Proposals Will KILL Your Offline Business...

47 replies
I've been doing this a long time and here's what i've found...

The reason people ask you for a proposal is to get you to spill your guts, give away all your cool ideas that it has taken you years to learn and then giveaway your pricing structure (while they compare you to your competition) ... giving you ZERO COMMITMENT!!!

WARNING....

Someone you meet that just wants a proposal simply wants to know what you know and not pay you for it.

Please stop giving out proposals.

You have been warned...
#business #kill #offline #proposals
  • Profile picture of the author Mac the Knife
    Chris,

    Some people still need them for a variety of reasons...try getting institutional or large corporate clients without one. However, you make good point in that it is important to limit what you put in them. I only include simple explanations so that we have a bulleted list of items, but not SPECIFICS, i.e. Social Media management (Facebook, Twitter) $500 per month, something along those lines. Just saying...if I am charging $5000/month for a list of services and they require a proposal, I am DEFINITELY sending a proposal.

    Mac the Knife
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      I agree with Mac.

      For little mom and pop shops, you can get away with no formal proposal.

      For a large company, or at least one big enough that the decision has to go through multiple channels, good luck at getting the deal without a formal proposal. All of your competitors will be bringing one. You just lost.
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      • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
        Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

        I agree with Mac.

        For little mom and pop shops, you can get away with no formal proposal.

        For a large company, or at least one big enough that the decision has to go through multiple channels, good luck and getting the deal without a formal proposal. All of your competitors will be bringing one. You just lost.
        I disagree sorry.

        I have sat with potential clients that have shown me proposals from my competitors.

        They haven't understood most of what was in them though and I ended up getting the client because I spent more time working out the REAL issues they had (that in itself is a whole subject).

        The reason I could do this was I started at the top. With the directors. Build their trust and worked my way down to the marketing manager.

        They even paid for 12 months SEO up front...

        I'm not saying this to show off, I just want you guys to stop wasting hours.
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  • Profile picture of the author Colm Whelan
    Agree with both previous poster here. I have offline customers (not OM) that CANNOT sign off on a deal without a particular paper trail - one step of which is the proposal. My proposals are as vague as possible on specifics. That changes when it comes to contract time. My contracts are accompanied by a Service Agreement - which contains the specifices and is covered by an NDA clause in the contract.
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    • Profile picture of the author DaveOffen
      Yep, I kind of agree with both Chris and Mac. I have lots of "Mom n Pop" clients and have never given out a complete proposal... More bullet points really, so I tell them vaguely what I am going to do, but not necessarily how. The bottom line for them is will it make them money.

      However, I have had work with local government in the past in the UK and there really is no way round it. You have to go in with a big fat proposal that pretty much lists every step you take.

      And the same can be said for a few of my bigger corporate clients. No detailed proposal = no business... But, still don't give away all your secrets. They can know what you do, but that doesn't mean they know how to do it
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  • Profile picture of the author mr2monster
    I believe it was Kevin Riley that I heard it from first, but it's stuck with me and I've applied it to as much as I can...


    "Give them the WHAT, Sell them the HOW."


    You shouldn't be telling them HOW you're going to do things for them, in the proposals... you should be telling them WHAT you're going to be doing for them.
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    • Profile picture of the author DaveOffen
      Originally Posted by mr2monster View Post

      I believe it was Kevin Riley that I heard it from first, but it's stuck with me and I've applied it to as much as I can...


      "Give them the WHAT, Sell them the HOW."


      You shouldn't be telling them HOW you're going to do things for them in the proposals... you should be telling them WHAT you're going to be doing for them.
      That's a very cool one to remember!
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  • Profile picture of the author dancorkill
    Good point 100% agree only spend time doing anything for a client if you know they will pay you. Writing a proposal takes time, if they aren't interested, get them interested, if you can't the best proposal in the world won't do anything except take up your time.

