Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Why I don't charge for proposals

As we sprint along in our hamster cages in the relentless pursuit of new business, most of us face the gnawing issue of writing proposals. Let's face it, proposals are a bitch. They take time and effort. I mean, the guy has called you up to help, why doesn't he just hire you and be done with it?

Ah, would that it were so. Unfortunately, proposals are a way of life. They're here to stay, so you might as well get used to it. The fact is that most people really don't need proposals to make their purchasing decision. They need it -- in most cases -- to cover their ass when presenting their purchase decision to their bosses.

Regardless, proposals are a pain in the neck, but they have to be done. The problem is that proposals take work. Lots of work. So much work, in fact, that some people often charge for them, figuring that if they don't get the business, they'll at least get some cash. Or that if the prospect rips off their ideas, at least they'll get some cash. Others, charge for the proposal and then, if they get the business, apply that fee to the overall cost of the project.

I don't charge for proposals. And I don't get ripped off by people looking for free advice, either. The reason is simple, although it took me a long time to figure it out. So in the interest of saving people a few years of heartache, here's what I do:

When someone requests a proposal, I present them with three parts:

1. I acknowledge the issues they need to resolve.
2. I explain how I can help, often by citing clients with similar issues.
3. I outline how I work and how I charge.

What I DON'T do is solve their problems for them in the proposal. That's where most consultants and vendors get ripped off. Although it can be hard to do, because all of us want to show how good of a job we do, avoid the temptation of recommending the solution in your proposal. Remember, these prospects have contacted you for a reason. They need help and they need you. Your experience and wisdom is what they're paying for. If you give it away in an effort to win the business, you will likely never win the business.

One of the hardest things to do is to walk away from a business lead. Especially when the rent is overdue. But bad business is just that: bad. Stick with people who are willing to pay for your time and effort.

Finally, if you present your proposals as I have outlined, you'll find that you don't have to rewrite every proposal for every prospect. Customize, yes. The result is that you get you proposals out faster and more efficiently, protecting your most valuable asset -- your work product.

Rob Frankel

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