Friday, July 14, 2006

Should you present proposals via email or in person?

This week's Quick Tip from Marketing Mentor sparked a lot of response to our suggestion to present proposals to clients on the phone or in person instead of simply sending off a pdf document via email. Here are the highlights of the discussion. Please feel free to add your own comments.

Here's what I wrote:
Just because it's easy to submit a pdf proposal to your prospect or client via email doesn't mean you should.

In fact, in our recent Marketing and Pricing workshops, Peleg Top talked in depth about his policy to present his proposals in person whenever possible. (And if it isn't, on the phone is the next best thing.)

Otherwise, here's what happens: you send the proposal that you spent hours working on and all they do is flip to the last page to see how much it costs.

Instead, if you're in the same room with your prospect, you can go through the proposal, answer questions, explain your process and then, when it's time, get to the money issues.

The key is to approach it as a "working meeting" in which both sides invest time to talk about process and to begin brainstorming ideas.

This meeting will undoubtedly give your prospect a feel for how you work -- and you will also learn how they work. And I guarantee you that no one else will give them such a strong taste of what they'll get for their money.

Recently, two Marketing Mentor clients -- a designer and a writer -- teamed up to propose an annual report project to a local non-profit. They had a great meeting and the non-profit said they'd make a decision in a week. Instead, the prospect called the next day and awarded the project to our clients!

I know what you're thinking. "But my prospects won't want to meet with me." Well, it depends on how you approach it. And we have some ideas for you on the audio portion of this tip. So if you want to learn the magic words to say to get that meeting, [click here to listen] (it's just under 4 minutes).

Here's what Bob Bly wrote:
Sending the proposal via email takes 2 seconds.

Presenting it in person takes all day and conveys to the client that you are
not busy and your time is not valuable.

Here's what Douglas Kelly wrote:
It is so sad to see people that allow themselves to be “pushed around” — the theme of your confidence-building training. 90% of the world is bluff. People will push you only as far as you allow them. If young people knew that, they could do so much more.

As to your advice about not sending your proposal to your client or prospect by pdf. Here’s a way I’ve learned to remedy the situation of the client/prospect flipping to the back and looking at the price first. (They do it every time.) I send them the entire presentation-proposal, but without the costs. I approach them with it as if it is a draft.

Then we do a conference call or meeting in which I go through everything with them ostensibly to assure it is what they are seeking and showing what we can do for them to address their marketing or sales need. When they have no clue about what it might cost, you can get their real reactions to what you propose. Without a price, it is still a draft. Therefore they don’t feel it’s real, so they don’t need to make an up or a down judgment on your proposal. Or worse, make it an object of bargaining. And you may actually learn something from the conversation that can be added to make it serve their needs better.

By the time you finish this preliminary teleconference they will have bought into what you’re proposing. And you re-confirm all the aspects of it with them. This makes them feel as though they have an equity or proprietary interest in what you’re doing. It has their fingerprints on it. Then you tell them you will brush it up a little and make the changes in the strategy or tactics that might have come up in the conversation. And arrange for a second teleconference or meeting with them. At the second meeting your proposal has the price included, even itemized.

You can send a pdf to them then, with the price, and they will better understand the reasons for the cost being what it is. They may balk at the total price. If so, you can show them places you can cut out work to accommodate their comfort range in costs. This way you aren’t appearing to just cut your price. Rather, they can see that if they want to pay less, then they get less. Just as when they buy something as ordinary as a DVD player, or a computer, or a car.

Neither party loses face nor does the client/prospect think you are just pulling a price out of the air. You appear to be quite professional. And you don’t come off as bargaining for your services. A little bargaining might take place, but it won’t seem as if it’s just price cutting. Most clients have no idea of what it takes to prepare or execute a strategic plan, or even a direct mail package. All they know is that it probably costs more than they thought it would. But doesn’t everything?

There are many different renditions of this idea that are useful. They way I’ve explained this, it works better for large projects. But the principle of it works even for small projects. The idea is to take them one step at a time and don’t allow yourself to be hurried or intimidated. If one allows them to push for getting a good price before they even know what they’re buying, then one is indeed being pushed around.

Here's what Marcia Morante wrote:
I'm incredibly busy right now, and the thought of taking the time to present proposals in person doesn't seem manageable. On the other hand, if I'm shortlisted by the client, that's a different story. You'll usually be invited in.

Although I agree with you that a face-to-face meeting is best, it's a fairly big investment in money and time if the client is at the other end of a plane ride and a hotel stay.

What about a telephone presentation using Webex or a tool like it? (Gotomypc.com offers something similar called Gotomeeting.com) Is that almost as good or the same as sending an Email? It's also usually easier to get a commitment for a telephone call than for a visit.


What do you think? Any ideas or resources to contribute? If so, please comment.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Bob said...

I agree with Douglas. We often get a leg up on the competition by getting face time with our prospective clients. Once we look them in the eye, shake hands, and start to build a non-threatening relationship, we're already on the way to "yes" while our competition's PDFs are still piling up in the prospect's inbox.
Bob

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Douglas' approach. I might actually use it... Thank you for the tip ;-)
I still think a face to face, for a first project with a prospect, is necesary.
Every time I have presented a project via e-mail to a prospect, I've lost. Why? Because they have not met me and don't know who they dealing with.
80% of the time I present in person, I win. It's really worth it to take the time, even for tiny projects... except, of course, when they are a thousand mile away.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Dani Nordin said...

I really like Douglas's approach as well. I think it definitely would have helped with the job I just bid on (which I'm unfortunately thinking I didn't get, since I haven't heard from them despite a followup call) to present it as a draft and make sure I understood what their needs were completely, then hit them with the costs and contract.

I can also see where Bob is coming from, although I have to say that part of creating and maintaining positive business relationships, especially in a service business, is being able to give personal attention to your clients. While sending a PDF only takes two seconds, it may communicate to the client that you aren't willing to make the time to speak with the client personally. It's that willingness to take time out of your day to walk someone through this often-daunting document you've prepared for them that helps them remember you, and may ultimately lead to them choosing you over the folks who just shoot along a PDF.

I can't say I want to do this for every job, but I think as I start pitching bigger and bigger jobs, I'm going to find it essential to present in person.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually send serious proposals by Fedex. (Quickies for current clients - emails are fine.)

I agree with Bob Bly - for his reason and one other. My husband I I are having some work done on our house. The contractor has one of his guys drop off a written proposal for the next part, which we can then look at when we want and spend some time with. These are big decisions and who wants to make a quick decision on those? Not me, and - I presume - not my clients. Sitting right across from them is a kind of pressure that I know I wouldn't appreciate. Sometimes you just have to sleep on these things.

1:34 PM  
Blogger josh said...

These are good tools, but I would recommend http://www.showdocument.com - a free web-meeting service that requires no installation.

It allows instant co-browsing on any document.
You upload your document and invite your friends to view it with you. There is a review at http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10070332-2.html

Josh

7:07 AM  

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