    Preparing a proposal at their beckon call shows them you are their biatch. Even if you get them as a client you have already lost.
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  • Profile picture of the author mouseffects
    I never start out with a proposal except for one that says I have to perform keyword research and a competitive analysis before I can give them the full one. I explain that everything online is not equal and that, if I don't do the research, any proposal that I give them may not be worth a thing. In fact, I tell them that I do NOT bring on clients without one and most people appreciate that.

    Then I tell them that the analysis is going to cost them $395-595 depending on their industry based on the assumed competition and area covered (I don't tell them there's a price spread. I give them the price I decide it's worth).

    At the end they get a report that shows good quality (and bad quality) keywords, competition for page one for the terms researched and my suggestions how to attack the market (in general). Once I send it I spend about an hour on the phone explaining the report but in reality, I'm listening to them so I can see how to sell them on the proposal.

    I land about 80% of the clients I do this with and the others... oh well, I was paid well for doing something simple (the report) so who cares.

    This method lands me about a client every week or two at a rate of about $1000 per client and,after, 12 years, that's a lot of clients (and money).

    This way, when you give them the proposal, they have:

    1. already invested in you
    2. been on the phone with you so they know that you know what you are doing
    3. have already been subtlety "pre-sold"
    4. are already looking for your proposal (and, yes, it's generalized)
    5. And, have already partly decided that they are going to use you

    I love the idea that people pay me to research the stuff that I'll use to sell them. How much better can it get?
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    • Profile picture of the author Xebekn
      Originally Posted by mouseffects View Post

      I never start out with a proposal except for one that says I have to perform keyword research and a competitive analysis before I can give them the full one. I explain that everything online is not equal and that, if I don't do the research, any proposal that I give them may not be worth a thing. In fact, I tell them that I do NOT bring on clients without one and most people appreciate that.

      Then I tell them that the analysis is going to cost them $395-595 depending on their industry based on the assumed competition and area covered (I don't tell them there's a price spread. I give them the price I decide it's worth).

      At the end they get a report that shows good quality (and bad quality) keywords, competition for page one for the terms researched and my suggestions how to attack the market (in general). Once I send it I spend about an hour on the phone explaining the report but in reality, I'm listening to them so I can see how to sell them on the proposal.

      I land about 80% of the clients I do this with and the others... oh well, I was paid well for doing something simple (the report) so who cares.

      This method lands me about a client every week or two at a rate of about $1000 per client and,after, 12 years, that's a lot of clients (and money).

      This way, when you give them the proposal, they have:

      1. already invested in you
      2. been on the phone with you so they know that you know what you are doing
      3. have already been subtlety "pre-sold"
      4. are already looking for your proposal (and, yes, it's generalized)
      5. And, have already partly decided that they are going to use you

      I love the idea that people pay me to research the stuff that I'll use to sell them. How much better can it get?
      I am a local SEO start up and this really interests me. I do proposals for free as mine are all uniform. It takes me maybe half an hour to do one and send it. This isn't a big deal for me yet as I don't have a ton of accounts (4). Any advice?

      What market are you selling in that you can charge 395-595 for keyword research? I am working with local businesses and they would be hard pressed to spend that a month with no value added. I understand that professional keyword research is worth decent money but try explaining that to business owners when they don't understand a lot about SEO in the first place, are skeptical as SEO is, to them, a relatively new way to market. Are these corporations you're working for and if so, why are they outsourcing and how did you get in?

      I am sold on having someone invest a little bit of money with you on the front end for all the reasons you mention above. I would just like to know how this tailors to my market if you have time.

      Feel free to PM me if you would rather do that.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        Value has been added. Now that you've given them the results of your research, they know what keywords people use to find them. What keywords they should go after, and why. Also, how many searches a month for the keywords.

        Besides, there's nothing to stop you from telling them that whatever they pay is the down payment on the $x you charge to do the whole work.

        Also, you're assuming a lot. Some of them make good money, others do not. You're better off working with the ones who make enough money to pay for your services for the next 57 years.

        Also, it's a question of positioning and where you see yourself going and who you like to work with.

        If you only like to work with people who can only pay $99 for your services, nothing wrong with it.

