I’ve never met a Request For Proposal I liked. They’re typically poorly designed, laden with pointless questions and ripe with ridiculous demands. Truth is: RFPs aren’t even meant to find the best vendor. They were invented by process-loving bureaucrats, whose sole mission in life is to procrastinate, justify their jobs and cover their asses.
RFPs suck. I make it a point never to fill them out. Not anymore.
But when a client does ask a reasonable question, for the love of padding your bank account, answer them.
Here are 4 laws of giving great proposals & project quotes that you should never break:
- Recognize Key Questions & Answer Them Thoroughly. If a client asks you a single question in an email, you can safely assume it’s important to them. Answer it. Ignoring questions to rush a proposal or quote is a clear sign of disinterest and disrespect. We’ve all had difficult clients that cross the line, but it’s critical to identify the real issues at hand, focus on those, and provide good answers.
- Answer Questions Before They’re Asked. The more practice you get answering key client questions, the better you’ll be at anticipating them in the first place. Once you know what a client is going to ask before they do you’ve won.
- Ask the Right Questions. Proposals and project quotes are as much about giving out information as they are about getting information. Clients rarely lay it all out on a silver platter; you need to probe and prod to get the information you need to get the job done.
- Explain Your Price. There’s nothing worse than a proposal or quote that gives no explanation of the price. If you can’t justify what you’re charging, it all looks like a sham. This is negatively compounded when the client’s already provided a budget.
Client says, “We’ve got $10,000 for this project. So what do you think it’ll cost?”
Idiot consultant, “Um…$10,000.”
Pretty convenient, eh?
Referrals Rule, But…
Many of you will get a lot of business from referrals. That’s great. That’s exactly how it should be. But don’t let that panacea of referrals go to your head. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful; especially negative word of mouth. It only takes one frustrated prospect to rattle some chains. And prospects will get frustrated very quickly if they receive shoddy, flippant proposals. The jilted prospect can easily tell other friends about your lousy effort. Worse, they can go back to the person that referred them in the first place.
Writing Great Proposals is About Attention
There are some critical best practices for writing great proposals that everyone should know. But every proposal and project quote can’t be a masterpiece. You need to balance the effort you put in with a host of other factors (opportunity, budget size, timeline, your availability, etc.)
You don’t have to explain everything in a proposal or project quote to the Nth degree, but you do need to understand a prospect’s key issues and handle those properly. People need to feel as if you’re giving them the undivided attention they deserve. That builds customer trust and loyalty. And makes your proposals better.