Have you noticed this trend too? You send a proposal to a prospective client and you don’t hear anything back, not even an acknowledgement that it’s been received?
It seems to go along with our instant culture – no need to commit to social plans until the last minute, which can just as easily be cancelled when something else more appealing comes along.
But as the person who spent time and effort to produce that proposal, it feels like a slap in the face, doesn’t it? Especially after you’ve had a good conversation with this person and come up with a solution customized to the problem he/she is having.
Now you’re expending even more time and effort figuring out how to follow up without being annoying.
Let’s see if we can make this a little easier and more likely to result in some real business.
Don’t Produce a Proposal ‘just for pricing’
If you’re selling some sort of service, it’s unlikely that you have off the shelf pricing. Sometimes a prospect (or someone more junior) is just calling for pricing.
This is where you need to ask a few quick questions to qualify the opportunity – if the prospect isn’t interested in having a further conversation, chances are they aren’t likely to be a high quality prospect.
Don’t offer to produce a proposal unless you have a prepared rate card. Instead, provide a range, tell the prospect that prices ‘start at’ or say ‘for this service clients typically pay X’.
Schedule Time to Review the Proposal
When you’re having a conversation that leads to an agreement to produce a proposal, schedule time with the client right then and there to review the proposal. Of course you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare it and for the prospect to review it. A week is what I recommend.
Follow Up Creatively
If your prospect still hasn’t committed after you have your proposal review meeting (or they wouldn’t even commit to that), you need a follow up plan. Once or twice isn’t enough!
It’s unlikely that your proposal and the service you provide is the most important thing this prospective client is dealing with today or even this week. Staff emergencies come up, bosses demand tighter deadlines, sometimes even major company changes occur that were unforeseen. Not to mention things that might be happening at home.
Here’s what you can do (adjust timings as appropriate for your business and industry):
I tell my clients that you continue to follow up until you hear a ‘NO’. In practice, if you’ve followed the process above and you haven’t received any updates it is unlikely that you will. If someone can’t even be bothered to tell you that they’ve moved in a different direction or put the project on hold, they’re not likely to be a very good client.
Take them out of your pipeline. There’s a slim chance they’ll call you again and want to start talking in which case you can add them back to your current opportunities. It happens – I recently signed a contract with a firm that first asked for a proposal a year ago.
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