create and have is critical. For that reason, the buyer of consulting services will look to quickly gain a sense of what it will be like to work with you as soon as they land on your page.

You Are the Product

As marketers when we create a landing page to drive leads or promote our product we work hard to position it in a way that it grabs the attention and interest of the buyer. That makes sense because the buyer (user) is most interested in whether or not the product will help them overcome the challenge they’re facing? Will it help them get closer to the result they are after? And are the benefits of using the product clear and believable?

When you’re offering consulting services, YOU are the product. The user, in this case the buyer of consulting services, asks slightly different questions. Questions your landing page must answer in order for it to be successful.

These questions include:

  • Who is the person or company offering these services?
  • Do they have the expertise to help me solve my problem or reach the result I’m after?
  • Put another way; are they a specialist and expert?
  • Do they have a track-record of success and results?
  • What makes them better than any other person or company in this industry?

These questions are driven by the nature of the buying process in consulting. Consulting services involve human interaction. They are unlike signing up for an online service or buying herbal supplements. When a buyer hires a consultant they know they’ll be interacting with them on a regular basis.

The relationship the buyer and consultant will create and have is critical. For that reason, the buyer of consulting services will look to quickly gain a sense of what it will be like to work with you as soon as they land on your page.

In just a few moments I’ll share with you the specific elements to include on your landing page to achieve optimal results. First, let’s talk about your personality. Continue Reading

How to Increase Your Consulting Fees By Communicating Greater Value

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Below is my chapter from the bestselling book Creating Business Growth. Within 1 day of publication Creating Business Growth became an Amazon Bestseller in 8 countries.

The fastest way to grow your business is to increase your prices. (<< Click to ReTweet This) This is hands down the most direct and effective way to grow your revenues.

No longer is the conversation centered around “Buy this because it’s your only choice.” It becomes, “which option would be best for you?” That’s a simple yet powerful difference.

To increase your prices and make more money than ever before, your focus must be on providing value.

And the more value you deliver, the more you can charge.

Once you adopt this approach, your revenue and income can skyrocket. Many of my clients have doubled and even tripled their revenues in months, not years, as a direct result of increasing their prices.

Tip #1-It’s Not About YOU

Okay, we’ve established that to charge more you need to provide greater value. So how do you do that?

First, you need to learn how to demonstrate and communicate the value you are delivering. The most successful business owners do so by following the approach below:

  1. They start by listening. To successfully communicate the value you deliver, you’ll need to discover your buyers’ biggest problems and the desired results they hope to achieve in choosing your product or service.
  1. They ask the right questions. To learn exactly what your buyer cares about most, you should ask as many questions as you can to discover the business impact caused by the problem they are experiencing. Use these questions to guide the conversation, and you will receive valuable information that helps you better communicate the value you are delivering. For example:
  • What is the main area you’d like to improve in your business/life?
  • What is its current impact on your business/life?
  • How long have you been dealing with it?
  • Why have you decided to deal with it now?
  • Tell me more about your current situation (income/weight/health/happiness/morale, etc.) and how you’d like it to change?
  • What are the greatest challenges holding you back from achieving your goals?
  • What is the value of one new project to your business, and how much will dealing with this problem help you achieve stronger business growth?
  1. They determine real value. Once you’ve asked lots of good questions and have plenty of information, you’ll be able to determine the real value of your offering to the buyer. If your buyer wants to attract more clients, and one new client is worth $35,000, that’s critical information to know, and I’ll show you how to use it shortly.
  1. They understand the cost of standing still. When it comes to communicating the value you provide to clients, it’s easy to overlook the cost of staying where they are. In your buyer’s case, not only do they stand to gain from the benefits they’ll receive from buying your product or service; they’re also losing money every day, week, and month that they don’t change their situation and solve the problem they have. If your buyer wants better health, every day they don’t improve their health increases their risk of additional health problems. If they want to attract more clients and increase their revenue, every day they don’t take action constitutes lost revenue for them. If they are currently earning $20k a month and want to increase that to $50k a month, they are losing the difference with each and every month that goes by without action.
  1. They think and speak in terms of value, not cost. As you begin to understand the true value you are providing, make sure it’s in line with your pricing; i.e. if your product or service will save your buyer $12k (the value), you’ll have a hard time selling your solution for $41k.

On the other hand, if your offering produces $250k in value for your buyer, charging $41k is right on the mark. Later, I’ll share how to set your pricing to ensure the right pricing-to-return-on-investment ratio for buyers. Continue Reading

21 Productivity Tips for Consultants

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Do you want to become more productive? Who doesn’t, right?