        I used to own a real estate appraisal business. My basic appraisal price was $350... my competitors charged $225-300. There were tons of people who were not willing to pay $350 for a basic appraisal. That did not concern me. I was only interested in those who could and would pay my fee.

        And, since that's what I concerned myself with, I found clients who could and did pay $350 for a basic appraisal. Most of them were in the same industry as the clients of my competitors who charged only $250.




        Originally Posted by Xebekn View Post

        I am a local SEO start up and this really interests me. I do proposals for free as mine are all uniform. It takes me maybe half an hour to do one and send it. This isn't a big deal for me yet as I don't have a ton of accounts (4). Any advice?

        What market are you selling in that you can charge 395-595 for keyword research? I am working with local businesses and they would be hard pressed to spend that a month with no value added. I understand that professional keyword research is worth decent money but try explaining that to business owners when they don't understand a lot about SEO in the first place, are skeptical as SEO is, to them, a relatively new way to market. Are these corporations you're working for and if so, why are they outsourcing and how did you get in?

        I am sold on having someone invest a little bit of money with you on the front end for all the reasons you mention above. I would just like to know how this tailors to my market if you have time.

        Feel free to PM me if you would rather do that.
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        • Profile picture of the author Irish Intuition
          Aren't proposals part of the lead generation process?

          I guess I look at it as a foot in the door rather than
          some half flat tire being kicked.

          Proposals need to be strategized, not eliminated. The
          purpose of my 'proposal talk' is to make a sale, not just
          give them a pricing or processes document.

          If they want to kick a tire, make sure it's a tire they
          feel they can't do without
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      • Profile picture of the author bryson
        Originally Posted by Xebekn View Post

        I am a local SEO start up and this really interests me. I do proposals for free as mine are all uniform. It takes me maybe half an hour to do one and send it. This isn't a big deal for me yet as I don't have a ton of accounts (4). Any advice?

        What market are you selling in that you can charge 395-595 for keyword research? I am working with local businesses and they would be hard pressed to spend that a month with no value added. I understand that professional keyword research is worth decent money but try explaining that to business owners when they don't understand a lot about SEO in the first place, are skeptical as SEO is, to them, a relatively new way to market. Are these corporations you're working for and if so, why are they outsourcing and how did you get in?

        I am sold on having someone invest a little bit of money with you on the front end for all the reasons you mention above. I would just like to know how this tailors to my market if you have time.

        Feel free to PM me if you would rather do that.
        What I have found with sm business owners is if they are calling you, they already have a clue about your services.

        From this there are two categories.

        1 those that want to hire you and want to know your fees. These people want to understand what they are paying for and that is the sum of it.

        2 those that want to learn from you and plan on taking on seo themselves.

        The second category is usually easy to spot as they have knowledge and are asking more detailed/specific questions most don't

        These people I charge a fee for reports that have information they can take and implement themselves.

        The first group, I provide info pro bono to help them understand the process.
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    • Profile picture of the author umarwaqas789
      you make good point in that it is important to limit what you put in them. I only include simple explanations so that we have a bulleted list of items
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  • Profile picture of the author benbro
    Interesting thread. Let me say this...I can understand both points of view. One of the things that could make my perspective unique is that I'm an offliner but online mktg is also my 9 to 5-particarly dealing w. vendors pitching their services.

    Before becoming an online mktg mgr I probably would have said that you dont need a proposal as they can slow things down for you...But what I can say now is that we've never awarded mktg contracts to someone who didn't present a proposal.

    Furthermore, even if they did spell everything out in the proposal we're way too backed up to attempt to do it in house. Now this is a small biz we're talking about but honestly I'd expect that the situation wouldn't be much different for a larger company.

    So if there is a reason to go with a minimalist proposal I'd say that reason would be to build an aura of mystique rather than out of fear that the company will take your idea and run with it their selves.

    Hope that adds to the discussion folks.
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  • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
    In my opinion, if I don't already have a relationship with the company or at least some kind of trust, then they pay a proposal fee. No way around it. Even if it is 5K a month, I'm not doing it unless they pay a small fee... Otherwise, you're going to be competing with many others, you're going to invest a lot of time, and possibly walk away with nothing.

