Some say “times are hard and any business is good business.” We say, learn to be selective and learn to get more business proposals signed.
You get a request for proposal or you hear a rumor that someone is looking for a service right up your alley. You jump the gun and you rush to prepare a business proposal and go for the client. However, before negotiations, before even sending that business proposal, did you ever stop to consider if you really want that client?
In times of economic turmoil, we especially think we need to scarf down any business we can get because we don’t know when are next meal is going to be. We send out business proposals, focusing on quantity over quality, just trying to catch a bite. Doing so can create a sour taste for your company and can be a waste of your time.
Stop leaving the decision just up to the clients. They don’t have all the control. First, what work your business does is up to you and your business only. We’ll try to guide you with some key points to ponder before you go sending the wrong bid to the wrong client.
1. Set priorities
Start by prioritizing, focusing not only on reaching your short-term objectives, but also on your company’s vision and reputation. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself before even writing up and sending out that business proposal:
- Is this a project you really want to do?
- Is it worth your time?
- What direction is your business headed?
- Will this project take you there?
- Will this give your brand the local, national or international recognition your company needs?
We all know we do better creative work when we are motivated by something more than money (OK, well sometimes a LOT of money can be a BIG motivator.) When something inspires you or challenges you in the right way, you turn out your best work. It becomes the sort of work that turns your one-time customer into a long-term client.
2. Treat projects as portfolio assets
As you are looking to expand your brand recognition, think about what’s lacking from your portfolio.
- Are you going to be proud of this work?
- If you were applying for a job in another company, would this appear in your personal portfolio?
- Would you want to share this as part of your professional story?
You don’t want to fall into a trap of instant projects: projects with no additional value to you, except the money you make right now. They are not suitable for portfolio, do not make you stand out from the crowd and are useless once the work is done. Avoid those at all costs.
3. Assess clients as people
Once you know if the project is right for you, it’s time to decide if the client suits you.
- Does your potential client understand what they want?
- Are they willing to let you help them figure it out or are they ferociously independent without any reason?
- If your client doesn’t know what they want and doesn’t want help, how much use can you really be to them?
4. Make sure you can meet deadlines
Be reasonable. Can you deliver in a timely manner or are you swamped with other projects? Sending out too many business proposals can lead to yeses, but if you don’t have time to complete all the work, you’re offering a lot of empty promises, something that can destroy your reputation in the market.
Always remember: a current customer is much more expensive to lose, than a potential revenue new client can bring.
When you are on the merry-go-round, don’t go reaching for the golden ring and lose your balance and fall of your stable, purple horse. We are in the business of serving folks and building relationships – it can take numerous projects and years to build a relationship, but only one f&$!-up to destroy it.
Do not promise the impossible. You need to write a business proposal that outlines a reasonable timeline for completing tasks you know you and your coworkers can do well. Don’t promise to develop a multi-faceted, interactive, multi-language web page in two weeks if you don’t have the resources, skills or manpower to meet the deadline. Remember: Over-promising and not delivering is the surest way to lose a customer. Managing customer expectations from bid to proposal to action to completion is crucial to your business’s stability and expansion.
5. Set your pricing right
Once you’ve determined if a project is right for you, your company and your brand, the next step is writing your business proposal. One of the main things you have to decide is price. Yes, quote software can help you organize and spell out “how doing this costs this, etcetera, etcetera,” but remember, while running a business is often about the numbers, you need to create a perception of increased value along every step in your bid process, including in your business proposal.
When the marketing and branding value of a customer to your company is clear, the next step, when creating your personalized business proposal, is to put a price on it. Strive to create proposal quotes that reflect not only internal and external expenses, but also that reflect your value-added. Of course, since this is a business, try to make a profit.
6. Trust your instincts
Now, just because your client seems interested in your business and looks ready to sign on the dotted line, remember you still have the final say. If you’ve promised to work with one client and a more appealing one comes along, breaking that first promise could hurt your credibility. On the other hand, if along the way, the project has morphed into something you don’t think you stand for or if it just seems like the client will be a one-off, that’s more trouble than they might be worth, don’t be afraid to politely, diplomatically back out of the process before the signing happens.
Fight or flight. This animal instinct doesn’t just refer to walking home at night in a sketchy area, but also when you and the potential client are discussing proposal quotes and figures.
If they start over-analyzing the payment timetable on your business proposal, trying to skirt around your 30- or 60-day invoice policy, they might not adhere to it. Or if they say something like “Well, we will see how this goes and we’d rather wait to see results and decide whether to pay you later,” or say “a handshake’s as good as a signature,” flee!
On the other hand, be willing to bet on yourself. Don’t shy away from a chance to present your business proposal and see how you compare to your competitors. In creative fields like marketing and design, clients often want to be wooed, maybe asking you to pitch some ideas upfront before signing your great proposal. Look at it as a chance to practice presenting your business proposal – whether in person, over Skype or over the phone – and to speak on behalf of your company.
No matter which bid you decide to take, remember that it’s your business and YOU have the power.
Image credits: JohnKyo
Share your own bidding experience with us in the comments!