Last summer I had an epiphany. I told myself “No matter what happens, I’m going to start my own business”. I sat down and brainstormed some ideas on what it is that I am really good at; and genuinely thought about how I could get paid to do it. I met with friends and colleagues, read multiple articles, then registered my business, applied for an EIN number, and started my companies very own email. I ordered business cards, budgeted my time and planned which type of businesses I was going to focus my attention on. I spent countless hours researching business types and networking. I sent emails to small business owners, then followed up in person. I practically funded the local Starbucks due to business meetings and coffee dates; and finally, it happened. I secured my first prospective client.
I met with the owner of a local doughnut shop who wanted to expand their business beyond the typical selling of doughnuts. The owner and I, for a little over an hour, sat and discussed; what her needs were in order to grow her business, the process in which I’d meet said need, and finally the awkward discussion on the cost in which would be associated with my services. I set a follow up meeting with her and her business partner one week from the date of our original meeting. At the follow-up I was to bring a proposal with terms lined out for the discussion in which we had just had. I was stoked.
On my way home, I called my mom and explained everything that happened. She was happy for me also then asked “so, what’s next?” That’s when it hit me, mom was right…what is next. Through all the countless hours and money spent to get the client, I had no idea what my next step was to keep the client. I had no idea where to start on writing a decent proposal and I had just spent weeks wooing this person into a business meeting which actually went well. Now, I’ve got to deliver a product prior to my service’s being accepted.
Flash forward approximately nine months later. I’m sitting in class and one of my teachers shares an article called “The Worst Project Proposal in History (Case Study)” by Lior Frenkel http://thenuschool.com/the-worst-project-proposal-in-history-case-study/ . As I’m reading this article I’m thinking to myself “this dude had it all wrong”, in my mind I point out all the things he shouldn’t have done…then it hit me. I did some of this! I laughed to myself as I continued to read and things began sounding more and more familiar. Upon arriving home; immediately I pulled up the “proposal” I had written not even ten months prior and suddenly, I didn’t think Mr. Lior Frenkel’s proposal was indeed “The Worst Project Proposal in History”.
I want to specifically focus on the art of a decent proposal. It’s one thing to set up a meeting and discuss what can be done to help a client; and another thing similar yet different, to put it on paper. Where do you start? How is it formatted? What do I include or exclude? Is this step really necessary? To answer these questions, you need the basics.
Step 1: Start with what you know. Did this client solicit you? Or did you solicit them? In business today, many people in sales and marketing are programmed to go get the client. I like referring to them as the hunters. I find that with creating a personal brand, having some sort of plan, and networking appropriately in any field you can easily become the hunted. This means clients, in turn, are looking for you and from my experience gives you more of an advantage. If a client is coming to you; then your proposal should follow the format of a solicited proposal. Here is more information on the types of proposal’s http://thenuschool.com/the-worst-project-proposal-in-history-case-study/ .
Step 2: Know what is absolutely necessary to include. Most proposals have a basic format of: Intro, purpose, cost, expectation, qualification, and conclusion. Keep your audience in mind during this process. In your intro paragraph catch the reader’s attention, if this is a solicited proposal recap information given during prior meetings. If this is an unsolicited proposal, congratulate the company on a recent great accomplishment and state a clear purpose as to why you are reaching out. BE GENUINE. Then proceed with your costs in association to the expected quality of service. What can you do for this business and how much will this cost them? Once this is said and done continue to inform on your qualifications. Why should this company choose you? What makes you special? How will this benefit them? Feel free to include awards and references. Finally, your conclusion should tie the entire document together. Recap your intro and purpose. Personally, I give a little information about myself and what it would mean to me to complete this project for them. Leave contact information and a promise to follow up within a certain time frame. https://www.paperlessproposal.com/the-top-5-items-to-include-in-a-business-proposal/
Step 3: Follow up! Now you may ask what this step has to do with writing a proposal. You got me…It technically doesn’t. But after all this work to research and create the perfect proposal, this step is crucial. Many people can take all the advice in the world, write a perfect proposal then fail to do this last step and never solidify the business. Follow up is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of any position, especially sales. While writing this proposal you are attempting to persuade a company or individual to sign on and pay for your service. This makes you a sales person. I love looking at statistics for random things. So, feel free to take some time looking at this link and having your mind blown. http://blog.thebrevetgroup.com/21-mind-blowing-sales-stats
In conclusion, I want to travel back to this past summer. I sat down one week from the original meeting date with the local doughnut shop owner and her business partner with what I had prepared as my proposal. They took a good look at it, asked some follow up questions, then told me they would reach out to me in about a week once they had discussed the terms among themselves. I thanked them for their time, left them with a copy of my proposal, and proceeded to wait for a response. One week had passed, then two. The third week I reached out via email only to receive correspondence that they had decided not to proceed forward at this time. I don’t think this had anything to do with my business proposal not being up to par as I possibly had needed it too be. I think the company simply decided to go in another direction.
Fortunately, I am grateful this situation happened. It taught me something valuable and this I will never forget. I hit the ground running all over again the next week and haven’t stopped since, I simply have a little more info now. Learning how to properly write a professional business proposal was an absolute must. This knowledge has opened up many other doors I never had even considered. So my question to you this week. What skill are you possibly unaware you need? Have you reviewed some of your old document’s lately?