My freelance copywriter and editor group, The Copywriter Conclave of Portland, recently engaged in a lively and free-wheeling discussion about prospective clients and proposals. We were able to attract prospects and even get to the proposal stage, but sometimes, the almost-projects fell through shortly thereafter. We all determined that some unseen, emotional aspect comes into play during the proposal/interview stage.
Here are some things we think will help us in the future (and maybe other small business owners):
Sending a proposal in the body of an e-mail (or a plain Microsoft Word document) is quick, but it might be too quick. Spend some time creating an attractive proposal that contains your prospect’s logo, and your logo (or a nice font) and turn it into a PDF. There are some cool services like FreshBooks or Pancake that can also help you.
Using the Force
Yes, it’s time for another “Mahesh Star Wars analogy.” Star Wars (A New Hope) cemented its place in the world-culture when Luke turns off his targeting computer during the climactic battle inside the Death Star trench. There will always be “that moment” when you’re discussing your prospect’s project where you’ll notice a synergy between the prospect and yourself. You may feel that sharing a personal detail could add depth to your conversation. Maybe one of you tells a joke or you bond over being parents or non-parents. Whatever it is, if it fits well, then trust your feelings.
News sources inform us that the Great Recession is largely behind us, but the effects continue to linger, and they probably will for a while. For example, I’ve noticed how gun shy people are around major buying decisions. There may be moments when they convince themselves they don’t need a particular service. We all do it, even when we know we really need something. And here’s the thing: businesses need quality content. Business owners need quality content made by people who can verify results and reach audiences. We can’t pretend that keyword spinning, copy mills, and empty jargon lead to engaged audiences and higher revenue. Not anymore. So convince them that your skill set matches exactly what they seek.
You can know the minutiae of your product or service, research your prospects’ companies and the problems they face, and then put together a killer proposal. There will always be a “wild card” element you cannot control. If you’re freelance or a business owner, you walk a tightrope without a safety net. Clients and orders are the lifeblood of your business. If you don’t close a deal, you have to start all over again. The stakes are always high. But if one prospect doesn’t work out, then it allows you to hone your pitch for the next one. I lost out on not one, but two, projects in one month … and then I landed the biggest client of my career (so far) one week later. So don’t lose heart.
How do you approach the proposal process with your prospective clients?