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7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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The 4 Most Powerful Words You Can Ask Someone

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


The 4 Most Powerful Words You Can Ask Someone

Both in life and in business, we experience individual struggles that cause us stress, frustration, anger, embarrassment and overall contribute to one of those “really bad days.” What’s worse is that because these struggles are uniquely our own, we often feel like we are completely alone when it comes to overcoming them.

Feeling the need to internalize our bad days and the challenges they bring only feed the unhealthy cycle in which we forget to reach out to other people who appear to have hit a road bump. This brings me to the grand reveal of the four most powerful words we can ask someone today. And that is….

“How can I help?”

It’s deceptively simple and so obvious that it seems silly. When we see someone struggling or upset, we should ask how we can help. But, do we? I’ll be the first to admit I do not – at least not as often as I should. In 2015 I want that to change. I want to inspire you to also take the lead in transforming us back into a society who takes an interest in the health and well being of the people around us– not just an interest in their latest status update. Here is why this simple question is so powerful.

It forces us to let our guard down.

I know when I’m having a stressful day where I feel like my to-do list is a mile long and getting longer, I am too proud and too overwhelmed to stop and think of how someone else might help to lessen the load. From experience, when someone asks me “How can I help?” it’s such a welcome relief and feels just as good as a comforting hug.

I used to blow off this question because only I could perform many of my work related to-do’s, but I have since learned to think outside the box and find ways (like household chores, running an errand or offering a few hours of childcare) that people can help out regardless of their skill set or expertise.

It gives us a support system.

Asking this question is the most meaningful way in which you can express to someone that you’re there for them. It’s putting your money where your mouth is and actually offering to do something rather than simply saying “I’m here if you need something.”

No, take the initiative to ask someone what it is they need. By asking, not telling, you’re ready to assume the risk that they could need you to do something time consuming or undesirable. But it also makes us feel like we have a partner in all of this mess – and sometimes that is the only thing we really need.

It’s not condescending or judgmental.

The question “How can I help?” is simple, but perfectly phrased. Compare it to “Do you need help?” This variation can come across like a judgment that the person needs help for whatever it is they are going through. Give them the immediate acceptance of acknowledging it’s okay to need help and skip right to offering your hand. Especially if it’s an issue of pride, you won’t help the situation by first making them admit to needing help.

It eliminates our excuse to act like a martyr.

Most importantly, being asked “How can I help?” eliminates the temptation for us to feel sorry for ourselves and muddle in our own misery. Having someone standing in front of us with a hand to lift us up is the best way to make us grab a hold of our boot straps and pull them up high. Sometime we enjoy playing the martyr as a defense mechanism or because we want a reason to complain. This is neither healthy nor going to help us break the “bad day” cycle. Being asked “What can I do to help?” is a powerful way to make us stop feeling all alone and like no one cares – because someone does!

Who is someone you should ask “How can I help?” Reach out to them today and say these 4 simple words. Then share how the answer and the actions that resulted changed both of your lives!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life: Part II

Last week, Bennis Inc’s PR Assistant and Photographer, Danielle Gouger shared the 10 quotes that have helped shape her life. These words of wisdom inspired Bennis Inc’s Owner, Stephanie Shirley to share her own list this week. Take a read and get inspired to make this your best week yet!


10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life 210 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

Part II

Last week, I felt so inspired after reading Danielle’s list of 10 quotes that have helped shape her life, that I had to also get in on the action! Here’s my own list of quotes that I have compiled and carried with me from as early as childhood. Some are light and fun, others are heavy and thought-provoking, but they have all shaped my life in some way. What quotes have shaped yours?

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” ~Unknown

I have been fortunate to already experience some of the benefits of entrepreneurship, but it’s not without some extremely hard and busy days. This quote reminds me of why those days are so worth it.

“The reason we struggle with insecurities is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~Steven Furtick

I think many of us can relate to this quote, especially as it pertains to social media. This reminds me to not judge, assume or envy someone else’s journey.

“You have not lived a perfect day, even though you have earned your money, unless you have done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” ~Ruth Smeltzer

Sharing your skills and talent with someone, especially without the expectation to be paid back, is truly fulfilling.

The Price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” ~Henry David Thoreau

How simple and how true! This quote reminds me to value my time and not waste it on things I don’t love doing.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~Matthew 6:34 NIV

I have many bible versus that I look to for inspiration, but this is one that has come into my life time and time again. It’s a great reminder to take things one day at a time.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher

As much as I sometimes wish to have less to do in a day, I am far more satisfied when I stay busy and productive.

“Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly about you, no one would believe it.” ~Unknown

This quote is so wise! You need not worry about what other people say about you, so long as you keep a good reputation that speaks for itself.

“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” ~Bob Marley

I have one vivid memory of playing in the rain with my son. I truly felt the rain that day, not just wet. I have loved this quote ever since.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~Greek Proverb

This quote reminds me that as much as PR focuses on the “what’s in it for me,” it’s so important to do things in life that are simply for others.

