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.
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