10 Vital Questions for a Kick-ass Proposal

proposal-200By Ilise Benun

Increasingly the hectic pace of today’s business world has trained us to go after every potential client we come across, resulting in countless hours invested in preparing quotes for jobs we end up not getting, or those we quite frankly wish we hadn’t landed in the first place. (For more on narrowing your focus, don’t miss Expert Advice on Choosing Your Niche.)

Last month, Ilise Benun came up with some simple-but-effective guidelinesfor helping us decide whether a prospective client is actually worth writing a proposal for. This time she helps us obtain the answers we need to finally write that winning proposal.

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It’s not always easy to get a client’s attention long enough to get the substantive answers you need, unless you make it clear that this is part of your process. Here’s one way to approach it.

Near the end of that first conversation say, “This seems like an excellent fit for our firm and we’d love to work with you; I’d be happy to invest the time to write a proposal. In order to take the next step, we’ll need you to answer some important questions. Should we do that now or can we schedule a 15- to 30-minute call to go over those questions later?”

Their response will either support your decision to move ahead – or not. If they can’t invest the time or don’t agree that it’s important, consider that a red flag.

If they do agree, use this checklist to get the crucial info you need to write a strong proposal that will win you the job.

  1. Goals: What are the big-picture goals of this project? What specific objectives do you need to achieve? How does this project fit into your overall plan? How will you measure the success of this project?
  2. Market: Who or what is the market for this? Is there research available on the market? Is this the first time you’re approaching it?
  3. Content: Where will the source content come from? Is it ready? Will research be necessary? Do you need messaging or copywriting assistance? Are there specific technologies you do or do not want used?
  4. Timeframe: What is your timeline? Is there a hard deadline? Is this a rush? How quickly does your team provide feedback between drafts? Are there other factors that get in the way?
  5. Contact: Who will be your main point of contact? Will he/she be involved from the start or jump in later? Will there be other people involved? If so, how many and what are their roles?
  6. Decision-making process: Who is the main decision maker on this project? Is it one person or a committee? How will you select your vendor and what is the most important factor in your selection? Price? Location? Style? References? Past experience in your industry? Something else?
  7. Budget: What budget have you allocated for this? Are you thinking $$ or $$$$? Do you have an overall marketing budget for the year? What is it?
  8. Proposal: What would you like to see in the proposal? Should you include printing? Coding? Copywriting? What else?
  9. Other vendors: How many others are bidding on this project? Do you have someone in mind for it already? Can you say who or what size firm?
  10. Proposal Presentation: (To the client) Will you be available on (date/time) for us to present the proposal to you either in person or via phone/Skype?

These are not the only questions to ask – others will certainly come up in your conversation. Your goal should be to not only use these questions to get the answers you need but, more importantly, to demonstrate your expertise. There is no better way to show you know what you’re doing than by asking the right questions.

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ilise-benun-125Ilise Benun is the founder of Marketing-Mentor.com and author of several publications, including The Designer’s Proposal Bundle (Vol. 1 & 2) and The Pricing Bundle, available in her online store. She is also a national speaker, the founder of The Creative Freelancer Business Conference (part of HOW Design Live), and provides business coaching, advice and accountability for designers and other creative professionals who are serious about growing their business. Her books includeThe Creative Professional’s Guide to Money, The Designer’s Guide to Marketingand Pricing, and Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive. Sign up for her Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor and follow her on Twitter @MMToolbox.

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