Andrew: Now, this week we are talking about proposals and specifically proposals that get a “yes” and I have some particular interest in this topic. And Kenny, why do you think this is important to talk about for consultants?
Kenny: Well, this is one of the biggest areas in my clients who are consultants, because usually so much work has been to get to this point; to get to the point of proposal. You know, a lot of research and just a lot of effort to find out more about the company and their requirements.
If you’d lose at this point, you don’t get any reward. So it’s really important to get it right and reap the rewards of all of those efforts.
Andrew: That’s right. I mean, through our podcast series, we’ve talked about nearly every other elements of the sales process; building your online presence, getting prospects to find you, getting them to take action with you. But as you said, all of that can be for naught if you can’t get them to close the deal. So obviously it’s something a lot of people are concerned about.
They want to know the right way to do it, effective ways of doing it. I spent a lot of time myself optimizing my proposals over the years; taking input from a lot of successful marketers and seeing what’s worked for them. But before I get into that, I know Kenny you have a bit of a different take on this and so I thought we should start with your high-level of perspective and what you do and don’t like about proposals.
Kenny: Yeah. I’ve got a few points to talk about around this. And you know, a lot of my clients will come to me and they’ll say, “I’ve got this proposal and I need to do and I’ve got to get in there.” And, I’ll help them with that proposal.
A proposal for me is like any other marketing message or story which are intertwined and should contain the key elements and that should be a promise; tell them what they will get by using you. Talk about the problem and agitate the problem and remind them. This is the important part; remind them why it’s important to do this right now with you and then show them exactly what you’re going to do and what to do next. So that’s the kind of feedback I give to my clients who have proposals that they need to put in.
Now for me, I don’t generally do proposals. I do all of my selling; so people who join my coaching programs will not see a proposal. They will buy without seeing a proposal and that’s because I’ve built the essential no like and trust.
I’ve fire some of my lead magnets and then other ways; usually fire a lead magnet and the webinar or somewhere where they can consume lot of my content and then they move into a strategy session. Within that strategy session, we will decide whether they can be a good fit for me to work with and whether I’m going to be a good fit for them. But the key here is to actually just pre-closed people. Even if you the proposals, you should pre-close them before you actually put the proposal ahead there.
Let me just give you an example of where this came about for me in my life. Back in the previous life, back in the good old 2000, I decided to get into the wonderful world of recruitment. I’ve been a nightclub promoter for five years by that point. It was my first of a business, an events promotion business which was generally nightclubs. And that had enough of of burning the candle at both end should we say.
I decided to move into the wonderful world of recruitment. I knew a lot of friends who went in a lot of money in recruitment. I joined one of the best recruitment agencies in the UK, it’s known as the SThree Group. And there was quite a lot of recruitment firms within that group and they have fantastic sales training.
In there, they used the spin technique. I don’t know if ever they still use that, but the spin technique is still used in heavily marketing and sales today. It’s all about creating a situation and talking through the situation with your clients and your candidate in the case of recruitment. Then, presenting the problem, agitating that problem as I mentioned before and then talk about the implications and then the need of what they need and that is the spin technique.
Now, let me just tell you what we did when we recruited. In recruitment there are three parties: you have the company recruiting which is known as the client; you have candidate who is applying for the job; and you have yourself, the recruitment agent. If I put a candidate and a company together and they went through the whole interview process and I truly thought they were a good fit for each other.
It was my job to sell them both into each other without letting either side know how the other truly feels. Because, showing your hand without pre-closing can leave you in a lot of danger and can make you look too eager and no matter who you put in the proposal into, they are people at the end of the day and people want to have what they cannot have. That’s where scarcity comes into play.
What I would do in this situation; I would make both parties very appealing to the other. Obviously, only if I truly thought they were a good fit for each one, would be good for each one going forward. I would make both parties very appealing to the other by using scarcity.
I would tell the candidate that there was a lot of people going for this job, if there were a lot of people going and lot of really good people going forward, what a great job it was. And, I would tell the client, this candidate is in demand.
