Every job I’ve ever worked has taught me a lesson I take to each occupation following, including the position I held in college as a grocery store cashier. From the time I met with the hiring manager to the last day spent with a trainer, one phrase was uttered so many times, that my fellow trainee and I had begun tallying:
“You are the last chance at a good impression we have with a customer.”
Like most cashiers, on a daily basis, I held processes like the register system, coupons, bagging rules, etc. closer to my heart. Survival over sentiment, probably. Looking back, I realize that phrase has stuck with me far better than the PLU for a Vidalia onion and has had a larger impact on how I treated every job after.
How could a customer service golden rule at a grocery store gig help the amazing Red Branch Media team? Business proposals. Similar to a front-end clerk, these documents are the last attempt you have at changing your ‘prospect’ to a ‘client’ and it can be quite an undertaking.How could a customer service golden rule at a grocery store help the amazing RBM team? Click To Tweet
Step 1: This is a Fresh Opportunity
Finding time to write these documents with the attention they deserve is hard for a team of any size. Being busy, shorthanded or overwhelmed with prospects often leads to cutting corners and the bad news: writing a great proposal has few short cuts. While old documents can be great references and pricing outlines are absolutely necessary, the actual proposal content should not be copied.
It is human nature to want to emulate what has worked in the past, but using an old document for more than a reference is denying the new company your complete attention. Instead, consider past situations that are similar, gather notes on what should be carried over and then create a template. This will guide research, make sure nothing is left out and will keep you from being overwhelmed by a blank page. And, if you aren’t creating templates for all repeated processes, you are wasting too much of your precious time.If you aren’t creating templates for repeated processes, you are wasting your precious time. Click To Tweet
Step 2: Research, Research, Research
It’s time-consuming and was definitely the hardest part of any paper that has ever been written, but without it, you have nothing but guesses. In your initial conversation with a prospect, you should be gathering details like goals, KPIs and budget, but do not let industry standards and competitors be forgotten.
Before beginning to write a B2B proposal, take time to delve into the company’s world. Web presence is a great starting point, so consider the website, social networks, digital advertisements, blog articles and any news or press releases that have been placed on the streams. The same must happen for competitors. This research will help build a solid, knowledgeable introduction to whom this proposal is being written. You may think you know exactly what a client needs, but nothing like well-rounded research can assure your assessment or show otherwise.
Step 3: Outline your Findings
Any piece of written work must have flow and tell a story. It has to guide the reader throughout each part from beginning to end. If you are responding to a request for proposal (RFP), then you will already have a great idea of the things that need to be included. If not, here’s a solid default:
- Summary – No one wants to hear they do everything wrong, so take the time in the introductory summary to touch on who this organization is, what they do and their accomplishments. Then discuss challenges.
- Scope of work – Now offer solutions. Introduce an actionable plan with services and products your company can provide.
- Goals & Timeline – If the prospect did not offer key performance indicators (KPIs) or clear cut goals, discuss the ones you have decided should be pursued. Be sure to consider how long the organization can work with your company, remain within those parameters as well as promising realistic tasks.
- Pricing List – It had to come eventually and right after completely explaining all the work that is planned, will help give the price dimension.
- Proof Points – If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em.
- Conclusion – Wrap up everything.
- Terms & Conditions – This is necessary for protection of all parties.
Want to read the next 3 steps? Be sure to check back here for part 2!