There’s a lot of focus on writing effective consulting proposals. You’ve likely signed up for our Consultants Toolkit list and received this guide. (UPDATE: The Consultants Toolkit has been deprecated. Please signup for the Consulting Blueprint instead).
But these proposals aren’t always as important as people often make them seem.
In fact, they can often be a waste of time. And I’ll illustrate this by telling you a true story from my early days as a marketing consultant.
Size Doesn’t Matter
I connected with a large international manufacturer. This company was doing some great things and seemed to have a strong product.
The president of this company was interested in having me consult for them to assist with making their online lead generation system more effective.
I spent the time to speak with this president. We exchanged several emails and calls. I took the time to review their current online situation and made notes on what areas could be improved.
I charged nothing for this and did so happily ‘knowing’ that a much larger project was imminent.
The president expressed his desire to move forward and we scheduled a sit down meeting in his office – about a 30 minute drive from mine. Two days before the meeting the president sent an email requesting a proposal.
Knowing that it takes a good deal of time to create a solid proposal I told him I wouldn’t do that. Instead, I offered to give him a brief summary (one-page) of what I felt I could bring to the table and what we’d work on.
He agreed and said that would be fine. The day before our meeting I received an email from him saying that they’d hired a full-time employee to work on this, so the meeting was off.
You meet all sorts of characters in business. I took no offence and wished him well.
Now, just imagine what it would have been liked if I had spent a full day or two putting together a proposal that would blow him away. Only to be told that the meeting is off.
Digging deeper into this you realize that this president wasn’t really all that serious. He was leading me on to believe he was fully interested, but really was more or less shopping around.
A real solid proposal isn’t for people that are shopping around. For them, you can hand them a one-page outline, or a generic form that you slightly customize.
Real Consulting Proposals = Real Value
Consulting proposals are in themselves a set of deep analysis, strategy and insight. That’s why I charge a fee for them.
This isn’t some new technique I’ve made up. Painting companies often provide a free in house consultation. When you’re ready, they’ll have a designer come in and suggest actual colors and give you a proposal – which they charge for. Then they do the painting – which of course they charge for. That’s how this business works.
My recommendation here is that you have some materials at the ready so you can give them to any business that comes calling. As their interest becomes more and more serious, you can get them invested deeper into the level of value you can deliver to them.
This ultimately leads to an ultimatum where you really get to see how serious the client is. Pay for a real consultation where we really get into details and options or take some information that will help you decide how serious you are.
Consulting proposals can be a waste of time. But it’s a shame to let that happen.