5 Recommendations for Following Up on Proposals
Monday, November 1, 2010
by Russ Schoper CMC
A CMC colleague recently
received a call out of the blue, and from a total stranger, asking him to
submit a proposal for an engagement. This consultant discovered that the caller
had already selected a vendor, but needed a competitive bid to comply with
Sound familiar? In the end,
this consultant did submit a proposal and ended up winning the bid in part due
to his excellent follow-up skills.
Writing proposals and
winning assignments represents a critical and exciting part of the consulting
profession as it provides an opportunity to expand an existing client
relationship or establish a new one.
While many sales gurus have expounded on the art and science of writing
proposals, I find little constructive advice on the best practices for proposal
Many people would agree that
no set of rules or standards dictate how to conduct follow-up activities in the
pursuit of a proposed engagement.
However, there are some important steps you can take in the period after
you submit a proposal to maximize the likelihood of success. Here I provide some guidance on the subject
with recommendations based on my 20+ years of experience and that of my
Tailor the proposal to the needs of your client or
prospect, based on a thorough understanding of their organization, processes,
challenges, and recognized need. With this information in mind, you can clearly
describe the endgame and the results that you are going to deliver. If you miss these key components, in the eyes
of your prospect, you will face a much longer sales cycle, if you are able to
succeed at all. The longer it takes to
submit an accurate proposal, the more likely the prospect will lose interest or
develop more pressing needs.
Present the proposal to the decision-makers in
person. Being present demonstrates
your commitment to the proposal as well as the significance of the people
receiving the proposal. If you cannot be
present, send the proposal with a cover letter via email after you have
initiated a phone conversation to discuss it.
This conversation is very important because it gives you the opportunity
to discuss the highlights and nuances of the proposal that may not be obvious
to the reader.
Fully understand the decision process and respect the
chain of command the proposal must follow to acceptance and initiation. If
you manage the effort properly, you will be able to facilitate this process
with information and insight. Knowing
who the key decision-makers and key influencers are while fully respecting
their style and decision-making process will help immensely as you work to move
the proposal forward to secure the engagement.
If you build strong relationships throughout the organization,
following-up with multiple parties reduces opportunities for hurt feelings.
Keep legal documents prepared in advance to submit immediately after
acceptance. Many organizations may require that formal
legal contracts (e.g., a statement of work and other nondisclosure agreements),
be submitted after proposal acceptance.
You may even consider including them with your proposal, if appropriate.
Be "pleasantly persistence” in your follow-up
activities. Communicate with a respectful frequency every seven
to ten business days, either by phone or email, on as many occasions as
necessary for you to determine the outcome.
You should always remember to be sensitive of the prospect’s time and
concerns, as many other important issues outside the scope of the potential
assignment may currently be distracting them or slowing them down. Unfortunately, you may occasionally encounter
a prospect that never responds. You will
need to learn the delicate art of simply walking away with the intention of
maintaining a respectful regard for the person.
At some point in the future, that relationship might resurface with a
renewed interest in your abilities.
In the end, proposal
follow-up is really all about strengthening the relationship you enjoy with the
client or prospect. All of these
recommendations support that idea in some way.
The strength of your commitment to building valuable relationships by
ensuring your clients’ success and improving their life will build trusting
relationships that, in turn, determine your success as both a business leader
and a person.
*Many thanks to IMC members Ron Wohl CMC, Emilio Portocarrero, Craig
Stimmel CMC, and
Charles T. Wilson CMC, for sharing their thoughts and insightful
CMC, is President and Founder of Business
Development International, headquartered on Johns Creek, GA. Russ has extensive
card payments and EFT industry experience and has worked with major firms in
the U.S. and abroad. He is active in IMC USA as well as the IMC Georgia Chapter,
based in Atlanta.