The idea of getting more done in less time is what so many of us strive for. In fact, there’s a huge industry and thousands of books written on how to become more productive. There is a problem with all of this however…

The problem my friend, is that learning how to become more productive has been made too complicated. The very act of following specific lists, keeping organized plans, charts, using special programs – makes being productive a job in and of itself.

So today I’d like to offer you 21 productivity tips that are easy to implement in your life. When I say easy that doesn’t mean change on your part isn’t required. It means they can be put into action right away and results that you can see instantly.

Picking up calls every time the phone rings doesn’t help you to be more productive.

1. Be Specific About Email Times

Most people open their email program every few seconds anticipating the next email. Worse yet others have notifications that go off on their phone or computers to notify them of new email. This may be one of the deadliest productivity killers. Don’t do this! Instead, have set times during the day that you check and respond to email. If that’s too big of a shift to make, start by closing your email program and only opening it between finishing and starting other priority tasks. If you’re only checking email once or twice a day a great tip is to setup an autoresponder that people will get that notifies them that you check email at certain times during the day and that you’ll respond then. The autoresponder isn’t critical and it’s more for your peace of mind then for the person that emails you. Who really can’t wait 4-5 hours to get a response?

2. Quit the Phone

I’m on client calls, coaching calls and sales calls making deals almost every day. I initiate those calls and they are scheduled in advance, sometimes many weeks in advance. I don’t pick up the phone. Why? Because it’s a disruption. It takes me away from my core work, my priority, the area I can add the greatest value in. If the person calling feels it’s such an emergency to get a hold of me they’ll call again, probably repeatedly. Seriously, how often is a phone call a real emergency? You may have heard of a technology called voicemail? It’s where people can leave you a message so you can return it later. Remember that? Use it! Picking up calls every time the phone rings doesn’t help you to be more productive.

3. Don’t Get Too Cuddly With Social Media

Like checking emails many people have an obsession with social media. They check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (fill in other social media platform) several times throughout the day. Often they do this several times an hour. And what happens when you do this? You end up reading an article, watching a video, clicking around to other sites. Unless you’re taking a break these actions aren’t helping you. When you’re ‘working’ on social media be clear that the actions you’re taking are helping you to make a sale or grow your business.

4. Focused Not Unfriendly

I’ve written about How to Get Better at Saying No and this is a skill and decision that impacts your productivity. It’s not always easy to turn down an invitation from a friend to meet for coffee. But when you know you need to get other priorities done for your business saying ‘No’ is critical. You’ll find as you become more successful more people will want access to you, they’ll want to take your time. And that’s great. Be honored and appreciate that. However, you can’t allow what others want to take you away from your goals and the achievements that you’re working towards. I remember when I was launching one of my first businesses many friends would invite me to join them for drinks or to hang out. I said ‘No’ almost every time. Not because I didn’t value them as friends but because I had set my priorities. Did they think I was crazy? Probably. Did they say I wasn’t ‘social’? I’m sure. Did I care? Not really. Once you’re clear on what you want you need to keep your head down and focus on it. That doesn’t mean you don’t socialize or have fun. Just balance your priorities so you’re not being taken off course. Continue Reading

Want a Successful Personal Consulting Brand? Start With These 2 Things

Consulting-Personal-Brand

The whole conversation about branding is nothing new. It’s something that’s been around for a long time.

Most of us will agree that a solid brand identity is something important for businesses to have, if they want to make a professional impression on their customers, employees, and basically anyone they come in contact with.

Do yourself a favor and every 2-4 years invest in some good quality photos. Sure it’s easy to take a selfie with your phone but the results are usually not that good.

But branding is not only for large businesses. If you’re working for yourself as many of us consultants, entrepreneurs, and coaches do, then there’s another part of the equation that you should be thinking about – welcome to personal branding.

In the last five years or so with the rise of social media and the ease of creating content and then sharing it personal branding has become more important than ever. Jayson Demers, founder and CEO of Seattle based content marketing and social media agency Audience Bloom, puts it like this “Just as so with a traditional brand, personal branding requires you to find a signature image, a unique voice, and a recognizable standard that your readers, fans, and customers can grow to recognize.

Now there’s a lot we can talk about within branding and in future articles I’ll dive into that but for today I want to talk about what I believe are three very important areas of your personal brand. If you take care of all three of these, you’re off to a great start in the world of personal branding!

