We’ve all experienced it: the elation of having the prospective client request a proposal as quickly as possible only to have it languish in the land of unreturned follow-up phone calls.
What is really going on with these prospects anyway? How do we as professionals avoid the dilemma of the dangling proposal, and increase our proposal approval ratios?
To get to the solution we have to look behind the curtain, and see what the driving forces are around the requests for proposal.
For the purposes of this piece, we will focus primarily on one company’s specific request for a proposal from your firm or company vs. the cattle-call RFP (I’d recommend staying away from those as much as possible anyway).
What is prompting the prospect to request a proposal in the first place? The usual assumption is they are moving one step closer to doing business with you and will buy once they see your offer, both in terms of service content and fees. The first error here is that this is only an assumption.
It takes zero effort for a company to request a proposal of anyone. Companies know that in almost 100% of the cases, if they request a proposal, they will receive one. What is their liability in this request? Zero. They have everything to gain (information) and nothing to lose.
We, on the other hand, have a moderate potential gain (50-50) and a lot to lose. According to the professionals I’ve surveyed, the minimum amount of time invested in a decently crafted proposal is 2-3 hours. Multiply that by the hourly rate of the professional composing this document and you can see how costly this document really is. But that is a minimum investment. In many cases, developing a well-honed proposal is an important marketing tool that requires careful consideration and maybe several people’s participation. The cost multiplies quickly.
All of this investment could be well worth it – if the prospective client is ready, willing, and able to engage or buy now and your offer will be a profitable engagement for you.
But what if the prospect is just kicking tires, information gathering, using your proposal to improve his fees with his current professional or vendor? What if the prospective client thinks he’s ready, but can’t pull the trigger because change is too uncomfortable? What if you’ve drafted a proposal and didn’t realize you didn’t address the prospect’s REAL desires?
All of this could lead to the dreaded dangling proposal.
What to do?
Check back next week to read the second part in this series.
This expertise is offered by Nancy Fox is President of Fox Coaching Associates, a coaching and training firm specializing in assisting lawyers, accountants, and business owners nationwide”make rain without the pain(tm).” She has worked with hundreds of legal and other professionals in leveraging contacts, building successful relationships in business, and making lots of rain. Nancy publishes a FREE acclaimed bi-monthly e-zine, The Rainmaker Review, filled with tips and rainmaking information and takes subscriptions at http://www.bizdevsuccess.com
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