Most people see the proposal as the beginning, middle, and end of the sales process; because it’s the first real offer, and because if it’s accepted a sale is typically defined as “closed,” most salespeople and business people view this as the end of the road. However, don’t forget it’s possible for your new client or customer to back out of the deal even after signing the initial contract. Even worse, you could leave them with a negative impression of your brand that could haunt your future efforts—either by ruining your chances for more deals with this client or by damaging your reputation in other circles.
So what could possibly happen after a deal is closed that could jeopardize the relationship?
The Dangers of Losing a Sale After Close
If your proposal doesn’t adequately build the foundation for your client relationship, you could easily suffer from a lost sale or a strained client relationship. These are just some of the ways it could happen:
Failure to perform. First, your business may not be able to adequately fulfill the services you outlined. This could be due to an internal setback, or some external catastrophe. Either way, your client will be disappointed, and if there isn’t some protective measure in place, it could be the end of your relationship.
Unacknowledged expectations. It’s also possible that your client has expectations for the relationship that were neither confirmed nor denied by your proposal. In this case, if those expectations go unmet, it could put extra strain on your partnership.
Disagreements on terms. You and your client could also come to disagree about some element of the partnership, or some piece of the proposal. If you’re unable to resolve this dispute, it could end up fracturing the entire relationship.
So what can you do to protect yourself from these damaging potential situations?
Protective Strategies When Drafting a Proposal
These are some of the best ways you can better protect yourself in the body of your proposal:
Full descriptions. As a first-line piece of advice, try to give full descriptions of everything you offer in your contract. Don’t leave anything to chance or assumption, and don’t assume that your client is going to know what you’re talking about. For each of your products or services, offer a full-length, detailed description. Define who you are as an institution, define the key members of your team who will be executing your work, and don’t leave out any details when it comes to describing how that work will be executed. It’s definitely better to err on the side of caution here, as too many details may be a bit of extra reading, but too few may jeopardize your relationship.
Guarantees. Guarantees are somewhat dangerous, because while they can be reassuring and clarifying to a client, they can also be binding for you and your business. Still, it’s a good idea to include some kind of guarantee for the execution of your work, such as promising to deliver at least five new blog posts per month. This explicitly defines the engagement you’re about to enter, but also implicitly defines what you aren’t responsible for; if you ever fail to deliver an item outside your guaranteed deliverables, you’ll have this backing you up.
Warranties. If you’re selling any kind of tangible product, or any service with a measurable outcome, it’s wise to include some kind of warranty. Warranties are slightly different from guarantees, because while both structures offer some kind of promise to users, guarantees promise delivery and execution while warranties promise some kind of lasting value. For example, you could guarantee the delivery of 40 laptop computers, but can you assure your user those laptops will work for at least a year after purchase? Be clear with the terms of your warranty, including its length and any situation that could void the warranty.
Terms of service. The terms of service you outline in your proposal have a massive bearing on the outcome of your relationship, especially when it comes to proactively resolving disputes and minimizing conflict. This is especially important if you’re going to be involved in an ongoing, consistent partnership, such as if you’re going to be an agency on retainer. Your terms of service will define all parties involved in the transaction, the responsibilities of each, and any clauses that could warrant the nullification of the terms.
Alternative plan offerings. Though it won’t offer the legal protection that guarantees, warranties, and terms of service will, it’s a good idea to include some kind of alternative plan offering. For example, if you’re traditionally an agency on retainer, you could offer supplementary services a-la-carte with itemized pricing. You could also simply offer different packages of products and services. The point is to give your customer different possibilities, so they deliberately choose the exact package you end up delivering.
Timelines and projections. You should also have a section of your proposal dedicated to setting expectations about the pursuit of the partnership, especially during the early stages. In some contexts, this will include timelines, which outline when certain events or deliverables will unfold. In others, this will include projections, such as anticipating the ROI of a given strategy. Always protect yourself with a statement of estimation, but it’s good to make projections in advance when you can.
Don’t underestimate the proposal writing process as a factor for the success of your client relationships. As a preparatory measure, it’s the best chance you have to set the stage for a meaningful, mutually understandable interaction and the last chance you’ll have to cross your legal T’s.
If you need help building your proposals, try using configure price quote (CPQ) software to get the job done reliable, consistently, and efficiently. If you’re looking for an ideal solution, contact us for a free demo of iQuoteXpress’s CPQ software.