Archives For proposal writing

First, don’t miss these two sessions online – this is my Christmas gift to you just for being a regular reader….

1. – Setting Fees with Profit in Mind!

2. – Secrets to Writing Winning Proposals (Including RFP responses)

Two areas I see even some of the most successful sales people missing on are fees and proposals.

Fees are tricky – sometimes your company sets this for you, but if you have any control over this, it’s one of the places you must master.  Too much, and the client looks at you like you’re a thief, too little and you leave money on the table or worse, discredit your own value.  I often hear the comment, “When we fix price, we lose money.”  Wow, that tells me you haven’t learned to estimate, but I will show you the secret of pricing on December 9th…there are two ways to calculate fixed price fees, then there are block time sales (which may be the thing that keeps you from really profiting the way you should be – and I’ll show you exactly why that is.)  And of course T&M, but there are two ways to do T&M, and one of them results in you taking all the risk.  I cover this in detail in my new book, From Vendor to Adviser, along with calculations and examples, so I won’t go into it here…but this is critical stuff!

Get the Book here: (Note: this is a preorder special – you’ll be one of the first to have it)

Then there is the proposal…I see many making one of several mistakes.  They execute the sales process perfectly, and then get to the proposal, and…well, all that effort turns into a big negotiation process, and maybe a visit to the chief purchasing officer (who, no doubt, has a degree in Negotiation Strategies!)  Who needs that at the end of a long sales cycle, and especially here at year end?  One thing  I can tell you, the meeting you have right before you write this proposal is the key to success – but there are at least eight secrets I give in my book to make this go much more smoothly.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like writing proposals – especially when they don’t close!

Here is that link again – I’ll see you on the 8th and hopefully on the 21st for the second one.  There is no cost to you, other than time, so don’t miss this.



© 2011, David Stelzl

I like to think of my proposal as a letter addressed to someone rather than a sterile document opening with a third-person narrative of the company I am selling to.  I address them personally…


John Smith,

RE: Fall Seminar Series

I understand you are working to build your sales over the next twelve months through a series of customer facing events that will target executives in midsize companies. etc.

Most proposals are so difficult to read that,…well, nobody actually reads them.  Worse, there are marketing departments that have created templates that company policy says, “Can’t be changed by the rep.”  How ridiculous!   Fine, if the template is great, but the truth is, they are not.  You go through months of work trying to get to that moment where you present your proposal, and then everything comes to a screeching halt while managers and legal try to find time to interpret your company’s document.  Can’t we make this easy for the customer?

© 2011, David Stelzl

It takes me about five minutes to write most of my proposals.  Whether my fee is $200 or $100,000 dollars for the project in question, the proposal looks the same and communicates the same information. The difference in fee has to do with the value I am proposing, not the format of my proposal.

© 2011, David Stelzl

After several posts on proposals and some words on pricing, people have responded with all sorts of reasons on why they can’t give a fixed price.  Believe me, I understand the dilemma.  If you just don’t know what it will take, you don’t want the risk…here are the common objections:

1. Client doesn’t want to pay more than the hours they see you onsite.

2. You always lose when you fix price

3. No one knows what it will take to complete the job

4. What about scope creep

and the list goes on – feel free to add some below and I will respond with my take…so what do we do?  First let’s understand the real issues:

  • When you do T&M the client sees it as T&M with a cap.  Even if you say, “there is no cap”, they expect one.  If someone quotes me $500 to fix something in my house and sends me a bill for $2000, we are going to have a problem.  Even if I pay it, it’s probably the last time I hire them.
  • When there’s a cap, I take all the risk.  If we come in early, I make less just because I was efficient.  In other words, I sold the $10,000 deal, got the approval, and perhaps a PO was issued for $10,000.  And I’ve even forecasted it!  But I only bill $7000, leaving 3K on the table.  I just lost commission on 3K and my company lost the balance right off the bottom line.
  • On the other side, if I go over, the PO is issued, the people I am dealing with have put the funding together, it’s all signed off and ready to go,  but three weeks later I am back in their office trying to get the PO increased.  What do we do?  Put everything on hold while we wait?  That will go over well with my clients!
  • Or I decide to keep going with no further approval.  Every dollar over is a loss in profit, and if my firm charges me a burden cost on services, which they should if they are smart, I really take a loss.  Before I know it, there is no GP left in the deal and my commission in zero.