    Some proposals, meetings, and presentations, have easily added up to over 20... sometimes 30 hours. 30 hours on the phone will make me that amount if I really push.

    If you charge a formal proposal fee, they know you're serious... if they pay it, then they are already invested in you!

    That is my take on it at least.
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    • Profile picture of the author Michael Bucker
      Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

      In my opinion, if I don't already have a relationship with the company or at least some kind of trust, then they pay a proposal fee. No way around it. Even if it is 5K a month, I'm not doing it unless they pay a small fee... Otherwise, you're going to be competing with many others, you're going to invest a lot of time, and possibly walk away with nothing.

      Some proposals, meetings, and presentations, have easily added up to over 20... sometimes 30 hours. 30 hours on the phone will make me that amount if I really push.

      If you charge a formal proposal fee, they know you're serious... if they pay it, then they are already invested in you!

      That is my take on it at least.


      I agree and I agree, I been in business for 15 years and have trained salesmen for about 5 years now.

      Not giving proposals is not an option.

      When and how is the question? Which is what I am sure you are saying Chris just as nameless is saying here.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Makarski
    I usually charge for proposals (obviously, I don't call them "proposals" because who'd want to pay for that). I did send one out yesterday that I did not charge for because a) the prospect was a very strong referral from a close friend and b) we had a nice meeting at his restaurant and we had a nice 3-course meal on the house. But now I'm sitting here thinking, gee, I still shoulda charged something! Doing free work doesn't help anyone. If they are not prepared to spend even a $100 with me on the research project, why would they ever want to spend the $5K?
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  • Profile picture of the author QuickSurf
    Originally Posted by iamchrisgreen View Post

    I've been doing this a long time and here's what i've found...

    The reason people ask you for a proposal is to get you to spill your guts, give away all your cool ideas that it has taken you years to learn and then giveaway your pricing structure (while they compare you to your competition) ... giving you ZERO COMMITMENT!!!

    WARNING....

    Someone you meet that just wants a proposal simply wants to know what you know and not pay you for it.

    Please stop giving out proposals.

    You have been warned...
    Disagree... maybe for small mom and pop places like mentioned... however larger businesses will want one, and good luck getting their business w/o one.

    A company checks out some developers for a new building, they will want to see proposals from each. You think they'll go with the one that doesn't and just says all you have to know is we'll build you a building.... . Little hint --> like said above you don't necessarily have to call it a "proposal", and charging a fee for it is actually smart, it shows your serious and will weed out the tame wasters/bs'ers.
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by QuickSurf View Post

      Little hint --> like said above you don't necessarily have to call it a "proposal", and charging a fee for it is actually smart, it shows your serious and will weed out the tame wasters/bs'ers.
      If they pay you, then you have some kind of commitment. What I was saying is you should not produce a proposal without a commitment.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bruce NewMedia
    I think this is not so black and white...

    Small mom and pops, usually don't even ask for a full scale proposal, so they're not the problem, imo.

    But bigger, say Fortune 1000 companies, do expect a clear outline of what you will do, timelines, resources to be employed, etc. Over the years I have landed some big accounts, and even where I had a super strong 'in' with them, I still needed to provide some type of proposal.

    Now what that proposal contains is up to the consultant. With a little practice, it's not too hard to write about what you plan to do, but not specifically the tools or exact process you'll employ.

    I always say I charge for full proposals, but often waive the charge if we end up working together. To me, full scale proposals, means I am going after a 'big fish'.
    _____
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by brucerby View Post


      I always say I charge for full proposals, but often waive the charge if we end up working together. To me, full scale proposals, means I am going after a 'big fish'.
      _____
      Bruce NewMedia
      Yeah, that's what I am talking about.

      A company should invest in your time to create them a full scale proposal. This is your first small scale sale into the company.
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    • Profile picture of the author Blase
      Originally Posted by Bruce NewMedia View Post

      With a little practice, it's not too hard to write about what you plan to do, but not specifically the tools or exact process you'll employ.____
      Bruce NewMedia

      Bruce is absolutely correct IMO.

