All project or client proposals start with two things; requirement overview and the cost.
The entire journey forward is defined by how these two aspects are handled by the client and the service provider.
First contacts with a prospect are very important for your business as you are about to spend lot of time over preliminary emails, calls and in-person meetings. So, it is advisable that you pick your clients or projects wisely.
Once you have had a basic understanding of the requirements the project entails, use your prior customer management and project management experience run a mental map of:
- what the execution would look like
- what the final deliverable would look like
- will it be as profitable a venture it appear to be
- is this a right fit for you
Assessment – Set the right context!
You may not have all the answers upfront and to help solve the conundrum build yourself a quick assessment questionnaire. Something that helps you understand if the opportunity at hand is really worth it.
Ask your prospect
- What are their planned timelines and goals for the undertaking?
- Do they have an adequately defined requirements document?
- Do they have authorization for the budgetary spend?
- If not, what is their tentative turn-around time (TAT) for budget approvals for such projects?
The above question not only puts the spotlight on the prospect but also represents your seriousness and pragmatic approach towards your prospective customers.
Your typical window-shopper would wither away and more serious ones would be forthcoming with the right answers.
The assessment also presents an opportunity for you to work with the lead to help him understand and define his requirements with more clarity & find answers that he may not have due to experience, time or other constraints.
With the completion of the assessment both of you have a far more clear understanding of the desired outcomes, efforts, time and costs involved.
Since both of you have worked on it together you have also set the tone for the future relationship with the trust and confidence developed thereby.
Similarly, you now have all the facts required to make the Go-NO Go decision on the project.
If it doesn’t seem to be the right fit for your business you can present the facts and point the prospect to someone else or state clearly as why you may not be the right fit for him.
But if all looks great, proceed by all means.
Project Estimation & Proposal Building – Devil is in the details!
Now that you are committed to the project, it is time to get your hands dirty by diving deep into all aspects of the project.
Estimation is just not an activity to crank up numbers in terms of hours and $$.
Rather a crucial activity to focus on all the factors that will help you deliver successfully, items that may have an adverse impact to the progress or end up in total project failure.
You must therefore spend considerable and quality time to
- Gather each and every requirement in as much detail as possible
- Validate and verify the requirements with the lead, if needed
- List out possible assumptions where neither of you have clarity
- Identify risks dependent on either parties
- Break the project into key modules or phases
- Have well-defined timelines for delivery
- Bake in some buffer for customer reviews, UAT, sign-offs
- Define the payment schedule
- Handling new requirements
These activities help you show your prospect client how thorough you are and having all items covered reassures your client that he stands to gain from the high quality standards set by your organization.
If I may, the detailing and hard-work put on contract building is a glimpse of the quality that will be delivered at the end of the project.
Involving your client and seeking their validation during requirement gathering, scoping and estimation will also trigger discussions for your client to decide on what they really want to achieve.
And as you continue to gain more insights, you are also well-positioned to understand the value that you will be delivering and the fact that you are more of a partner than just being a commodity provider.
Once you have a 360 degree view of the project and are confident of all work items, take the plunge & share your proposal with the client.
Negotiation and Agreement!
Post sharing the proposal you enter into an exciting phase of dealing with the commercials. All negotiations are based on perceptions of the people involved.
Buyer – willingness to pay a certain price is directly proportional his perceived value of the product/service he is about to receive.
Seller – quotation is directly proportional to the perceived value of his own product/service he is about to offer.
Striking the balance between the 2 perceptions is the key! Great salesmen understand this and steer the commercial discussions accordingly.
As a seller, you should always be ready to present the value the impending association is about to bring to the buyer.
Once the proposal is shared stand behind it like a rock with absolute confidence. Have all your facts ready and grant enough clarity to justify the costs.
Never focus on the technicalities of the offering. Bring forth the strategic or financial gains that the lead is about to obtain as a direct result of your work.
Do note that you build trust and gain customer confidence as you continue to provide transparent answers.
Also highlight the fact that the contract is about to bring the experts together from either side.
Simply, put the lead can focus on his core business and leverage expertise to meet and deliver his own desired business outcomes.
Show him how you are an integral part of his quick go to market strategy in case he were to do the project in-house.
Value and desired business outcomes are great motivators for businesses to come together, deliver and excel in their respective fields.
Reach a common ground and strike gold!
Bring it all together!
Now that you are ready to embark on delivering value for your customer, do put in extra efforts to
- ensure transparent and prompt communication
- prevent scope creep
- NO Freebies– Yes, saying NO is OK
From initiating the first round of discussions, to planning to execution and delivery have a robust communication plan in place.
Communication is what helps prevent and set things right when things aren’t exactly they should have been. It helps in
- managing your stakeholder expectations
- building trust
- avoiding potential issues
- quicker conflict resolution
- reduce unwanted anxiety
& the most important of all – keeps everyone on the same page!
Your contract comes in handy while dealing with requests that are far from the agreed scope, provided you carefully defined which requests would be dealt as new scope, change requests and the associated costs. Preventing and sticking to the defined scope is crucial to the project success.
Else, you are bound to drown in the swarm of requests flying from every other person on the client side. Needless to mention this will not only impact the deliverables, the schedule but also your profit margins.
As part of managing unsolicited requests always be watchful of those seemingly non-billable requests that find their way into your to-do lists.
It is your right and it is ok to say NO. Understand that free requests are a direct attack on value and respect of your work. Protect it and drive home the point that soliciting free work is inappropriate!
In the end, you are all set to deliver a win-win scenario with no heart burns but realized gains for the both of you. Stay true to the work at hand and your clients would love you for that! (more projects, more clients, more revenue – you got that, right??)
Now, how is that for helping your customers meet their goals and scale new heights?
Remember – Client success is your business!