What is a Proposal & Why is a Quote Different?
Proposals must be distinguished from quotes. Quotes are put together with the same outcome as a proposal – to win a job. However, a quote lists out services and products provided with a price. A quote is a great tool for certain services and products, like minor electrical work, or decorating a room in a house.
A quote can form part of a proposal. Typically, in the appendix at the back of the document used to back up the proposal. A proposal is a lot more complex than a quote and requires much more work to get it right.
The first part of a proposal after the front cover should be a statement of what the Client has told you, rephrased. The purpose is to highlight that you’ve listened to what they have said, and your solution takes into account all that has been discussed. Next, detail how you intend to tackle the Clients request, followed up by why your company is best suited to take on the opportunity. A rough indication of how long each phase of work is likely to take should come next along with the outline cost proposal. The cost proposal can also set out any payment terms and specific legal requirements for the project. Lastly, the appendix with quotes, any early or free design elements you want to include to help demonstrate that your company is the right choice.
Plan Before Meeting Your Client
It is impossible to put together a proposal without speaking to your Client. The purpose of the first meeting with the Client is to understand their requirements, as they see it. Before attending the meeting research as much as possible on your Client so you can take along as much appropriate content as possible. This could be during the initial phone call when they contact you. This is why it is important to build up a standard set of questions to ask at any opportunity.
Plan how you want the meeting to run. How it will start, the questions you need to ask to get enough information to put your proposal together. Read our previous blog HERE about having better quality meetings and how they can help you win more projects.
When planning the questions, ensure that they are specific to the type of project and Client you are dealing with. Is it Client direct, Main Contractor or a Client Representative? The questions for each of these would be different, and their motivations for wanting to appoint you would all be different too.
If you intend to take along certain tools to use during the meeting, such as our Virtual Reality Showrooms make sure the content is right for the audience and that the headset is set up, ready to go and fully charged.
Attending & Holding Meetings
The purpose of the first meeting is to ask great questions in order to get all the information that is needed to write the proposal. At the start of the meeting let the Client know the format and time frames of the meeting. Managing the Client and their expectations early on is essential for a successful project, and they will be grateful.
When asking the questions, really listen to the answers and ask other non-scripted questions that will help get a deeper understanding of the Client’s motivation. If you regularly receive feedback from Clients that price is the most important aspect rephrase the questions to get more information – such as ‘Apart from price, what is the one thing that….’.
Don’t be too keen to ask the next question. Listen to the answers carefully – avoid making it feel like a hundred and one questions. The purpose of the meeting is to have a conversation as two peers, rather than trying to sell something in the first meeting.
It’s likely that when the Client responds with answers there is a better way or an option that they haven’t explored yet. Take notes, and when the questions are finished re-visit these points with something to demonstrate another way. This could be by using a VR demo to highlight features or services. Take note of responses and be sure to reference both the original request and the agreed upon response in the proposal.
There are so many tools to help build proposal templates. From industry specific quoting and design tools from D-Tools and JetBuilt to generic sales tools such as Proposify and Canva. (Although the latter is more of a creative tool, it is useful for proposals and has a huge suite of free templates to work with).
When considering how to build templates, first list out all the pages that will typically be in the proposal. Secondly, add all the details that will always be the same such as contact information.
Work out how the proposal will be constructed, how many pages and of what. Typically this is likely to change based on what type of project the proposal is for. Save sections as separate pages so they can easily be integrated into other proposals as and when they are needed. Using Adobe Acrobat (the full version with PDF & page editing us useful for this). There is no shortcut with proposals. Even using templates, they do take a long time to construct properly. But the upside is huge. Most projects in our industry are large and the values high, so getting a proposal right and spending the time is worthwhile.
The Components of a Proposal
An outline of a proposal should be made up of the following, as a minimum:
- Front cover – the title should NEVER be proposal! Highlight what you’re doing for the Client and what they’ve said is important to them. i.e. ‘How we’ll Transform Your Old Dining Room Into Media Room for All The Family to Enjoy’.
- A brief of what the proposal is, and set out how you’re going to help them achieve their goal/dream/outcome etc.
- Describe what you discussed and agreed upon in the meeting, each as a separate point.
- Highlight how you’ll solve each of those problems and the benefit they’ll have when it’s done. Don’t be too technical – unless they’ve specifically asked for that level of detail. That’s what the appendix is for.
- Show a timeline of your deliverables. Highlight what you’ll need from your Client as well. It’s a two-way thing and working together on it is essential.
- Present the cost, highlighting what the benefit is, and what you’ll be handing over to them at the end of it. Also a good page to show payment schedules and any specific legal T&C’s
- The most important bit, that is so often forgotten – next steps! Tell your Client what you want them to do next, and also what they should do if they are just ready to proceed – call, email, text or WhatsApp – whatever works for you, but just make sure there is a ‘What to Do Next’ page.
Delivering Your Proposal
As discussed earlier in this blog, so much effort goes into creating the best proposals so thought must be given to the delivery mechanism. At all costs avoid sending a generic email with ‘attached, FYI’.
During the first meeting is an ideal time to set out the requirements for the next meeting. Stating that you’ll need to meet up and run through the proposal. The chances of getting buy in from the Client are much higher during this meeting than a week or so after initial contact.
If possible, it is always best to arrange a meeting with the Client to present the proposal and open up further conversation. It doesn’t have to be face to face. It can be on the phone or video call. Software such as Zoom is great for this, as it lets users share a screen, making talking through a proposal so much easier than emailing it across, because the chances are the recipient will dive in and look for the page with the cost!
Sometimes, when it hasn’t all gone to plan, or email really is the only option to get your proposal across its important to structure the email correctly. A basic recap of the last discussion, what’s attached and what the intended next steps are too. aim to keep the message below 100 words.
Getting Sign off & Next Steps
It is so important to ask for the sale when the time is right. Sometimes Clients just don’t move forward because they don’t know how. It hasn’t been clearly set out for them. They don’t know what to do next. Make it easy for them without being pushy. A simple ‘When you are ready to proceed…’ often works well and highlight how soon you can start on it for them or get them booked in if it is a distance away before the start. Highlight how you can prioritise it now by getting it booked in.
Planning your meetings, questions and templates is key to securing more projects. Going to meetings properly armed with the right tools to help your Client decide that your business is right for their project is a challenge and also a skill that can be worked on and improved.
A properly executed and well thought out proposal will help you win more projects. It does require more than just a quote, and the chances are, it probably requires more than one member of the team to put it together. The sales element and the technical element. Start putting checklists in place for all aspects of your business to make tasks easier, smoother and reduce the friction. Read more about our thoughts on checklists HERE in a previous blog.