Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Write a Proposal that Sells

A time consuming part of running a small business is providing proposals to potential clients. Even a quick bid takes time. It can be frustrating when you have several proposals pending and no one is buying.

Here are some tips for jazzing up the success rate of your proposals:

  • Do the homework. Talk or visit in person with prospective clients to find out what they need. Ask questions and let the client do the talking. For example, if you are a lawn care company, you might ask:

    What are your biggest concerns about your lawn?
    Do you have any problem areas? Weeds, dead grass, etc.
    What service are you using now?

  • Customize, even if just a little. You may have a standard proposal or quote form that you use - but whenever possible tailor the proposal to highlight the specific needs of your client. Use the same language and words of your client. In the lawn care example, if the client talks about the "north side of the yard" or the "area behind the air conditioner" - refer to it that way in your proposal.

  • Only provide a proposal when necessary. Writing a proposal takes time. If you see the client isn't a good fit for your service don't take time writing a proposal. Don't send out arbitrary proposals in hopes of getting business either. If you have met with a prospect and do not have a verbal agreement prior to your proposal submission - then your proposal probably won't be acccepted.

  • Give options. People like choices with different prices - specifically a high, medium and low price option. This changes the dynamic. Instead of saying "yes" or "no" to your proposal the customer concentrates on "which option do I want?"

  • Sell a little. Some call this showing value.

    For example, using my lawn care example again, instead of saying this:
    "Mow and weed side yard behind air conditioner."
    Say this:
    "In order to prevent unwanted ant beds and the potential of clogging the
    air conditioner vent, we will mow and weed the side yard behind the air
    conditioner. "

  • Don't quote a price too soon. What if you went to the doctor and said, "What's wrong with me and how much does it cost?" The doctor would spend time asking you questions, learning your history and examining you before making a diagnosis and giving you a bill. Try not to quote prices off the top of your head before learning what the client needs.

    By the same token, if someone calls you and ONLY wants to know your price it could be a waste of time quoting them - unless you know your prices are the lowest. My accountant won't quote prices over the phone at all. She tells prospects she will be glad to discuss pricing after they meet with her. This weeds the "bargain shoppers" and helps her determine how she can best work with the prospect - which improves her proposal success rate.

1 comment:

Charlene Brook said...

This is a great article for someone just starting a business.