My favorite thing in the world is to build systems that help people. Giving back. I try to keep my mind, body, and spirit in as much balance as I can lately due to recommendations of so many successful people giving that advice and giving back falls into the spirit portion for me.
When we sit down to write that proposal to give it to our clients, we got to get the right questions answered to gain the clear objective of what the client truly needs. Sometimes, we have to cut through the jungle of what they think they need with a machete to find out what they truly need and communicate in a way they see the true need themselves.
My last few classes in grad school dealt with project management, and I was so thankful. It was a skill that I had not honed yet. Over the last 8 years since grad school, I have read many business books to improve my communication skills.
As entrepreneurs working for clients in the computer industry, we have to utilize our vast skills to gain a clear objective, writing a proposal for the client to state clearly on what they need, and then using our management & development skills to deliver to the client exactly what they need. No matter how successful we get, we are actually here to help others like fulfilling our clients’ needs.
I am getting bigger on taking the recommendation of so many business writers when they talk about value based fees in a proposal instead of an hourly breakdown. We all know the projects where the meeting to discuss it, writing the proposal in great detail, and getting it approved after major tweaking actually takes longer than the project.
In my opinion, smaller projects do not need an extreme detailed write-up including a breakdown of hours in multiple categories. If you can breakdown their needs and what you will be delivering within a few pages with a set dollar amount, the clients will be farther ahead.
I had a meeting to discuss a proposal with roughly six people from the client side. It lasted an hour. It took a few of hours to go through the proposal including questioning of hours being too much in one area in their opinion. The actual work came down to 8 hours to develop and 4 hours of execution time to get the deliverables created. So for a total of 16 hours of everything, a good chunk was arguing over the hours being written in the proposal. Instead, it could have been less than three pages with a dollar amount of what it will cost. Work completed the same week as the initial meeting.
At times, we need the hourly breakdown especially internal with managing so many clients and a lot of work. Even then, I am seeing a benefit of just giving a dollar amount with a project completion instead of hours to the client.
I look at it when I buy a car. I could really care less about a bunch of numbers the dealership is throwing at me. BOTTOM LINE. How much is it going to cost me? Plain and simple.
How many people have been through the following scenario? You are trying to land a large contract, trying to get the proposal written, and everyone and their dog is on a meeting with you to discuss it. With so many people on the call, you know many of those do not have authority to approve the project but are only there to punch holes in the ideas being generated.
So you arrive at “You want A, B, and C with the outcome being D.” only to get the out of left field questions. Having been in this business for well over 20 years for varying size firms and clients, I should not be surprised with the questions that come up, but I still do. This one time the questions pertained to hardware failures so drastic that I wanted to point out that it is not this project in jeopardy from what they are describing but the entire organization. This is why we have disaster recovery plans. Just in case that meteorite falls out of the sky right on top of the datacenter, they can recover.
You also have the proposal being approved only to be brought up weekly in meetings trying to still go over it like it has not been written. You just want to yell “People, it has been approved. Work is almost completed. You do not want to change it now and force the whole process to start over which entails a huge bill and delay in implementation.”
In the book I read, Alan Weiss brought up valid points about getting with the economic buyer and trying to limit the large involvement of so many people.
I have just finished a book by Alan Weiss on writing proposals. It has made me stop to think about my own processes and how proposals were done in various places I have been too. At times during the reading, I just shook my head over the mistakes I had experienced with proposals.
When we were first starting down this entrepreneurial computer tract, we got onto an e-mail list requesting proposals from the state government. It sounded logical at the time. What a waste of time (and I would have known it if I would have read the book sooner). Large firms, and not our small start-up, are geared toward utilizing these type of requests.
A company I have since become familiar with knows how to get the contracts. It was fascinating to have dinner with the owner, and he talked about the failures he has had in his business life. From those failures, he built a company and maintains a personal relationship with the right people, and he is also able to grab independent minded computer professionals to fill those contracts the people come to him for.
My most successful project has been with a gentleman who just wanted to build a better system than he was forced to use at his work. He came to me via a recommendation. So in this modern day world of texting, e-mailing, and social media, the personal relationships still matter when getting your foot in the door and getting your proposal approved.