So what I would do, I would say to the candidate, first of all I would say, “Right. You really love this job. It’s your dream job. What would you be prepared to go down to salary wise? Now, we know they advertise salary for the job is 45,000 pounds. What would you go down to because this is your dream job and it’s not all about money here; you’re going to get some advancements and technology here; you’re going to get lots of training. What would you go down to?”
Usually they would move on it. So, I would get the candidate down to 40k for instance. And then I would talk to the client, knowing that the candidate wanted this job and I would say to the candidate, “Now, if I can get you 40k for this job, amongst all of these other candidates. If I can get you in this dream job, would you definitely take 40k? My neck is on the line here. I need to know that you would take it.”
“Absolutely I would take it.” “Now, can you send me an email just saying I want this job at 40k.” Once I received the email, I would go back to the client and I would say, “What would you go up to for this dream candidate who is great demand and everyone wants this candidate?”
I would usually get them up quite a bit because there was a lot of flexibility in those days. And I’d get them up to around about 55k from 45k. And then, what I would do is settle on 50k. I would think 50k is fair enough.
The candidate thinks he’s getting 40k and the client thinks they’re paying 55k. And only at that point would I secure the deal. I would go back to the client and say, “Listen. I managed to get him down to 50k for you because he really loves the job and wants to work with you guys and loves everything about the company and so on and so forth.”
And I would go back to the candidate and say, “Remember that you really wanted 40k and wanted the job? Well, I’ve got you 50k. You know, I’ve done such a great job for you and the client loves you so much you’ve got 50k.”
Andrew: At that point, how can either of them say no, right?
Andrew: Because you got them both a better deal than they were expecting.
Kenny: And they were both pre-closed. So they were pre-closed before any of the formal stuff was done. Before any kind of contracts went over or anything, both were pre-closed.
I obviously put a lot into the process myself. I would develop a no like and trust with both parties, so they no like and trust as them. Neither party would want to let me down at that point as well.
You need to use this kind of analogy if you like, I think when you’re going for proposals. Like I say, I don’t do proposals. Generally, if I do consulting work, it’s usually a coaching client who has seen how great I’ve been coaching them once we’d actually go into their business and solve their business out. So there’s no need for any kind of proposals.
And also, I will turn around on them a lot of the time and say, “You know, tell me why I should come in to your business of all the people who want me to go into their business, you tell me what makes you so important?” In the nicest possible way, I wouldn’t it so harshly.
Andrew: So Kenny, I’m wondering if actually we are using solely different terminology because if a company wants you to come in and work on their business, are you saying you have no written agreement or whatsoever?
Kenny: What I would do is have contract with them, which is totally different. I would not pull a proposal forward saying, “Hey, please take me as your consultant and here’s this amazing proposal.” We may drill something up together and we do that as a team effort.
We decide that we’re going to be a good fit to each other. I mean, I’m not saying, never say never. If the right opportunity came and it needed a proposal, I would put one together. But, I’ve never used one yet as a consultant. I will just sit down and have a consultative chat with my prospects and we will work at it together rather than me, begging them via proposal to take me, which is what most proposals are.
Andrew: That’s a great way to clarify because as you’ve defined it then, I don’t use proposals either.
Kenny: Right, okay.
Andrew: I was going to mention this in a slowly different by saying, “It’s best not to think of it as a proposal, think of it as an agreement, as an action plan, as something you’re already putting together and have agreed on before you even sent it to them in writing.” Let go and tell a bit from my angle, now that I understand yours a little better.
But first let me say I agree; you don’t want to be in the business of just sending out proposals. Of talking to people for 5 minutes and they say, “Hey, can you send me something.” You say, “Sure.” Then, you go out and spend a few hours, putting together a detail proposal, you send it to them and then you’ll probably never hear back. And that’s a great way to waste a lot of your time.
What Kenny and I are both saying is getting to the close first. Get a very high level of commitment first before you put something in writing to that agreement in place.
Now, sometimes, depending on the situation, they’re going to press more than others for proposals. I’ve had people tell me after a few minutes on the phone, “You know, that sounds pretty good. Kenny just sent me something and I’ll think about it.” And if they do that, you want to press back.
