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How many proposals do you write each month? How many turn into new business?
I stopped doing proposals about three months after starting my business. The whole experience was time-consuming, frustrating and just plain stupid.
Now, before you go off wondering about my sanity, let me explain something. Proposals are just a way for your prospect to justify the decision they made about -7 seconds (yes — negative 7 seconds – it’s not a typo) into their interaction with you.
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You see — the decision to work with you or not work with you has already been made — the only problem is that you and your prospect think?that the proposal is important. Not only that, but each of you needs the crutch of a proposal to save face; they can say that they didn’t choose you because of the price, and you can say that what you proposed didn’t meet their needs.
I call BS on all of that. Within seconds of the interaction — you both know whether you want to work together.
You had them at hello (or not)
Here is the hard truth. decision making is emotional. .08% of your brain makes 90% of your decisions. Antonio Damasio, a Neuroscientist who discovered that when the emotional brain center is damaged, patients couldn’t make decisions. The video below will give you a quick description.
When you look at it that way — you have to ask yourself WHY BOTHER doing a proposal, when the decision has already been made?
The Proposal Doesn’t Make Them Choose You — You Make Them Choose You
Now that you know that they’ve already decided on whether or not to work with you. Why not save yourself and them a lot of time and have the decision conversation BEFORE the proposal conversation.
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Here is a snippet of my very first “no proposal” conversation that I had with a client more than 10 years ago.
CEO: Hi Ivana, I’ve been thinking about doing some customer surveys and I wanted to talk to you about it.
ME: Great! What did you have in mind?
CEO: Well, we’re not quote sure (insert long story about what’s been happening and some ideas). I was thinking you could give me a proposal.
ME: I don’t do proposals
EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG SILENCE ON THE PHONE
CEO: You DON’T do proposals?
CEO: Why not? ?
ME: Well, you tell me what budget you have in mind and I will tell you how to get what you want for that budget.
CEO: But I don’t know — you’re supposed to tell me what you’re going to do and how much it’s going to be.
CEO: WHAT? ?
ME: See, you DO know. You know that it’s NOT $250,000. What number did you have in mind?
ME:?Great – so before I go further, let’s get something cleared up. You DO want to work with me and you want me to pull together a customer feedback program that’s inside of a $30,000 budget. Correct?
ME: Excellent – I’ll have that to you tomorrow.
How to never waste time on a proposal again
The first step to ridding yourself of wasting hours writing proposals that never turn into customers is to make the decision that you don’t do proposals. Think of it like a new corporate policy that you just instituted. It’s really empowering.
The next step is to get clear with yourself about why you don’t do proposals. Once I realized that the prospects brain had already decided whether or not they would work with me (it’s just that THEY didn’t want to acknowledge it) it was LIBERATING! Not only that, but when I tell clients that I don’t do proposals because we both know that they either want to work with me or not — they start laughing. And then they stop and say “You know, you are 100% right!”
At this stage of the article – I get to say that there are some sectors of our economy, especially the government) where proposals and RFPs are a condition of doing business. I get that. That doesn’t mean I don’t sit down and create Letters of Agreement or contracts or even proposals — I just don’t do these things BEFORE they decide to work with me. Once the prospect tells me that they want to work with me, then I am happy to take the time to write out whatever they need to fulfill their legal and corporate responsibilities.
It’s a little scary, but incredible time saving
I know. You’re probably freaking out right now because I’m telling you to let go of the proposal crutch. I’m telling you that spending hours writing proposals where only a fraction get accepted don’t count as selling. The only thing that counts as selling is having sales and problem solving conversations where you connect with your prospect in such a way that they can’t imagine another day without you in their life or in their business.
Stop hiding behind the proposal curtain, safe your time, your brain and your expertise for people who have already decided to hire you.