It’s so frustrating. You worked for hours (maybe even days) on a proposal. You sent it through to your client. And then … silence.
Are they ghosting you? When should you email them? Should you leave a voice message?
And if you don’t hear from them, should you just show up at their office? What if they’re on the other side of the world?
What’s the proposal for in the first place?
This article is about smaller proposals, such as a solopreneur or small agency might send. It’s not about the RFP (Request For Proposal) process which usually happens when working with bigger companies on bigger projects.
So, why did you send a proposal in the first place? Were they expecting it? What was it that was in the proposal that you didn’t already have verbal agreement about? (Hopefully the answer to that is: “nothing”.)
Try a Preposal Instead
There are a few tactics which will save you a lot of grief around prospects not responding to your proposal. Most of them happen before you even begin writing a proposal.
Let’s call them preposal tactics.
You need to be sure that they really want a proposal, and aren’t just using that “send me a proposal” as a polite way of telling you they’re not ready to decide on anything.
Why would they do that?
Well, some people find it hard to tell you “we’re not really interested” or “we’re not serious about this.” Asking you for a proposal doesn’t cost them anything and – who knows? – it might actually tempt them.
Even more: the proposal will probably give them some high-value strategic or tactical ideas which they could use.
This situation is a fundamental imbalance in the relationship, because you’re giving everything and they’re not in any way committed. This is not a recipe for a strong long-term relationship. You want to be growing together, growing in mutual trust, mutual contributions to the successful outcome.
So, how could you handle it instead?
- Get them to agree first that they want you to give them a proposal. (I know, this seems obvious, but you can’t surprise them with a proposal like you’re throwing a grenade over their wall. I’ve made exactly this mistake, and put potential clients in an embarrassing situation where I had effectively offered an engagement ring when we had just first met.)
- Book a follow-up call before you start the proposal. You know that after they receive the proposal, they will want to discuss this with you. Book the call in now. “Hey, I’m going to send the proposal on Monday by 3 pm. I’m sure you’ll have some questions about it. Can we book in a follow-up call for, say, Wednesday morning?” This means you’re both clear about what the next step is.
- Make sure you’re talking to the right person. Prospects can be enthusiastic. You may think you have the deal in the bag. But then if you get back to them and then you find out they didn’t have budget, or they need to speak to someone else, it’s frustrating for you.
- Present the proposal; don’t send it. This may mean presenting the proposal in person, or over a call using a video chat (such as Zoom). This is a better variation on the follow-up call in step #2 above, as you can answer objections and walk them through the reasoning behind the key elements of the proposal.
There’s a lot more to be said about proposals, and whether to send them at all as part of your business. But the key thing here is to remember that you’re taking your client through to an outcome, and sharing them a roadmap along the way stops them from thinking it’s all up to them. (That’s where the wheels can fall off.)
I’m Anthony English and as a business coach, I help first-time business owners to get the business acumen they need to find better clients. Learn more at AnthonyEnglish.com.au