2 Crucial Components of a Successful Personal Consulting Brand

A Professional Website
In 2015 having a professional, easy to use, good looking website that represents you and your consulting brand is a must. A website is definitely one of the first things people look for when researching a consultant and their services and trying to decide if they want to work with them or not.

Here at Consulting Success we’re constantly surprised at how many consultants still do not have a good looking website to represent their brand. It’s so important to your business and brand but yet so many consultants we deal with either have something outdated from several years ago that or they don’t have a website at all.

This is one of the main reasons we recently created our Professional Websites for Consultants Service where we work with our clients to develop them a professionally designed website that works on mobile devices, tablets, and all computers.

If you already have a great website then you’re ahead of most of your competition, if not please do yourself a favor and invest in one today. There’s no excuse for not having one in 2015, it’s expected!

Check out the screen shot of marketing consultant Brian Honigman’s website. Nice, professional, clean and gives you a great feeling about him and his services:

Brian-Honigman

Good Quality Photos
Having good quality head shots and professional photos of yourself and the main members of your business team is another key to building a good personal consulting brand. We live in a society that really does judge a book by its cover and the main photo you use online is your cover. You may argue that this is not right but the fact of the matter is it’s just how humans work, we judge based on looks. Continue Reading

Does Size Really Matter? Why A BIG Email List Isn’t Always Best

Email-List

We have over 23,000 people on our email list. That includes thousands of customers for our products and training, hundreds of coaching and consulting clients, and tens of thousands of blog readers.

In fact, each month we add just about 1000 new people to our lists.

We have several lists. For example, one for people that have been on our webinars. Another for customers and yet another for our blog readers. In total we have 6 active lists.

But the other day as I looked at one of our larger lists I got a strange feeling. We send at least 2 emails to this list each month, yet our open rates and engagement are lower than they should be.

Typical-Actives-Vs-Inactives-Ratio

This isn’t uncommon. 40% of people on a given email list is made up of inactives (people who don’t open or click your emails) according to Silverpop.

As I gave some thought to what we could do about this I uncovered some pretty eye-opening data.

Here’s the thing: Having inactive subscribers can cost you (in more ways than one). « Click to TWEET

If having inactive subscribers on your email list can hurt you why don’t people remove subscribers?

The BIG Mistake

Most people don’t remove inactive email subscribers because they believe that the subscriber might buy from them or take action in the future even though they haven’t taken action now.

There is truth to this. In fact, most subscribers won’t contact you or buy from you right away. It can take weeks, months, even sometimes years.

I know this may sound like ‘mixed messages’. I assure you it’s not. It comes down to how we classify an inactive subscriber. Let me explain…

Most people think about an inactive email subscriber as someone that doesn’t open an email. They look at a single email or different emails – but they focus on a specific campaign. That’s a mistake as you’ll get unreliable results.

View-Subscribers

When we say inactive what we’re really talking about is a subscriber that hasn’t opened or clicked on one of your emails for a significant period of time. It may be a matter of months or the last 20 campaigns you’ve sent.

The Difference

This is an important distinction because a subscriber that is on your email list who doesn’t contact or buy from you for a long period of time BUT does open your emails and click on links in them is very DIFFERENT from a subscriber that doesn’t open or engage with any emails for a long period of time. Continue Reading

5 Proven Follow Up Strategies for Consultants

5-Follow-Up-Strategies

Did you know that 80% of sales are made between the fifth and the twelfth contact with your ideal buyer?

What does that mean if you’re like the majority of consultants, professionals and even salespeople? It means you’re losing sales every month due to weak follow up.

The idea is that you shouldn’t try to answer something you don’t know. Because this provides a great opportunity for you to follow up.

This is true with both emails and phone calls. According to TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group in 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold calls to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8!

Which is a scary reality because the average sales person only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect (source: Sirius Decisions).

Here’s how the numbers really break down according to Followupsuccess.com

  • 2% of sales are made on the first contact
  • 3% of sales are made on the second contact
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact

If you want to close more sales you need to follow up. You must be in it for the long-term and not give up if things don’t come together for you right away.

In just a few minutes I’ll share with you proven strategies for your follow up that works well for consultants.

But there is another benefit of follow up…

That other benefit is that buyers that you consistently follow up with buy more from you. These ‘nurtured leads’ make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads says the Annuitas Group.

Follow up isn’t simply for phone calls and emails. Once you meet with a buyer follow up is critical. On average people only do one follow up after a meeting. The Marketing Donut reports that 80% of sales require 5 follow-up to make the sale.

