Business is not Dating: Three Tips to Manage the Proposal Process
For entrepreneurs and professionals who actively seek new clients, we all have preconceived notions about how long it takes to seal a deal. But what happens when your estimate doesn’t align with reality? Does it frustrate you? Diminish your spirit? Or does it inspire you to drive harder?
Just like anyone else, I have an idea of the amount of time that’s sufficient to turn a deal from start to finish. However, I also know that each client is different with a unique set of circumstances that fuel their need for the service that I provide. So here’s my checklist for learning to allow the life-cycle of “deal making” to take its natural course:
#1-Did I do my part?
Did I prepare a proposal with a nice balance of information that showcases my skill, talent, and personality? Place yourself in the client’s role and ask if you’d be intrigued to do business. If the answer is yes, then congrats! You’ve mastered step one.
#2-Did I follow up?
I’m always amazed when I talk with colleagues about business progress and one says, “I sent the proposal and never heard back so oh well!” Huh? Business definitely involves relationship building but it’s NOT dating. A natural part of business development is reaching out to the potential client to ask if they need additional information on how you can help them achieve their goals. In many cases, their schedules may be wild or they may have even forgotten to read. Nonetheless, it is your job to stay on their minds in a non-irritating and respectful fashion. Try allowing a week to go by and if you don’t hear back, send an e-mail as a reminder with a small piece of new info, which could be a link to a news article on something related to their industry.
#3-Am I focussed on the multiple dimensions of my business?
We’re all guilty of having that list of dream clients where we play scenes in our head of how fabulous the partnership will be. While it’s great to insist on positive affirmations about what will become, you can never simply focus on one client, one project, or one proposal. Of course you should have a target list that aligns with your expertise but never play the “sit and wait” game. Always have a game plan for diversifying your client stream and income. This strategy allows you to “do your part” and patiently wait for the relationship to materialize. Meanwhile, you target other projects and turn those into gold.
The scary part about entrepreneurship is that nagging feeling that your efforts to secure a new piece of business will be in vain. This perception dangerously diminishes your business spirit and does nothing to fuel the passion that brought you into this new realm in the first place. No matter how much time you spend on bringing in a new client, think of it as a building block that can be used no matter the result. In the midst of working to secure this new business, you probably sharpened your proposal writing, presentation skills, and strategic planning in general. No pitch is ever a loss!
In closing, nothing is absolute in business. Nonetheless, you can increase your chances of success by doing your part to make sure that the client knows how much of a benefit you would be to their team. After you’ve highlighted your expertise, stay on their mind. Check in without seeming irritated about the delay. Stay connected on social media as a way of reminding them that you’re still around without bashing them about your desire to connect. And after you’ve employed every possible strategy, relax and let go. The time may not be right at this very moment but the client could return to the conversation at a later date, especially if they remember your professionalism and diplomacy.
Remember: Business is not dating. No hurt feelings because someone didn’t call you back. Call them! No dart boards with their picture on it because the meeting didn’t happen when you wanted it. Remind them! Believe in what you bring to the table enough to know that what is meant will be.
Keep moving and striving!