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5 Recommendations for Following Up on Proposals

Monday, November 1, 2010   (0 Comments)
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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 company policy.

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 follow-up.

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 colleagues*.

Recommendation 1

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.

Recommendation 2

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.

Recommendation 3

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.

Recommendation 4

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.

Recommendation 5

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 comments.

Russ Schoper 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.