Isn’t it interesting that all of these sources point to 5-12 interactions to make a sale to a buyer?

How many are you doing in your business right now?

Is there room for improvement?

We’ve established the importance of follow up. Now let’s look at 5 strategies you can use improve your follow up and make more consulting sales:

1. Focus on Value

If your follow up sounds like this you’re going to want to make some changes…”Hi Name, hope you are doing well. Just wanted to follow up and check in to see how things are going? Would be great to catch up….blah blah.”

Why doesn’t this work? It’s too general. There’s no REASON for the buyer to engage with you. if they weren’t interested before WHY should they be interested now? You need to focus on the value that your service/product will produce for the buyer. How will it solve their problem or help them to achieve a result they are after? Continue Reading

Delay Your Day and Become More Productive

Morning-Success-Rituals

“Wake up around 7am. Jump out of bed. Make a coffee. Turn on the computer. Read and reply to emails. Check Facebook. Start the work day.”

I really don’t like the sound of that. Yet that’s exactly what I used to do…

You see, up until somewhere about a year and a half ago what you just read above was what most mornings would look like for me. Sure, weekends and holidays were a bit different and I’d take them slow but weekday mornings were complete chaos. They didn’t feel right – something had to change.

Introducing Morning Success Rituals

The change didn’t just hit me, it just sort of evolved and was created over time. You see, I’m a huge reader of books on business, self-development, and success and I had always heard about morning rituals but never really thought about how I could improve my own mornings.

I had read or heard about things I could do like 7 minutes of exercise, skipping the coffee, and that maybe “bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning” can potentially change your life.

These all sounded great but I needed to create a set of rituals that worked for me.

Delaying the Start of the Day

After trying out a bunch of different things at this point my mornings now look like this.

1 Hour Morning Success Ritual

  • Wake up around 7am
  • Get out of bed right away
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Think and stretch for 5 minutes as I brew some coffee
  • Sit down and start journaling and looking at my daily and weekly schedule
  • Around 8am turn on my computer and start my work day usually feeling clear, positive, and ready for a good day

You may have noticed in this first hour of the day I don’t turn on my computer, check emails, or look at my phone. I just focus on the above list.

The real game changer for me is the journaling and scheduling part of this. In the journal I write about short and long term goals, how I’m feeling that day, what I think I can improve on (personally and in business), what I’m grateful for at this time, and I also take notes and jot down ideas about business and my life plans. Continue Reading

10 Tactics for Consultants to Negotiate Better

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I love making deals and negotiating. I remember as a young boy walking the old markets in Bangkok and Jerusalem. Negotiating a better price was expected and it was fun.

It’s critical that you believe in yourself and the value you create.

My goal was never to pressure the other side into giving me an unreasonably low price. In fact, I remember seeing tourists in Bangkok haggling over 50 cents – which to them was nothing – yet to the Thai market stall seller was a significant amount. That’s not the kind of business I believe in.

You must see value in your offering and have confidence in it. If you don’t, if you doubt the value you’re creating or feel your fee is ‘too high’ your counterpart will sense that.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before – a great negotiation is where both sides win. If one wins and one losses you’ve lost your opportunity to do business with that person again.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t go after making a great deal. You certainly do and this mindset and approach is the same with consulting buyers and clients.

Your ability to handle objections (I’ll cover this in another article soon) as well as how you deal with pricing, proposals and potential negotiations when the buyer wants you to lower your price – are all critical.

Here are 10 tactics to help you become a better negotiator:

  1. Establish trust – There is an old school of thought around negotiating that says you shouldn’t share information with your counterpart in the negotiation. This Harvard article supports the idea that sharing information makes sense. It comes back to the law of reciprocity. People want to give back when someone has given something of value to them. Of course you’ll want to avoid giving away highly sensitive information around your pricing or anything that may help you to get what you want. You’ll want to balance what you hold back with offering enough that your counterpart appreciates your offer and trusts you for the action.
  1. Danger of “Between” – In this article from Inc Magazine Mike Hofman suggests that you should avoid the word “between in negotiations.” This might sound odd, that just a single word can be so dangerous. Yet when you really think about it, it does make sense. You see, when you say “I was thinking between $150,000 and $400,000″ your counterpart is more likely to hone in on the lower amount (that they have to pay). In this case, they will do their best to hold you to $150,000 because that’s the number that you mentioned so it must be a possibility. If you are going to give ranges in negotiations ensure that the lowest number you offer is one you’d be happy to settle for.
  1. It’s not personal – You never want to take a negotiation personally. Far too many take business personally regardless. In a negotiation you must keep your cool. Like the poker player holding their cards – you don’t want to reveal any stress or anger you might be feeling. If someone makes you a lowball offer or doesn’t give you the terms you want – don’t take it personally. Talk calmly and tell them “that’s not going to work for me/us” and go on to explain why. Remember, what most people want is to get a part of what they want. If they can get it all, great. However, if they can get most of it, they’ll be happy too. Your job is to find that middle ground where both people get the most important things they want. If that means both of you can’t have everything so be it. Which brings me to the next point…
  1. Be clear on what you and your counterpart want – When you enter a negotiation be clear on exactly what you want. What is your number one priority? What is the true goal of the negotiation? If you had to give up some of the items on your ‘must have’ list, what would they be? The same goes for your counterpart. You’ll want to know as much as you can about what they truly want. And you’ll get some of this from research. But ask them. Don’t be shy to engage in a meaningful conversation where you find out what they really care about. This exercise prepares you for the unavoidable scenario where you and your counterpart need to make compromises.
  1. Do your research – I believe Tony Robbins said that before he enters a room to conduct an interview he spends 40+ hours researching the person. His goal is to know as much about their history and current situation. What drives them? What are their goals? What activities are they involved in? The result is that a scheduled 30 min interview often turns into a 3 hour passionate discussion where people share more with him then they ever planned on. Going into a negotiation is the same. Do as much digging as you can to learn about your counterpart. The more you learn about them before the negotiation the more personable the conversation can be. Which results in both sides creating a stronger bond, a better relationship and more mutually beneficial deal.

Continue Reading

8 Tips to Writing Effective Consulting Proposals that Win Business

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The consulting proposal is misunderstood. Consultants believe they understand what a ‘proposal’ should be yet their idea of one is ineffective and often results in losing the business they are after.

To help bridge this gap I’ve provided 8 tips to make your consulting proposals more effective.

Click here to Re-Tweet: 8 Tips to Writing Effective Consulting Proposals

1. Don’t Count on It

The proposal isn’t meant to win the business. The business should have already been won before sending the proposal. Remember that. It’s an important distinction.

Don’t be lured into using some online legal form as a base for your proposal. Having a consulting proposal is very different from having an effective consulting proposal.

Now, before you want to shoot the messenger, let’s get clear. Until the buyer signs an agreement (or proposal) you haven’t won the business. That said; don’t count on your proposal to win you the business. That isn’t the role it plays.

You should only be sending a proposal to a buyer once you’ve engaged in a sales conversation with them and they’ve given you the go ahead. They’ve agreed that they do have an issue or opportunity that they’d like your help with.

Before sending them a proposal and once it’s clear that you can add significantly value to the buyer you simply ask “Great, since we agree on ______, why don’t I put together a proposal for you with some options of how we can work together and I’ll send it over for you to review on X day. Does that work for you?”

If they say “No” or hesitate, you need to focus on the conversation until they say “Yes”. Only after they’ve given you this agreement should offer and send your proposal.

Many consultants jump at the chance to send a proposal to a buyer that isn’t sold on hiring them. They wonder why they ‘lose’ so many opportunities – it’s because they never reached agreement before sending the proposal – the opportunity they thought they had simply didn’t exist.

2. Focus on the Buyer, Not on Your Business

You must resist the urge to tell the buyer all about your business in the proposal. This isn’t the place for it. This conversation should have happened already.

The proposal needs to be focused on your buyer and their business, not yours. Don’t tell them how long you’ve been in business and that you have this and that. Instead, use the opening of your proposal to re-establish the opportunity and challenge that you previously discussed with the buyer.

Longer proposals provide no extra value. They tend to talk more about YOU than they do about the buyer.

This opening (think executive summary) confirms for the buyer that you understand their business and situation and that you know how to get them from where they are now, to where they want to be.

3. Nothing New Here

Confusion leads to inaction. Make sense?

If your buyer is confused and if anything is unclear they won’t sign your proposal. That’s why you don’t want to introduce any new information in the proposal. Keep the content focus on the discussion that you had with the buyer.

Should you choose to include new information make sure it is positive – for example, maybe you’re listing all the benefits they should expect as a result of implementing your recommendations. Most of this information should have come up in the sales conversation however.

Anytime you want to add information that wasn’t discussed previously stop and ask “Is there value for my buyer to see this in the proposal now? ” and “Is this really necessary to include?” If not, cut it. Continue Reading