Did you know that you can close a deal and not waste a lot of time putting a proposal together?
Does writing a proposal put you under a lot of pressure and puts you into thinking, “I’ve got to get that proposal out but I don’t wanna spend all night trying to crank out something however I also don’t want to put out something that’s cookie-cutter.”
The biggest mistake I see in people who are generating proposals is that they:
1. Don’t know the difference between a proposal versus a statement of work versus a capabilities deck versus a contract versus the terms and conditions.
And these documents may all appear to be the same document, but they contain different components.
If you need to catch up on how the Statement of work is done and what its components are, Here is an episode of Office Hour that discusses just that.
2. Don’t know the combination of legal and business terms to use
Legal terms are refund rate, force contract cancellation, and intellectual property
Business terms are the statement of work
3. Don’t care about the main reason the clients want to hire them
If you have set up a deal properly, then you already know what the main reason is that that client wants to hire you because certainly, they have goals that they want to achieve.
They’re not looking to necessarily get more press releases or spend more money on PPC or have a website built. Those are all deliverables. Those are features.
So when we think about what are the key business things that are most valuable to them, if you’ve listened to them carefully, if you’re very clear in the value that you offer, What you do and who you serve then it’s really just a few simple bullet points stating who, where, what, when, how, why, and how much.
So when you write an executive summary, for example, you’re saying, “Our goal is to double your law firm from $5 million to $10 million.” instead you say, “Our goal is to generate X number of more leads, some kind of business benefit and the way we’re gonna do that is through running Facebook ads through the Social Amplification Engine, or through text messaging, or through whatever the technique is and it’s gonna be done by this person and that person and it will take this long and here’s our process on how we do it and this is how we are going to do it for you”.
So if you have all this stuff already set, you’ve already reframed the conversation and the deal is already closed before you ever have that meeting–discovery call or even before you send over that document that has that proposal or SOW.
So the reason I put out all this training on the Social Amplification Engine and the different components of that is to reframe to anyone who wants to work with us our business model. They already know this is what we do. This is our repeatable process. There’s no need to get on the phone and re-explain. There’s no need to write a custom contract. There’s no need to do all this other stuff because it’s all governed by these checklists. If you do this in advance, then when you actually write the proposal, it is a five-minute exercise.
4. Say “Proposal for XYZ Company” instead of “Generating X for XYZ Company”
Turn your client into a National Brand.
5. Think that the proposal should be 20 pages long
Proposal should be just a page or two maximum. You can do it in one page with three or four bullet points, and Don’t say:
- This document is to cover all this, this, and this, and this. No.
- Don’t just say the price
Instead, you say,
- Goal-Our goal is to generate these results
- Technique- The way we’re gonna do it is through this particular technique and then link it to the process that you have published or whatever framework that you have.
- Who will do what ?
- Meeting Schedule- Are you going to meet every month or according to a particular schedule?
- How will you track this project?
- How are you going to communicate?
- How much will be the investment?
- What do you need from them
So it’s not a proposal most people think, “Well, here’s what we’re gonna do, and here’s how much money it is, and maybe we’ll negotiate the terms”. But you make it very clear before you ever send the proposal that you will need something from them to succeed such as giving you access to some sites they hold to run the analytics.
- We need you to specify the main point of contact- who will be there on the day-to-day, that way the executive, the owner, isn’t having to be bogged down or have to track them down and see what’s going on.
- How are we going to measure the results?
- Are we sending the client a report every week or every month?
We’ve closed four deals like this just in the last week, and all of our proposals outline the business deliverables. It has been written in five minutes because it’s really just a few sentences outlining who, where, how, how much, and when. Just like the things that you learn in English.
If you have all those components, then it’s pretty hard to miss.
What do you do when a client wants to negotiate on the price?
Maybe you’re charging $20,000 a month, and that’s a little bit high for them. Find ways to spread the payments out or add in other pieces instead of just discounting the price. Maybe you are able to cover some other component that they see as valuable.
6. Use a template wrong
Other people who are doing these proposals have a template that starts with introducing their firm and all about them which is a Big mistake.
Always start with the goal and put you’re “About you” at the end.
But it’s not that you wanna use a template, because a lot of people think a template is just madlibs copy and replacing these different words. Then put in the client name, change the price, change the date but that’s not what a proposal is.
That’s the biggest mistake that people think– copy-paste from other items. If you truly understand what the client wants, and what the pain point is, you could say it in their words. Then you say how you’re gonna solve that problem using your framework, how long it’s gonna take, what are the things you need from them, things they need from you, and how you’re going to organize.
Then you can always point back to that saying, “This is what we agree to”, “This is what I need from you” or “Now we’re in phase two of six.” “Now we’re in phase three of six.” And that way you preempt issues because you’ve already stated in advance what supposed to be happening when.
7. Use proposal that they sent to another client
That seems like a good idea because after all, you’re doing the same thing for another client so you can use that same document. The risk of doing that is that the document might contain information specific to another company.
So if you have a template, make sure the template doesn’t have any names of actual clients unless they’re reference Lighthouse customers that you have.
You always wanna have variables that you find in and replace.
8. Put Features and benefits as the Goal
The business goals should not be the features and the benefits. Most people I’ve seen in the proposals will just say, “Here are the deliverables. We’re gonna do these things and these things and these things.”
But if you’re gonna charge a premium, you need to be on the same page and understanding with your client. Indicate expectations such as:
- What you’re going to.
If you are an agency and you have ad spend, or if you have other contractors or other agencies that you’re working with, you wanna make sure to specify the total investment, not just how much your fee is, but you also need them to know how much you want them to spend a month on ad spend, or if they will need to hire VAs and the VAs are gonna cost them a thousand dollars a month
- Involvement that you need from them.
So often there’ll be an operations person or someone who’s already very involved, like a VP of digital and they don’t have a lot of time. So unless you can specify someone who has enough time from an operational day-to-day task level standpoint, you may wanna say that “We need a key person for five hours a week or whatever it might be, just to be able to make sure our project is successful”
If you have those components. Doing these deals is very easy. The biggest issue is gonna be making sure that you can deliver.
I just find it crazy that even today people are spending a week trying to get back a proposal. I found that the longer you spend on the proposal, the more likely it is to fail. In fact, those people who spend a lot of time on a proposal usually don’t get the deal so if you have the deal in hand and you know you’re gonna win that deal, make sure to spend five minutes writing out the key bullet points, make sure to cover the items that I mentioned above, and you should know it so well that you don’t have to reference a document. But if you’re new and if you haven’t done a lot of proposals before, if you haven’t closed a bunch of deals before, then it’s good to use this as a framework.
About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.