      If you could get good at writing one it can
      sell your services even more.

      Also, (and I have beaten this to death) you have
      to set the customers expectations and they
      have to agree on what you are going to deliver.

      I promise you if you don't have something in writing
      you will be doing a lot of extra work for free just to
      keep the client happy and get paid.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joshua Morris
    Yeah, charge for proposals, but dont call them that, call them "business plans" or something like that!!

    what you can do is offer a 100% money back guarantee if they dont like the proposal, Charge them upwards of £150... And just say, if you dont like it you can have all your money back.

    make sure the proposal is in paper form and you ONLY show it to them during a meeting so that if they dont like it, you can take it back and they are left with nothing but their money back.

    This puts a real value on your services and makes you look like the real deal.
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  • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
    Guess it's just "business", isn't it?

    As a grocery store customer I want to know how much those oranges gonna cost me, and owner even grabs of for me to taste: it's the way it goes.

    With offline business owners I do the same thing: I let them "taste" what can be done for them, and let them know my price. If they want to go shopping somewhere else, that's just business.

    Seems to me you're confusing a Proposal with a detailed plan of everything - and that not even my VA's get.

    Proposal: oranges from California, fresh and juicy, extra quality - $$$ per Kilo.
    Plan: Sorry, can't tell you how to grow your own California oranges.

    In the end we sell oranges, we don't teach people how to grow them.

    P.S. I love oranges, don't you?

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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    I've seen people using proposals as a sales tool. IMHO...that is not what they are for.

    My proposals are also my contracts. Sign it, pay me and we get started. This is long, long after the talking has been done and the sale has been made. So many people bring a proposal first and try to use it like a brochure. This is a terrible approach.
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    • Profile picture of the author AUKev
      I am struggling with the proposal process to say the least. I come from a software consulting background. Our proposals are often so detailed, that if we get the project, the proposal turns into our Statement of Work.

      I need to find a middle ground for the ideal proposal. I recently spent 8 hours putting a proposal together for the client to say he does not have the budget now. Although he wanted a proposal right away.

      For another client I did a 30 minute proposal with an outline of their current rankings/keywords and what I would do for them and a price. Lost this project to a company that provided a 20 page proposal (template), for the same price.

      Does anyone have a successful proposal template?

      Hmm! I see my first WSO coming. Software that would analyze a URL and then generate a proposal based on items the customer needs/wants. Individual blocks customizable based on categories... Google Places, video marketing, SEO, Social Media (FB, Twitter, LI), Press Releases...

      Unless someone already has one for sale?
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Rivers
    Quick note...

    I tend to agree with Chris when it comes to Mom-n-Pop shops not needing a proposal to close business. In fact, when I didn't use a proposal with the smaller guys, I closed more deals than when I did use a proposal.

    Honestly, now that I think about it, I believe that sometimes we subconsciously use proposals as a crutch for developing a relationship instead of digging deep into the business owner's problem that we might be able to solve.

    Without a proposal, I was forced to cultivate and nurture a relationship built on trust, understanding and a honest perspective of results that could be achieved. By the time we were finished spending a couple of hours and sessions talking about the business, the owner's were ready to go on a handshake and that's how we started.

    Now, of course I prepared written summaries of the work to be performed and the results that we were striving for, but that was done after payment was received.

    Lastly, it also depends on how you're getting prospects into your business. If you get a client to contact you because you're advertising a service for a specific price for local small businesses, then the business owner will likely not need a in-depth proposal before agreeing to hire you because they're seeking you. A basic contract will do.

    However, if you're out there soliciting for business, there's a much greater chance that prospects will want a proposal before they hire you.

    In these cases, I have a proposal template with the "What" and not the "How" that I can tweak to be specific to a client in a few minutes if I really rushed it.

    I can flesh it out and plan out deliverables AFTER I've been paid. Using this basic template, keeps me cool, calm and collected if a prospect totally flakes out on me and tries to do some underhanded stuff.