So why do people continue to justify the T&M approach?  If you find you are losing on every deal, see if there is a trend.  I had one client who was losing about 25% on every deal.  Well, that was simple, start adding that amount to every new quote and you will be right on.  If the price is too high, the T&M quote is too high – another issue solved.  If the client only wants to pay for hours you can prove you spent, the deal was sold on price, not value, if you just don’t know, break it into phases and quote what can be quoted, estimate the rest for phase 2…stop quoting T&M prices!

That’s right – Long Proposals Make Great Landfill…if you attended Friday’s teleseminar you’ll be receiving an audio copy of it shortly, but a few points for everyone are in order…

The Wall Street Journal reported just a few days ago, we are in the “texting” generation, and those writing proposals might take note here; people want it short and to the point.  The days of writing lengthy documents to close a deal are long gone, and long documents are destined to be delegated downward to the lowest common denominator.  But don’t expect that group to read it either.  Some tips on keeping it short:


  1. Cut out all company overview commentary.  By the time they buy from you they will know who you are.  Plus, it’s all online.
  2. Don’t bother writing about your client either.  Why an executive would need to read about their own company in your proposal is beyond me.  If they don’t know what they do, you’re selling at the wrong level.
  3. The more technical specifications you include, the more likely the reader will require IT personnel for interpretation.  Instead, focus on bullets that outline the proposed benefits and leave it at that.
  4. Your longest section should be your options.  Make them easy to understand and building upon one another.  Stop at three of four options, all stated at a high level.
  5. Price based on milestone and avoid lengthy explanations on how your prices are computed.  When asked, be ready with a concise answer.
  6. And to really make this simple, avoid proposing until there is a verbal agreement.  At that point your document becomes an agreement.
  7. Make the signing page big and easy to read, but cut down on terms and conditions which may be pages too long.  If you don’t plan on suing your client, you don’t need every detail covered.  Limit your liability and cover your ability to fix things if not acceptable to the client.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Pricing Your Proposal

October 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Finalizing my notes this morning for today’s teleseminar on proposals – a side topic which I plan to cover (but won’t have time for great detail) is pricing…

Join us today: 11:30 EDT (CLICK)

So here are a few random rules on proposal prices:

1. Most resellers are pricing things too low – the thought is, your SMB clients can’t afford more, the problem is, you can’t afford less.  Pricing is related to value…not your client’s perceived bank account.

2. T&M pricing is amateur.

3. T&M with a cap is foolish – you take all the risk, your client has no skin in the game.

4. Deals that schedule a given resource on Tuesdays and Thursdays (as an example), mean you must now fill their down time (every other day) with project work or their utilization will be too low to net a profit for the company.

5. Too much detail.  You don’t have to break out every detail of a project’s pricing.  Start quoting in milestones, and price based on value, while considering days and weeks, not hours and minutes.

6. Present options…a choice of yes’s.  Give them the best option, and upside option, and a phased option to allow for tight budgets, but with future phases in mind.

7. Don’t present pricing before value has been established.  Remember, business value can only be understood by a business person.

© 2010, David Stelzl


Who has time to read proposal?  Not me.  When was the last time you read through a thirty page contract, or even a five page letter from your bank or insurance company?

Join me this Friday at 11:30 EDT (Virtually) to hear more: (CLICK)

Most proposals are just like these letters – junk mail of a sort.  It’s your bank, but still, you don’t read the letter.  You know it’s boiler plate mail with mostly filler, so you skim through it to find what you need, or you set it on your desk hoping to get to it.  I guess it just depends on your personality.  I generally shred it having realized long ago, I will never get to that pile on the corner of my desk.

I’ve been writing about presentations recently, but this Friday I will be speaking about proposals (virtually).  Join me for this informative and much needed hour on what to write, when to write it, who to write to, and how to make this important, but misused document more meaningful and more likely to be read…executed on.  My personal proposal signature rate is about 85%, maybe 90…the average from classes I teach measures about 20%.  Let me show you the difference this Friday at 11:30 EDT.

Sign up here (CLICK)

© 2010, David Stelzl