When to write? That is always a great question. Some say you must be first, others say, “Last.” A wise mentor of mine told me long ago, “When they are ready to buy.” Of course it’s rare that you’ll actually know when they are ready to buy when competing for the business. But two things stand out in my mind as important factors:
1. You must have identified the people who actually make the decision.
2. You must have established the value of the deal with the buyer before presenting your price.
Your proposal should never be asked to sell the deal for you – it can’t. The sales person gets paid to sell the deal, then the document formalizes the agreement. If the buyer is asking for a proposal (usually it’s actually a custodian asking), and you have not completed both of the tasks above, you are just not ready to write. Submitting the proposal too early is destined to fail.
Instead, find ways to continue the sales process through discovery or demonstration that will allow you to further establish value and discuss the prices and budgets before writing. If the prospect is unwilling to work with you; not allowing you to take them through the proper steps, then consider yourself one of their possible vendors. What can you do to move up? It may not be on this deal, but I would pull out and continue to market your value for the next one. The last thing you need is another vendor-client relationship. Assume they’ll be looking for the best price from now on, stripping you of all value and margin.
© 2010, David Stelzl