    When it comes to closing bigger clients with multiple people in the decision making process, I think it's impossible to get the job without a proposal. I've spent over a decade working for big companies with million dollar marketing campaigns and they wouldn't give you the time of day without a written proposal.

    Hope this helps,

    Chris
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  • Profile picture of the author danielkanuck
    Originally Posted by iamchrisgreen View Post

    I've been doing this a long time and here's what i've found...

    The reason people ask you for a proposal is to get you to spill your guts, give away all your cool ideas that it has taken you years to learn and then giveaway your pricing structure (while they compare you to your competition) ... giving you ZERO COMMITMENT!!!

    WARNING....

    Someone you meet that just wants a proposal simply wants to know what you know and not pay you for it.

    Please stop giving out proposals.

    You have been warned...
    This and stop agreeing to see a potential client for lunch. They want to squeeze marketing information out of you for free. And then will leave... leaving you with the lunch bill. Real talk...
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  • Profile picture of the author atrbiz
    Originally Posted by iamchrisgreen View Post

    I've been doing this a long time and here's what i've found...

    The reason people ask you for a proposal is to get you to spill your guts, give away all your cool ideas that it has taken you years to learn and then giveaway your pricing structure (while they compare you to your competition) ... giving you ZERO COMMITMENT!!!

    WARNING....

    Someone you meet that just wants a proposal simply wants to know what you know and not pay you for it.

    Please stop giving out proposals.

    You have been warned...
    Chris,

    Funny story...I closed a $4000 web design deal last week OVER THE PHONE - no proposal

    99% of my business is done with Q and A session via email/phone and I give them a price tag. No 40 page proposal.

    I've closed several $500-$2k web design deals the last month with this simple email:
    "Hello Mr. Doe

    I reviewed your project requirements and the price will be $x,xxx for a custom WP website and turn around time is between 5-7 business days.

    Thank you,
    Ahmad"

    So yes Warriors...a proposal is def NOT always needed (only in a few situations).

    Good luck,
    Ahmad
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    So it's time for the consultative sales trainer to weigh in, I guess. Hopefully I can share some info on what's happening in this tire-kicking process and what to do about it.

    First, people want proposals to cover their butts.

    They don't want to look stupid, they're terrified of being blamed, they definitely don't need their spouse or board of directors telling them they're an idiot for doing what they did.

    Needing a formal proposal in response to an RFQ is a result of the high C types (look up DISC profile) who want to check compliance on every detail: that all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Thus covering their behinds.

    Not everyone will need one, and business owners are usually Ds in the DISC profile, meaning the hard-pushing, get-it-done types who will go ahead with spit and a handshake (but you'd better not ever let them down). The Ds don't need detail, but they usually have Cs covering for them (okay, you all remember Kirk and Spock, right?).

    The typical model of selling today is called the Transactional Model. The seller offers something with features for the buyer. The seller attempts to overcome objections and "close." The buyer buys, or doesn't. The seller is pushing. The buyer resists. Emotions abound.

    The system buyers have figured out to deal with salespeople is:

    1. Lie about the extent of the problem, what they need, their budget for fixing it and just about everything else. There's nothing wrong about this: prospects do this to protect themselves, and you and I do, too.

    2. Feign massive interest in an attempt to get a free education on the subject. Salespeople, who generally don't know how to shut up, gush out all sorts of product knowledge in an attempt to appear competent.

    3. The seller submits a proposal.

    4. The buyer/prospect, having been educated at no cost, disappears. Voicemails go unanswered. The seller, having told their boss they've got a hot one on the line, is confused and disappointed.

    5. The buyer takes the free education, reduces all the sellers to the same level, and proceeds to source the same features & benefits at the lowest price.

    Does this make sense? Have you experienced this, and are just now learning what happened?


    So, Jason, what's the solution? What do we do as salespeople to stop this from happening?

    Simple. We stop giving free education classes. We act like we did when we were new and didn't have much product knowledge. We ask a lot of questions. We set up straightforward "If...then" requirements. "If" I tell you how we can solve your problem, "then" you will give me an answer today, within a few hours or less, to whether you will move forward with us or not. Or I won't show you anything.

