How to Write a Consulting Proposal that Lands Six-Figure Fees [Behind-the-Scenes Tutorial]Aug 05, 2020
Want to know what a perfect consulting proposal template looks like? Wish someone can take you behind the scenes so you can see for yourself how to structure a consulting proposal that commands six-figures?
Then you're going to love what I'm going to share with you in this video tutorial where I'll demystify the process and show you exactly how to set up your proposals to showcase the unmistakable value that your consulting can create.
Betsy Jordyn: Hey, it's Betsy Jordyn here and I want to talk to you today about proposals. Here's the thing about proposals: It's not one of the favorite things that many consultants have around their business. They wish that magically they could skip over this phase. And I would say don't ever think like that because proposals are the best way to add tremendous value to your clients right away. And this is what will win them over.
I'm going to share with you how you can create an amazing proposal. Instead of talking about it, though, I'm going to show you one of my proposals. Let me go ahead and share my screen and give you some ideas on your proposal.
See an example of a successful consulting proposal (0:48):
This is one that I use. There are so many different formats that you can use around proposals. You can do it in Word for sure. I really liked, for especially the larger projects, to do it in PowerPoint, because it allows me to tell the story in a more storytelling type of way, as well as my proposal becomes sort of like that internal document that everybody uses to get on the same page around the project.
This is one that I've actually used. This was one for an organization redesign project. The first thing that you need to do is make sure you capture your background and objectives. If you have read any of my articles or watch any of my videos, this is what comes after. You've already done what I call my seven steps to directional agreement where you and your client get on the same page around the business performance outcomes, the business case for those business performance outcomes, and the value that you're supposed to bring to the table and that incremental ROI. You should have gotten all of that clarified, but this is where you capture it in the proposal format.
Clarify what you do (1:55):
So the first part around what you do is you do clarify it. I definitely recommend talking about the situational overview in second person. You want to have a conversation. And you want to use as much of their language. This is with my particular client, where they talked about their business as being a Cinderella success story so I led off with that. And then just clarify why they wanted a partnership with me.
We talked through what were their business priorities...what they said. So they really want it to have an organization design that was set up for efficiency and scale. So that was what they wanted and we clarify what some of those outcomes were.
Include Key Performance Indicators (2:28):
We talked through the key performance indicators. This is another thing that's really important is you want to be able to show your clients like, "Yeah, when we achieve these goals, these KPIs, or these key performance goals, these are going to be what we are able to look at to show that we're having improvements."
Establish a business case (2:44):
But what's really important is establishing the business case. The best that you can, if you can get numbers against this, the better off it's going to be. Sometimes a client will give you those numbers and they're going to be top of mind. Sometimes they won't if you feel like you're annoying them if you push them too hard. The least you can do is at least get the business case so that you can get your client to see the size and the scope of the project that is at hand.
I like using visuals. I might say, if we work on this org design, what's going to happen is we're going to definitely decrease today's cost. I'm going to give the flow to show how all of these pieces fit together. This is the business case. We're going to reduce the duplication of effort. We're going to get over the frustration of burnout. We're going to reduce turnover or increased efficiency. We're definitely going to decrease controllable costs.
Position your case as it relates to revenue (3:35):
And then I like to, for sure, position it as it relates to revenue. So if you are going to improve the positioning of people and processes - employees are going to perform better, therefore it connects the dots with customer service and the customer satisfaction leading to increased intend to repeat and recommend and improve revenue.
This is where it's really important for you as a consultant, if you don't have a ton of business acumen around all of these pieces that I'm mentioning, you definitely want to learn that because there's a ton of research that will show you increase intent to repeat and recommend is the net promoter score. You want to look at that and definitely Google that and learn more about it because the research will show there is a huge connection between increasing that net promoter score and future revenue. And there's a connection between satisfaction and the net promoter score and all of these things relate together.
You want to make sure that you show how this all works together and the value as it relates to the project at hand and the value that you're going to bring to the table.