You want to give them some direct challenges and some trial clues to see if they’re really serious about this so you don’t end up wasting your time. Because it can take, depending on the situation, hours to put together a good proposal.
Now, what I would say is several things. You have several options here. One thing I would say is, “Well, what is it that you would need to think about? You know, let’s address it now because that will be much more effective here on the phone or here while we’re talking in person than later over email.”
Or maybe you say, “You know, do you believe what I’ve been talking about is right for your business right now?” And get them to tell you either yes or no and then take that forward. Or “Are you sure you’re ready to invest in your business at this time?”
Or if they’re really pressing you, say something like, “You know, my experience has been that when people are just looking for proposals, they really aren’t that serious and if you don’t want to move ahead of my service, I’d actually really appreciate if you would just say so now and save us both some time. But if you are serious about it, well let’s talk through what’s preventing you from saying yes.”
Now, when you push back like this, as nice you might do, some people will just say no, just pulls over no, “I don’t want to move ahead.” And that’s fine; some may even bristle and get a little prickly about how you’re pushing them on this. And that’s great, because you’ve just learned that they aren’t going to be a good client for you. They’re either not serious about moving ahead with you or not serious about moving ahead with anybody and you just save yourself all the trouble of writing a wasted proposal.
You know, when I first started doing this; I would actually keep track of the percentage of my proposals that got accepted and I’d be excited when I had a month to get up to like 30% or 50%. This the wrong way of looking at it. You shouldn’t be throwing proposals to people and hoping someone will come back.
You really want to do the work as Kenny would say, in upfront; getting on their side, making sure they really see the value, getting them to want to move ahead with this. And then what you’re really giving them is not really a proposal, it’s just an agreement. It’s just, “Here is the agreement we talked about. Now, we can move ahead.”
Once you get that verbal agreement, now the proposal or we’ll call something else, call it an agreement is primarily a formality. But it is still an important one; so I’m going to talk through what I do to put together the actual written agreement at this point. And, these things can save you a lot of time and also help get to the point of getting the client to actually sign it which is when you know a 100% you guys are moving ahead.
First thing is create a template for your services and standard fees so that you can quickly create new proposals. If I’m doing three or four a month, I don’t want to spend 4 or 5 hours on in each one. So I have one template for my lead generation’s system service and I have one template for my coaching service. And, I’ve also standardized most of my fees and I have a quick system for calculating the few variable elements that they’re still are.
Together, all these automation means I can now create a complete customize new proposal, new agreement for new prospect in under an hour where I used to spend 4 to 5 hours doing it. That’s just a huge time savings.
So I want to talk through the pieces that I actually put into this very clear, succinct and effective proposal. From now on actually, what I’m going to do is not call the proposal. I like to call them either action plans or agreements because again, you’ve already gotten the commitment and now you’re just talking about the details of how you’re moving ahead.
So in the heading, call it an action or call it an agreement. It’s no longer a proposal. You don’t need that. You got the commitment.
The second part; putting a background and Kenny was saying some of these as well. You want to succinctly summarize why they sought your service; why they sought your service? What was their problem? What was the pain they were experiencing? And what do they want you to do for them? And what would it mean for them in terms of dollars?
Show the benefits clearly so that your fee, once you get to it later is going to seem meager by comparison. And I think this is very important. You want to remind them right up front and always make sure it’s in their minds the value that your service will bring them. Because hiring you is not an expense, it’s an investment and they need to be thinking of it that way.
The third section I put in is goals and I’d like to list the three to four high-level things, the very top level benefits that we’re going to be achieving for them. The four sections is my implementation and you may or may not need this. I need it a lot of times because I do have a lot of clients where I’m doing a website development, landing page development. There can be a lot of customization in there that we talk through in the process of getting to that commitment and we need to make sure it’s reflected in the agreements, we both feel comfortable would it.
I would say, be as brief and abstract as possible; so that you don’t unnecessarily tire your hands as you move forward. But, be as specific as necessary to avoid confusion down the road especially, regarding scope creep. I think we’ve probably all had our worst stories about that.