    Demonstrating, or "demoing", should be the hardest thing to get out of you. And yet look how many companies offer demos of their products and services, giving free education to their prospects, right off the bat?

    Would a lawyer do this? Would a lawyer "demo" for a client how to get them out of trouble? You *know* the answer is "Hell No!" They don't tell you, the client, what they're doing and how they do it. They just fix the problem for you. And bill you.

    Hope this helps!
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  • Profile picture of the author WarriorDad
    Great thread on an issue all offline marketers probably have to deal with.

    Let's see if I can pull some common conclusions out of the discussion so far:

    1) The smaller the client, the less formal they'll usually be, and the
    less expectation there will be for a formal proposal.

    2) If you do provide a proposal, make sure it's general in nature ("what"
    goals your actions will accomplish) and don't give away any of your
    trade secrets (the "hows" of what you would do for them).

    3) Charge for a formal appraisal, not only to demonstrate that your time is
    valuable, but to also pre-commit them as a client (who now has some
    of their own skin in the game).

    4) If you want to kick back that proposal fee to them if they sign up with
    you, that could be a positive psychological inducement for them to
    follow through with an engagement.

    Did I capture the essence of these correctly? Anything significant I left out?
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by WarriorDad View Post

      Great thread on an issue all offline marketers probably have to deal with.

      Let's see if I can pull some common conclusions out of the discussion so far:

      1) The smaller the client, the less formal they'll usually be, and the
      less expectation there will be for a formal proposal.

      2) If you do provide a proposal, make sure it's general in nature ("what"
      goals your actions will accomplish) and don't give away any of your
      trade secrets (the "hows" of what you would do for them).

      3) Charge for a formal appraisal, not only to demonstrate that your time is
      valuable, but to also pre-commit them as a client (who now has some
      of their own skin in the game).

      4) If you want to kick back that proposal fee to them if they sign up with
      you, that could be a positive psychological inducement for them to
      follow through with an engagement.

      Did I capture the essence of these correctly? Anything significant I left out?
      I think you pretty much nailed it...
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  • Profile picture of the author RySpencer
    I only give proposals to large clients. Within the proposal I don't get into specifics, but I give a price break down of what I will do. Ex: Twitter Service, $400, Backlinking, $400 etc...

    If a small company that I have not heard approaches me, I refer them to testimonials and references, it usually works out quite nice.
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by RySpencer View Post

      I only give proposals to large clients. Within the proposal I don't get into specifics, but I give a price break down of what I will do. Ex: Twitter Service, $400, Backlinking, $400 etc...
      Then what happens?
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      • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
        Originally Posted by iamchrisgreen View Post

        Then what happens?
        If it's a big company (usually the ones that track every cent they spend in marketing) most probably they'll ask him to show whats inside and what TANGIBLE results they will get - at the very least.
        Signature
        People make good money selling to the rich. But the rich got rich selling to the masses.
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  • Profile picture of the author SarahRose
    I'm so glad to have found this post! A potential client (prepaid legal) requested for a proposal this Monday.

    With all the advices, I'd better scale down on the details to show to him.

    But here in my market, we don't charge for proposals. Proposals here are somewhat like pitching.

    Instead of the usual paper documented proposal, I'm thinking of doing one up using Powerpoint and send it to the prospect. Think it's a good idea?
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by SarahRose View Post

      But here in my market, we don't charge for proposals. Proposals here are somewhat like pitching.
      What would happen if you did charge for Proposals?


      Originally Posted by SarahRose View Post

      Instead of the usual paper documented proposal, I'm thinking of doing one up using Powerpoint and send it to the prospect. Think it's a good idea?
      No, sorry I don't.
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  • Profile picture of the author midasmarketing
    one thing i have learned is don't ever tell them you are using software. tell them your "team" will get it done, be it research or link building.
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  • Profile picture of the author Richard Tunnah
    Originally Posted by iamchrisgreen View Post

    I've been doing this a long time and here's what i've found...

