Tired of spending hours writing proposals that never result in a sale?
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how to get clients to say “yes” faster. Since writing the post, a number of people have said, “Heather, where I’m really stuck is how to write proposals. What do prospects expect? I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.”
You’re probably not doing it all wrong. But there probably are some things you can do to increase your odds of success. Here are some things to think about:
– Are your proposals detailed enough to be a DIY guide?
You’ve included a keyphrase list, a competitive analysis and a detailed explanation of the pages you’d rewrite and why. This process took you hours. You spent the time because you want to land the sale. After all, everything you wrote showcased your expertise. Right?
Instead, your prospect could read your free proposal and easily do the work themselves. Or hire a less expensive vendor. And yes. This happens.
Remember, the proposal’s purpose is to get the gig. Not give away your secrets. You may need to do some discovery to accurately bid on the gig. That’s cool.. Just save the meaty information for after you’ve cashed their check.
– Do you include too many options?
Ever talk to a prospect and think, “Wow, there are so many ways I can help her.” That’s great. Just don’t put all 10 ideas in one overwhelming proposal.
Why? Your prospect won’t know what to choose, what to do – heck, they may not even read all of it. After all, who wants to read a 20-page document when all they want to know is what you’ll do and how much it will cost.
The key is narrowing your options list way down. Remember, YOU are the expert – so choose what you think the prospect should do and focus on that. If your prospect needs options, limit them to three. You can focus on your other ideas after you’ve landed the gig and proven yourself.
– Should you have written a proposal in the first place?
Did you propose a $5,000/month agreement when the prospect has $500/month to spend? That’s a bad mistake.
It’s crucial to prequalify the prospect and ask about budget before you get to the proposal stage. If the client can’t pay for your expertise, you can refer them to someone else before spending loads of time.
It’s true that many prospects don’t know their budget or don’t want to answer the question. One way to deal with this is by telling the client, “Most projects like this cost anywhere from $5,000-$8,500. Is that within your budget? If the prospect says, “yes,” you’ll know you can move forward.
– Did you include any testimonials or bio information?
It’s important to remember that the person gathering proposals may not be the decision-maker. In fact, your proposal may be emailed to multiple team members, all with their own ideas and agendas. You may not ever have a chance to talk to these team members or “sell” your services – so your proposal has to do it for you.
To put your best foot forward, create a “bio page” and include it in your proposal. I include mine as the last page. That way, if someone is wondering about my qualifications, they can turn to the last page and read them. They don’t have to visit my site or surf around (although I figure they do this anyway.) It’s a great way to sell yourself in an understated way.
– Have you explained your terms?
It’s easy to propose something like, “Instead of rewriting these pages, we can edit them for keyphrases.” Although that’s super-clear to you, it won’t be clear to anyone not living and breathing the SEO/online writing world. The more questions that pop up during the proposal process, the easier it is to say no and work with the vendor who clearly spelled everything out.
Remember, even if your contact is SEO-smart, you shouldn’t assume everyone in the company (especially the decision-maker) has the same level of knowledge.
If your proposal is passed around to multiple people, you want to focus the discussion on how you can help – not cause a huge email thread asking you to define your terms. It’s important to speak your customers’ language and use terms they can easily understand. One easy way to do this is …
– Have you templatized your proposals?
Why, oh why, are you creating every proposal by hand every single time? Especially when most of your clients request the same services? An easy way to save time is to create template copy discussing your service offerings, deliverables (yes, define your terms) and general timelines. That way, creating a new proposal is as simple as adding the relevant information, proofing it and clicking send. Which reminds me…
– Does your propozal have some funky typos? <—yes, I did that on purpose!
Typos happen, especially when you’re kicking out a bunch of proposals at once. Prospects don’t dig typos, though – especially during the proposal process. And if you are using a template proposal, you better make darn sure that you erase the previous prospect’s name EVERYWHERE and replace it with the new client’s name.
I’m paranoid enough that I don’t rely on Word’s find and replace function. I hand-check that stuff.
Spending time to freshen up your proposal is one of the smartest things you can do. If you’re stuck on what to change, it couldn’t hurt to hire a consultant to help. That way, an outsider can provide suggestions on how to take your proposal from so-so to spectacular – and you can land the gig every time.
Photo thanks to Doug Wertman (Proposal at the PBR)