You create a very nice flexible proposal and you think you got a great relationship with the clients, but down the road, do they keep on saying, “Oh and can you just add this? Oh and can you just add that? And oh here’s another small change. We haven’t talk about it but do you mind putting that in?” And that can be very tough to say no to.
It can very tough to say no when they keep making additional request especially if each one, by itself seems small, seems reasonable but they can really add up and take a big chunk out of you profitability. So an effective way of dealing with that is to make sure that your agreement has clear boundaries and it gives you something to point to when you say no and you do need to say no sometimes.
The fifth piece is a bit of terms and conditions. I know Kenny has a ‘terms and conditions’ page on his website that he refers people to. I have just a very brief one pager that I included in these proposals.
It’s the standard terms of; how we’ll interact, whose going to own what, what they have to provide to you, what you’re going to provide to them, who has access to confidential information and so on. And I like to include a disclaimer of specific results to just to be clear. I’m not promising certain number of new clients where a specific revenue, which of course you can’t promise.
This can really be a pain to develop in your business. I’ve spent a lot of time, find that overtime, Now, I’ve got to a point where it’s just drag and drop, I know for a particular project type, I mean you take out one little piece and it’s very easy. If you’d like, go ahead and email me and I’d be happy to share my terms section with you and you can leverage it as you see fit.
The next section is the fees. Now it’s time to state your fees and boldly state your fees. Don’t be ashamed of your fees. Be proud of your fees. You earn high fees and you deserve high fees. Put them in large bold fonts and show the client how confident you are.
This is all about investment. And remember, when he sees the investment, the return you’re going to help provide to him, then your fee is just meager by comparison and he will happily accept it.
And finally, is the place for acceptance. The place for both of you officially signs and that’s it. A few final notes here; this should not be long; the shorter the better.
Ninety percent of my agreements are just 3 or 4 pages. Nobody wants to read or needs a long proposal, unless you’re betting on government work and I don’t want to do that. Don’t know if you do. That’s a whole different world.
For everyone else, most business owners and very business. They don’t want to read through a 20 page work agreements and have to pass it on to their legal team. They want something simple, easy to understand; so make it easy for yourself and make it easy for them.
During your sales calls, you should have already discussed what you’re going to do for them and what the fee will be, at least approximately. So this agreement should contain no surprises, right? Again, we’re not proposing something they haven’t seen before. We’re just putting in writing what we’ve already said as a great thing and they want to move ahead with.
Then, we got to put together, just send it in a PDF in a brief email. Just say, “Hey! Here’s the agreement we discussed. Let me know if you have any questions, else please sign it and return it to me.” Once they get it back, you can also sign it; return the final fully executed copy to them.
I like to use Adobe’s built-in e-sign feature for this; it makes it very quick and professional looking. And when you return that fully sign copy, mention that you’re immediately going to follow-up with the invoice and you are on your way.
Kenny, did that seem quick or long?
Kenny: What’s your email address?
Andrew: My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, if you’re one of our podcast listeners and you would like an example of the agreements that I’d put together, I’d be happy to share it.
Kenny: Awesome! Awesome! So what else have you got to add there?
Andrew: Well, we have a question from clients this week that is very much related. I mentioned before that I use standardized templates and standardized fees as much as possible to really speed the process and deal of other things. The question I’ve gotten is, “Well, okay that sounds great but I offer a very custom service. So how do I create a standard proposal template or standard agreement template and standard fees with a very customizable service?
My number one answer you decide to. You decide that this is what you’re going to do and there are so many reasons for it. Your business becomes infinitely easier, more profitable. You become more sought out, all when you can standardized your “customizable” service.
You might think of that customizing everything is offering a great service to clients, but honestly it’s not. It often overwhelms. It gives too many choices. It makes them think that, “Well, he’s not really a specialist. He just kind does a little bit of everything.”
You want to be a specialist; that’s how you can charge high fees. You want to have standardized service that is proven to work over and over; so they know they’re buying something that’s going to work.
