I originally started the introduction to this article by explaining to you that my industry is soooooo competitive. It is…truly. I’m an author, and any time I’m pitching a new book, there are literally hundreds of other writers all doing the same thing – all wanting their piece of a publisher’s pie.
But then I thought back to my previous experiences as an entrepreneur, and I realized that competition has always been stiff. My first company worked on computer networking, and we regularly bid against four or five companies for each job. My second company did computer forensics, and not only did we have to compete against other bidders for each gig, but every one of those was jobs was time sensitive – we’d frequently get the request for proposals, have to compile and submit the proposal, win it and have technicians on site within twenty-four hours. Talk about pressure.
Anyway, I realized that we all have pressure and all face tough competition in our struggle to attract and land customers. I’ve found one foolproof method for making my proposals stand out among all of the others.
It’s all about timing.
Perfectly Timed Delivery. When you pour your energy and time into creating a perfect proposal, you want to make sure that it’s examined carefully, rather than skimmed and discarded because the decision maker is distracted or overloaded. How can you get an edge in terms of delivering your proposal at just the right time? A little detective work! Scan your prospect’s social media accounts and gather information about his or her schedule. If you see posts about kids’ soccer games on Wednesdays, your best bet may be to send your proposal over two hours before the game with a personal note saying something like: “I wanted to get you this proposal right away so that it doesn’t interfere with kids’ sports. I have athletes in my house and know how hectic the schedules can be.” Now, you want to stop short of being a creepy stalker, but the idea here is to reach out to your prospect when the odds are best that they’re not otherwise occupied. Use all of your available resources.
Perfectly Timed Follow Up. The key here is to make serendipity happen. For proposals sent via email, you could spend weeks wondering if your prospect has even opened your proposal. My secret weapon is YesWare.com. It works for both Gmail and Outlook (100 free uses per month) and it notifies the sender the moment an email is opened. As soon as you get the notification that your prospect has opened the proposal, that’s when you call to follow up. Your prospect is going to be astonished by the timing of your call, and you’re creating a unique moment that makes your proposal more memorable for your prospect. If your pitch is remarkable, you’re halfway there! Anything that makes your proposal stand out from the crowd – in a good way, of course – is to your benefit.
Perfectly Timed Responses. When a prospect contacts you with questions about your proposal, your goal should be to turn those questions around ASAP – quicker than the other guys, for sure. I’ve known associates who roll their eyes at a round of questions that precede a final decision on a project, but having a prospect contact you for further discussion is always a good thing. If you weren’t in contention, the prospect wouldn’t waste his or her time with you. One trick I’ve learned is to compile answers to common questions ahead of time so that I can copy and paste those answers into an email and save time. Build some templates with FAQs that let you be the very first to respond and show how important the prospect’s business is to you. Being prepared gives you the edge. Make sure that you are ready and waiting for the email with follow-up questions so that you can convey your enthusiasm for the project.
There’s no magic, foolproof shortcut to sending out winning proposals. They take hard work, and there’s no way around it. Don’t ever underestimate the effect that timing can have on a proposal’s reception, though. Do your homework and make sure that your timing enhances your proposal’s chances of success.