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Proposal New Business Prospect

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					         TR AINING FILE




             Streamlining
             the PROPOSAL
              PROCESS
              Interested in closing more new business? Have you considered
              improvements in your proposal process? It might be time to take a
              fresh look at how you develop and present this essential document.


BY L IS A RH AT I G A N
              TANDARDIZE THE process.                             prospect’s business as you can before responding. This gath-




    S
                                                                  ering of information occurs through a process called needs
                    There are several benefits to standardizing   assessment. It will help you to identify a prospect’s current
                    the proposal development process. It:         situation, and identify opportunities that respond to their
                                                                  needs.
                     • Reduces uncertainty over who should
                       write proposals, how long it should take   A face-to-face meeting is preferred. If that isn’t an option,
      and how to maintain quality.                                have a conference call, email exchange or attend the bidders’
    • Allows for better process management and increases          meeting. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to
      internal efficiencies.                                      research the company and prepare a list of high-gain ques-
    • Helps ensure consistent quality.                            tions beforehand.
    • Consistent language builds brand and image for your
      firm.                                                       High-Gain Questions are always open ended and structured
                                                                  to create dialog. By phrasing your questions in high-gain
As you can see in the flow chart opposite, proposals can, and     manner we avoid short, one-word answers that don’t produce
should, move through a systematic process. While not every        the conversation we are trying to initiate. By gaining valu-
proposal will follow exactly the same process, there are some     able information through conversation, you’ll eventually be
basic steps you should always consider:                           able to offer solutions that fit the prospect’s needs.
                                                                  Examples:
Needs Assessment: Many times you receive an RFP or
other type of letter requesting quotes. In these cases, there     Not High-Gain (Yes or No answers):
has been no direct conversation and additional steps are          “Do you receive your monthly financials in a timely man-
required for a needs assessment, one of your initial phases in    ner?”
any sales cycle.
                                                                  High-Gain (Open Ended): “What kinds of decisions do you
After receiving an RFP, you need to learn as much about the       make using your monthly financials?”

8    Professional Marketing                            www.PMForumNA.org                                         September 2005
Proposal flow chart


Define the Current Situation: Use information from the
needs assessment to define the current situation. It should be    Follow-up, Work the Sales Cycle: It’s important to control
unique to each proposal and cover specific areas of help          the next steps. Contact the prospect in advance of the deci-
needed, desired outcomes and important service attributes.        sion date to see if they have any additional questions.

Develop the First Draft: Either the firm’s marketing depart-      Developing an effective proposal is not as easy as it seems.
ment or the team assigned to the prospect can complete the        Reviewing your proposal process and actual proposals can
proposal from this stage. The structure should be set up as       help identify ways to increase efficiency and make your pro-
follows:                                                          posals more inviting. Consider these tips:
  • Current Situation
  • Proposed Approach                                             Personalize it: I have seen too many proposals that have a
  • Benefits derived from approach                                cookie-cutter introduction with the prospect’s name just
  • Business case for taking action (if necessary)                dropped in. Prospects are looking for someone they can trust
  • Why hire your firm                                            who cares about their company. Begin with a summary of
  • Fees/Arrangements                                             their current situation and explain what you know about the
  • Acceptance                                                    company. Focus on the prospect, not on your firm.
  • Appendix
                                                                  What do they really need? Using a needs assessment as the
Review: Appropriate team members should review the first          foundation of the proposal allows you to develop copy tai-
draft internally. Next, review the first draft outline with the   lored to your firm’s strengths while still focusing on the
prospect or client if possible to ensure you have accurately      prospect’s needs. The difference between delivering a bene-
reflected their needs. Incorporate changes and prepare the        fit-driven proposal, rather than a feature-oriented proposal
final draft with fees.                                            can make a big impact in the eyes of the reader.

Submitting the Proposal: Present the proposal in person           Don’t reinvent the wheel: Develop copy blocks for stan-
whenever possible.                                                dard parts of your proposal ahead of time that you can drop

September 2005                                          www.PMForumNA.org                              Professional Marketing    9
into proposals.                                                 Create urgency: It’s important to understand how the
                                                                prospect moves toward making a decision. Use the proposal
Give them what they want right away: If your prospect is        to explain the benefits and provide a business case for taking
looking for audit and tax work, don’t spend five pages of the   action. By pointing out the opportunities and threats (“If you
proposal explaining succession planning and cost segrega-       do not do this you will pay more in taxes than required”) you
                                                                create urgency and make the prospect move to a decision
                                   I have seen too              more quickly.
                                   many proposals that
                                                                Make it easy to accept: Make it as easy as possible for the
                                   have a cookie-cutter         prospect to sign on with your firm. Provide a clear place for
                                   introduction with            them to sign the proposal and a way to return it. Something
                                                                as simple as a “Fees and Acceptance” portion of the proposal
                                   the prospect’s name          allows the prospect an easy way to sign and send while the
                                   just dropped in.             commitment is fresh in their mind.

                                                                You can increase your firm’s proposal win-rate. Creating a
Lisa Rhatigan
                                                                standardized proposal process can save time and positively
tion. Providing too much information will only confuse the      influence how potential clients perceive your company.
reader and make it harder for them to determine how you         Proposals are essential aspects of winning new business –
will help them with their immediate needs. Stick to what        and a window for the prospect to see how your firm operates.
you are proposing to do – and what it will cost.                Know what image you want to portray.

Lisa Rhatigan is the Vice President of The Whetstone Group, Inc. The Whetstone Group helps professional service firms
develop and implement effective growth plans. For more information contact lisa@thewhetstonegroup.com or visit
www.thewhetstonegroup.com.

				
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