A great way to do this is to think of your service as a product and then define the elements and the cost of your product. “My service contains A, B and C and it costs X” and that’s very clear. And you can present exactly why that’s your service and exactly what that’s done for other clients in the past. Now, why this is so powerful?
Well, it forces you to take the full universe of what you could do for clients with your customization and distil it into the few things that you do best, fastest and most profitably. And if you’re looking to maximize your income, you want to focus on what you do best, fastest and most profitably.
Second, this focus helps to attract the right clients to you. They will understand so much more quickly and conclusively that you were the right person for them when you have a standard, easy to understand offering.
And third, this focus to help you to build automated processes; which we’ve talked about it so many of our episodes. Because you’re doing the same sort of high-value work repeatedly, rather than spreading your energies thin in a whole variety of unrelated types of work; that allows you to build in automation. That makes you more effective, more efficient and more profitable.
For all these reasons; I just encourage you, when you get that question your mind of, “Well, do I create a standard agreement and standard fees?” The answer is you decide to. And when you decide to do that, you start asking yourself, “How can I do that? How is this going to work for me?” Then the answers will start to come. And if you need help in doing that, what I’d highly recommend is to reading the book, “Built to Sell” by John Warrillow.
It’s intensively about creating a business that you can successfully sell but as the author himself emphasizes, if you build a business that you can sell, then you’ve also built a business that can run profitable and efficiently with much less attention from you, because that’s the only type of business that someone is going to want to buy. And that is also a much more enjoyable business for you to continue to run.
Alright, and that brings us on to our tip of the week. And Kenny, what do you have for us for that?
Kenny: Well, I thought it’d go a little bit off piece this week because we’ve been…
Andrew: A little bit of what?
Kenny: Off piece.
Andrew: I’m afraid you have to explain that one with the American over here.
Kenny: Do you ski at all?
Andrew: I snowboard. I used to ski.
Kenny: Snowboard. Well, did you ever go off pieced?
Andrew: Off piece? That’s still not…
Kenny: Don’t you start terminology?
Andrew: Get of trail?
Kenny: Yeah, piece! Yes. So basically in the Europe it’s called the pieced. So we call it off pieced, which means off trail.
So, okay. I’m glad that you brought it up because the American listeners would be like, “What is he talking about there?” Well, I’m going to go off trail at the moment because I don’t want to propose all people out here.
Now, the tip of the week I have is about sleep. I was talking to you about sleep earlier. I’ve realized more than ever how important sleep is because I have a 8th month old. He’s nearly 8th month old baby boy and he likes to wake me up very, very early in the morning. So if I didn’t get enough sleep, I’m not very productive.
Now, some of my clients I’m spoken to, so far from sleep some people can’t get to sleep, some people suffer by waking up in the middle of the night. Well, my tip this week is about getting to sleep because I had an issue where I couldn’t get to sleep recently and it was so annoying. I just couldn’t get to sleep. I’d have too much on my mind.
As far as a good of friend of mine, Chris Payne and he’s one of these people who just knows what to do and when to do it in any situation. I haven’t immediately said. There’s an app called, “My Sleep Button” and it’s a brilliant app.
What it does is you can set it for however long you’d think it’s going to take you to get off to sleep with some assistance. I set up for 20 minutes. What it does is it gives you scenarios. You can either choose simple things. You can choose scenes or you can choose drawing objects.
What it does is somebody speaks to you every nine seconds and I think they’ve worth to have that. If you interrupt every 9 seconds and it sends you on a new trend of thought which can confuses you to want to fall asleep, believe it or not. It actually gets you to a point where your mind just stops getting so tired of this change and change and change that it freaks you out so much that you just fall asleep and it works.
It’s got things that I’d like, simple things. So I’m saying, “Imagine a simple thing Imagine a window. Imagine a square and all you can choose scenes.” I like scenes so, it’ll choose strange stuff; they’ll send you from various thoughts to other thoughts. So you might say, “You’re building a tent.” Then 9 seconds later, “A woman walking through a forest.” Then 9 seconds later, “A ripple in a water and in a lake,” and so on and so forth and before long, you’re asleep.