    The reason people ask you for a proposal is to get you to spill your guts, give away all your cool ideas that it has taken you years to learn and then giveaway your pricing structure (while they compare you to your competition) ... giving you ZERO COMMITMENT!!!

    WARNING....

    Someone you meet that just wants a proposal simply wants to know what you know and not pay you for it.

    Please stop giving out proposals.

    You have been warned...
    Chris,
    Great post. I have fallen into this trap I'm afraid. I got a load of enquiries from lawyers. Each wanted a full proposal. I gave out probably 7 or 8 and you know what....I never got the business. That was a hard lesson!

    Rich
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    • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
      As I said above, it seems there is a HUGE confusion here between a "proposal" and a "plan".

      No way in hell my customers would want us to develop their marketing plans unless they KNOW the goals we plan to achieve. You guys really believe companies pay 5-15K for marketing without the need of knowing ALL The goals?

      Some of our customers pay pretty well, but they sure want to know what they'll get and when - NOT the designs, NOT the CMS, not the colors... etc etc. They want to know what we'll GET THEM with that amount of money.

      Goals, Profits, Customers, Rankings, Branding, ETC.

      We deliver PLANS with GOALS - but we never EVER disclose the tools/designs/scripts of what we do UNLESS they pay us 50% to kick start the project. Only then they are able to see portions of what we'll be doing, unless it's design (graphic/web) and there they need to approve the designs before development, obviously.

      My Best Tip for newcomers:

      Before you got your contract signed and 50% on your bank account, JUST deliver Plans, Goals, Timelines and Costs... and you'll be fine. But I surely understand how some people get excited and deliver a website design to try to close the sale, etc etc.

      Fernando
      Signature
      People make good money selling to the rich. But the rich got rich selling to the masses.
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    • Profile picture of the author iamchrisgreen
      Originally Posted by Richard Tunnah View Post

      Chris,
      Great post. I have fallen into this trap I'm afraid. I got a load of enquiries from lawyers. Each wanted a full proposal. I gave out probably 7 or 8 and you know what....I never got the business. That was a hard lesson!

      Rich

      Thanks for the honesty Richard. I hope that will teach other people not to waste their time as well.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Morris
    Have to agree with most of the comments here.
    In my experience a 'high level overview' can act as a comfort factor for them. I spend a lot of time with a potential client first trying to understand what they really want I then prepare a one page overview showing I understand what they need, my solution (limited detail) and then pricing.
    I try and establish in my initial meeting budget, competition, decision making process so that I have a fair idea what I am up against.
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  • Profile picture of the author Gaumnitz5
    First let me say that I am new to the whole offline marketing arena, but my 18 years of commission sales experience tells me that people need to understand a few realities of sales.

    1) Some people just won't buy from you. No matter how good your proposal or how strong your closing techniques are. That is just how it works.

    2) As a salesperson, your goal is to get them to talk/meet with you. Especially when you are selling a service, you are essentially selling yourself and your expertise. If you are just giving people a detailed proposal without building any value in yourself, then why shouldn't they look for someone else.

    Keep in mind that there are hundreds of companies online offering the services you are offering. Maybe not all together in one package, but they are out there.

    Don't turn yourself into a commodity.

    3) The ability to tell when a potential customer is just looking vs seriously interested is an art not a science. You have to get clues from what they say, how they say it, and when they say it. Something that is hard to do without talking to them.
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  • Profile picture of the author FormerWageSlave
    @iamchrisgreen - So what do you do instead?


    Anyone have links to any good 'proposals' or 'plans' or can throw out an example that doesn't give too much away?

    I have a meeting this week with a potential client for custom offline and online marketing consulting and I'd like to leave something behind describing the "What" of my services and a timeline.
    Signature

    grrr...

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    • Profile picture of the author bryson
      Originally Posted by FormerWageSlave View Post

      @iamchrisgreen - So what do you do instead?


      Anyone have links to any good 'proposals' or 'plans' or can throw out an example that doesn't give too much away?

      I have a meeting this week with a potential client for custom offline and online marketing consulting and I'd like to leave something behind describing the "What" of my services and a timeline.
      I can send you something. PM me.
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