Secret Sauce around methodology (4:47):
Okay. So now we're on my secret sauce is around the methodology thing. If you're going to give your client any gift, this is going to be where the gift is. The client is here. They want to be there. What you want to be able to do is show them step by step, how to get from here to there.
When you do this, you are reducing the fear of the unknown, and you're going to give your clients so much of a relief and so much of a sense of value that you won them over with just this one particular slide. By showing them visually instead of saying, alright, step by step - this is what we need to do to get you to your outcome, whether we work together or not. This isn't about you. This is you giving your client a gift.
One of my mentees, who I've been taking through this whole process yesterday, just explain this so well. I was so proud of him and he said very clearly of saying, “You know what, this is one of the things that you get from working with me right off the bat is I just give this to you as a gift. This is my gift to you. Whether we work together or not.” That was a phrase he used.
I'm like, "Yeah, that was really good" because you're letting them know, yeah, I'm answering the question because they are on this intro call with you, free consult, whatever it is because they want this. So give them that. And then you might do a little bit of explanation around the different components. What that means, what that looks like. Now, you've given them the roadmap.
Give them options (6:05):
Once you have that in place, now you have something that all of your options could hook towards. One thing's very, very important especially when you're working with executives is you must give them options. They like options because that gives them a sense of control. It's not a choice between if we're going to work together, it's going to be more around how. You're changing the conversation and you're making them feel like they are in a better place.
Now, from your standpoint, for this particular project, I decided it would be more relevant just to focus on the first phase because the other three phases may or may not. I didn't necessarily want to go into the whole thing. I just wanted to start with phase one. I just put a bucket around there.
What you want to also show is how your options are of increasing value. They're not three alternative ways of working with you. They are three ways that they can get access to your smarts and increasing levels of your contribution, your value. And then you might give the headline and then you go into the details. Big picture, here's the three options, here's all the details. Then you explain exactly what you will do.
It's very important if you want to go after a six-figure consulting contract, for example, you really need to show meat. You need to show all these amazing things that I'm going to do and all of this incredible value that I'm going to create. In this case, I did give a little bit more detail around, all right here's what I picture is going to be involved. Here’s focus groups, here's some sort of span of control or not span of control. Here's just the scope of the project itself.
But remember, I'm not doing a statement of work. There's a huge difference between the statement of work versus a proposal. I am putting some parameters around it.
That's option one. Then option two is I'm going to take that. I'm going to take it to the next level. I'm going to be adding more features, strategic planning, and then option three. We're going to do all of these other things that are included.
Include a timeline (8:06):
And then you want to include a timeline. That's going to be one of the questions a client is going to want to know, "How long will this take?" But they really also want to know is, "How much do you need for me in order to make this happen?" In some of the cases, when I've done proposals, I might actually even have option three that shows like your time decreases, even though the price gets higher, your time decreases. That's another way that you can go about doing it.
Joint Accountabilities (8:35):
It's very important. You communicate your joint accountabilities. Again, that does provide parameters around scope, but also clarifying that you and your clients both have different responsibilities. What you can do is you can guarantee your contribution to the particular outcomes, but that's only if a client does their part. You want to think that through.
Dealing with difficult issues upfront (8:56):
And then one thing I always include is this whole idea that I will be raising difficult issues. If you who are new to consulting, this might be new information for you, or, but if you've been consulting for a while, you're going to be nodding your head and say, "Oh yeah, this is true." But more times than not, whenever you do work a client's going to come to you and they're going to want you to fix everybody else, but when the real problem is actually them. You want to be able to say, "I'm going to be able to have an outside perspective and raise difficult issues when it's needed.”
Summary and pricing (9:27):
And then you give a summary around all that it's included. You want to make sure that you get all of the above. And the thing about the pricing is that you want to make sure, from my standpoint, there's a little bit of an art and there's a little bit of science. The more you get numbers, you can do a little bit more of the science because you can make sure that your fee represents at least a 10 times ROI to what the contribution of the project would be. But you also, you also have to kind of think through the psychology of your particular client. I like to think of option one is sort of like the no brainer. Option three is the real value that they're looking for. And then option two, something in the middle.
