Project Design: Creating Successful Proposals

Project Design July 2016

The key to any successful proposal or bidding process is to win the clients trust. This may seem obvious but it is surprising how often this simple technique is overlooked.

So, how best to go about this?  Let’s look at the whole process from start to finish.

In my experience, and carrying on from my previous article about referrals, oftentimes when a client was referred they would not be looking at competitive quotes and our conversion rate was well over 50%. This is what I found works well: When an enquiry came in it was pretty likely that the first step would be to arrange a meeting with the client, usually at the premises in question. It goes without saying that punctuality was very important for this, as I found first impressions counted for a lot in this initial meeting, as did a professional presentation and friendly amicable approach. If the aim was to get the client to relax and open up about their needs, they would need to feel comfortable to do so, therefore building a good rapport quickly paid big dividends here.

Once everyone was comfortable I found this to be a good point to do a bit of discovery about the client—how they will live in their new home, the other members of their household, and what they enjoy doing in their free time at home. This provided invaluable insight into what capabilities the systems proposed would need to accommodate, which was key in aligning the proposal to the client’s needs. This is where a simple client discovery tool was invaluable in ensuring all the important areas were covered and recorded. I always tried to avoid getting to deep into product at this point as I found early suggestions might not meet the client’s requirements or budget later on.

Once happy with all of the relevant info in the notes, I would then finish up the meeting by setting a realistic timeline of when the client would have their proposal. I found a really good way to do this was to ask for another meeting. Being timely and delivering the proposal within the agreed timeframe helped me build on the foundation of trust formed in the initial meeting. For me this bit was key—if the proposal was running late and the appointment made initially had to be rescheduled, the trust built up so far with the client would begin to fade.

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After the initial meeting if there wasn’t a clear direction to take with the proposal I found it a good idea to produce more than one. A good, better, best approach would often work wonders with a client unfamiliar with the numbers involved in smart building technology. We did this using d-tools’ proposal tool, which made it much easier than it sounds. By building the largest best proposal first the bulk of the work was out of the way. In a copy of this proposal, a bit of value engineering and some different component sets could be used to scale the cost back by about 25%. I found this version was the one most likely to be chosen by the client so I always made sure it was a good solid solution. By scaling this back again with another copy to the bare minimum system that met the minimum performance requirements, whilst still being reliable and a good usable solution for the client we would produce the most basic option. This process is of course valid for any quoting tool but very applicable to d-tools.

Within each proposal produced for the client I found it very helpful to include the fundamental information a client needs to gain trust in a business. This would include some background on the business and the awards and accreditations held. I would also include the whole project process or lifecycle with the times payments would fall due so the client could understand how we worked and how the project would run. I always included some basic ground rules of what is included or excluded from the proposal along with a set of terms and conditions. Photos of completed jobs or the showroom acted as great visual tools to help the client get to grips with what they were looking at.

Once the proposal was ready to go I would print it on good quality paper and bind it with a quality wire binder, including a clear plastic cover and card back. This helped reassure the client that we took pride in our work which all counts towards the ultimate goal of trust.

When I would then take the proposal(s) to the meeting originally set up with the client to talk them through what was proposed, I felt confident in the knowledge that I had given myself the absolute best chance of winning that job.

Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then Keith worked in numerous high-end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break, he started Jones designs in August 2009 which has recently morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow with his business partner, Kelly Ashforth. designflow aims at increasing awareness of design in AV and help installers win jobs and create proper documentation for them.