Another one, if you really want to go a little bit further is drawing objects; so it will tell you to draw objects in your mind. But for me, that’s certainly insane, every 9 seconds, I was drawing a new object in my mind but it’s a really good app.
Andrew: You know I love that idea Kenny. I don’t know the science behind it, but I wonder if part of it is that it interrupts the worries cycle. Because one thing that keeps a lot of people up at night is we’re just worrying about things and we can’t turn our mind off of that worry. If this is interrupting you and forcing you to think about something else every 9 seconds, well how on earth can you keep worrying about one thing?
Kenny: That’s right! They call it cognitive shuffle within the app. So that might be the terminology that they’ve been created themselves which again is another show that we can talk about later down the later about creating your own terminology which gives you a level of authority or whether it is actually known within this sleep psychology world, cognitive shuffle I’m not sure. But a great app for and I’ll say again, it’s called “My Sleep Button.”
Andrew: And next week, we’ll cover how to keep your spouse loving you while you’re listening to my sleep button every night.
Kenny: In fact, you both fall of sleep or you put some earphones on.
Andrew: Air phones, brilliant! Alright, I love that, my sleep button.
And that brings us on to our inspiration of the week as we wrap up the show here. Mine is a wonderful quote I saw this week. You know, Facebook can be a huge time waster; we all need to be careful of that. But I do value that once in a while, I see some great inspirational thoughts surface there.
I came across a great old gem this week. It’s a Chinese proverb; the person who says that cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. I love that!
The person who says that cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. That is just so important. It’s not important for the person interrupting; it’s important for the person whose being interrupted to think about obviously.
Because, we’ve all experience doubters in our lives; people who doubt what we’re trying to do, sometimes even among our closest family members and friends. And we need to be careful not to let their negativity affect us, as we’re going about achieving our goals.
And people have lots of ways of being negative about your goals. They might come out and tell you directly that you can’t do it or they might well indicate their disapproval in many more subtle ways. But regardless, of how they interrupt you as you’re trying to achieve your goals, you need to understand what they’re really saying.
What they’re really sayingis “Well, this is what I’ve done so I don’t think it’s fair that you should do is,” or “I don’t know how to do that and I don’t want to feel like you’re smarter or better than me because you can do it,” or “I don’t want you to succeed at this because I’ll then feel badly that I’m still stuck where I am.”
And you know that’s really the conversation happening inside their minds when they come out and say, “I don’t think you can do that.” And we need to recognize that when people doubt whether we can do something, it’s almost never a reflection of our potential but rather a reflection of their insecurities.
So, have compassion for them but don’t take their doubts to heart. Remember, who the person who says that cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
Kenny: It’s amazing because I saw the exact same quote on Facebook today. So you must doing the rounds.
Andrew: It is, maybe some my reposting of it there.
Kenny: Yeah, some wise words. Yeah, it probably was you actually. I just never made know of who posted it.
Andrew: Facebook just does that to us.
Kenny: It does.
Andrew: Next show… what do we have come in for next week Kenny?
Kenny: We’re going to talk about the power of public speaking next week. Now, if you’re one of these people who’s absolutely scared of public speaking like I was back in 2009 and Andrew is back in?
Andrew: Oh, forever. It’s still around out, I don’t know, maybe 2000 or so.
Kenny: For me, it was back in 2009. I’d basically did a public speaking gig to six people Andrew. I completely lost my words and someone had to step in and help me. I was only speaking to six people in a boardroom.
I said to myself then, “I will never do public speaking. It’s just not for me. I completely fell apart now, I can’t overdo it again.” And needlessly, then I got invited to a speaking event and the rest is history.
But even if you think like that and you think you’ll never speak in public, just listen to this show because you may learn a thing or two about how to overcome that fear or what to do and to benefit from events, even if you’re not speaking.
Andrew: And I’ll have that from personal experience. Speaking in public is something that you can learn how to do it. It’s a learned habit and anyone can learn how to do it. So, it will be a lot of fun to go into that next week.