Offer a guarantee (10:10):
One thing I definitely need to emphasize is you do want to offer a guarantee of some kind. I know a lot of us have a little bit of an anxiety attack around a guarantee because, "Well, what if the client doesn't fulfill their work? What if they don't do their part? How could I be on the hook if they're not going to do it? I hope they don't sue me."
I think it's very important that you just put a guarantee out there to say, "Yeah, my work is guaranteed", but remember we got those joint accountabilities and that's a little bit more of this CYA. And of course my partner, Jen would have a lot of information around how else you can CYA she's got a CPA background and she's got a lawyer for her husband so that's kinda nice for us. If you have any questions around that, you could definitely take that up with Jen.
Place to accept and payment terms (10:50):
And then you want to make sure you have a place for acceptance. You want to be able to give them the option to look at which option they choose. Oh, I forgot to mention around the payment terms. One of the things that I always, always recommend, I have to emphasize this because this would not be in your best interest if I skip this. Give me a moment on that. One thing you want to make sure is you want to get the money issue off the table as fast as possible. So never, never, never. And I cannot emphasize never, never underlined the word, never put it in bold, shiny lights, like never, never, never, never wait until after you do the deliverable to get paid, because that is where the client is going to hold you hostage.
I had one scenario where I did an organizational assessment for a city and the city manager turned out to be a source of a lot of the feedback that was difficult. And I was new to consulting and I set it up where I gave like 50% down, 50% at the close of the project. And what happened is the executive said, the city manager, said that he would not pay me my other 50% until I changed the report to take away all of the negative quotes about him. He gave me my report back with edits and he edited actually with the quotes that people said so he didn't look so bad.
That was a big lesson learned because my integrity, I can't change the quotes. That's what people said. I wound up having to create some sort of executive summary. It did not create the results that was looking for. The sad news is, is that I did eventually get paid but the sad news is a couple of months later in the newspaper, I read that the city manager got fired for the very things that I pointed out in my report. If this report was able to be better received and I didn't have the money issue in the middle, it would have been a different kind of scenario.
Definitely look at offering a discount of some kind, at least a 10% discount for upfront cash payment. And then the other thing is doing 50% down and 50%, I like to say like net 30, because usually a lot of companies like we might do net 40, but if 45 days, but what might happen is then it sometimes goes longer. If I make the net a little bit shorter, then we can eventually get the payment kind of going faster. Definitely do that. And then you give people the option.
This is a proposal that I've used too. Hopefully this helps and gives you more clarity on what you're looking for in terms of a really great proposal. The other thing too is the client could sign this and that kind of constitutes an agreement or actually paying you, constitutes the agreement as well. Those are a couple of different options. If we have any additional questions about proposals, you could drop me an email [email protected].
Take Action: Learn more about setting up the partnership with a client (13:41):
And if you would like to learn more about my partnership set up process, I have two things to offer you. I have my Contacts to Contracts course where I go into all of the details in more specificity. And I also have a fill in the blank proposal template that you can use as a model and a guide.
And then if you really want to get into it, definitely check out my Consultant's Toolbox. We are no longer offering the Consultant's Toolbox directly to everybody because there's so much value in it. It's something that we are only offering to people who really do want to make a difference within an organization. So we want our tools to be used for good. So if you're interested in that you can drop an email to me ([email protected]), or you can email my partner Jen ([email protected]) or you can just look up our contact information here.
You could set up a call with us and we'd love to talk to you about the Toolbox that gives you all of the information, takes you by the hand of everything that you would need to do to land and deliver six-figure consulting engagements.
Hopefully this was helpful. Definitely let me know if you have any questions and thank you for participating today. Talk to you soon.
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