The best way out is always through.” ~Robert Frost

This quote is the great finisher to my list. I have learned, especially through some of the hardest days, that the best way to get through these moments it to keep moving forward.

 Feeling inspired to create your own top 10 list? Share a few of your favorite quotes with us by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Life

 

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10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

This week’s blog was written by Bennis Inc’s PR Assistant and Photographer, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise!


10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

10 Quotes That Have Helped Shape My Life

We have all stumbled upon a quote that seems to speak to our soul. It’s an inspiring, emotional and enlightening moment when you can read someone else’s words and feel like they are speaking directly to you and your situation. Best of all, some of the most powerful quotes come from people who you’d never expect to share such pearls of wisdom, making a good quote that much more of a treasure to find.

Now that you’re hopefully feeling a little inspired to read some famous words, here’s my list of the top 10 quotes that have helped to shape my life. Have they helped to shape yours, too?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi

This is probably the most motivating quote that has inspired me to pursue my dreams. Knowing that tomorrow is never a guarantee pushes me to want to live every day to the fullest.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

This is a great quote that my mom always said to me growing up, as she happened to be a Beatles fan. Her message to me was to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and instead focus on my own path in life.

“Keep calm and carry on.” ~ Winston Churchill

I have struggled with anxiety and often would get overwhelmed and stressed out over the little things in life. Telling myself this quote everyday really helps me get through the tough times and helps me not to sweat over the small stuff.

“Never give in and never give up.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

I have always been a resilient person and I believe this quote sums that up for me. To never allow anything to keep you down and to remember to always pick yourself back up in life.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ~ Anne Frank

The compassion in this quote is really in the author who wrote it. As a fan of reading the Anne Frank Diaries in grade school, you really can’t help but be inspired by her courage.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney

As a dreamer by nature, this quote has a special place in my heart. It is with this saying that I have the courage to pursue my dreams.

“Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated” ~ Author Unknown

This is a quote I always heard my parents tell me growing up as a kid. It is one of those life lessons that, now being a mom, I get to instill in my child.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” ~ Dolly Parton

I absolutely adore this quote, as I grew up listening to country music. This is one of the first quotes that really made me think about its meaning, but once I understood the validity of it, I use it on a weekly basis.

“Life is like a camera. Focus on what’s important. Capture the good times. And if things don’t work out, just take another shot.” ~Ziad K. Abdelnour

This is probably one of my all-time favorite quotes given my passion for photography. It is definitely a creative and meaningful statement.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle

I am only recently discovering the profoundness of this famous quote, as it has taken me years to really get to know myself. I am still learning and growing as a person!

Is one of these 10 quotes your absolute favorite? Or do you have another to share? Let us know by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Guest Blogger, Life

 

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The Power of Picking Your Focus

The Power of Picking Your Focus

After nearly five years and more than 250 blog posts, I’ve learned enough to know that inspiration can will strike in the most unexpected places. The inspiration for this week’s particular post came from a stranger in front of me in line at Panera Bread, who likely has no idea her wardrobe choice that day provided quite the colorful thought process over lunch. Her shirt simply read, “What you focus on expands.”

I can’t recall what cause or organization this t-shirt was designed to support; my mind was already wandering off in countless directions as to how this simple statement has proven true in my own life – even just recently.

I have always had an intensely focused mind. I have no trouble immersing myself into a project and blocking out all other distractions. Though very useful for my particular career path, these mental “blinders” I put up can also cause me to misguide my focus toward negative thoughts that are counterproductive…and at times, paralyzing.

I know I can’t be alone; I think most people can relate to the notion of “What you focus on expands.”

The Positive

The good news is that because what we focus on expands, this means that choosing to focus on positive and productive thoughts will lead to more positivity and productivity in our lives.

Have you ever experienced a stretch of a few days, maybe even longer, when things really felt like they were coming together in your life? The good news kept rolling in and you felt like you had a little extra luck leading your way? I know I have. Now reflecting upon these “charmed” moments, I can see that what I considered good luck was actually the result of having my focus in the right place.

Because I was focused on things that were going right, I was more inclined to find and appreciate even the littlest of things that were blessings in my day. I was focused on the positive and the positive continued to expand.

The Negative

Unfortunately there is also a negative side to these words of wisdom. In contrast to those positive moments in life, I know I can also recall moments (even weeks or months) when I felt down on my luck.

What likely began as some bad news, like losing a client, then spiraled into what felt like the opposite of the Midas touch. Everything I encountered seemed to go the opposite way of what I had hoped. It’s no wonder that since I was expecting a negative response, that is what I received. Even little things, like clumsiness or forgetfulness, seemed amplified.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

The reality is that in both the positive and negative scenarios I just shared, my luck was pretty much the same. The major thing that shifted was my focus. When I was focused on positivity, I was more inclined to see all the little positive moments throughout my day and overlook the negative. The opposite applies for when I am feeling overly negative. In a given day, I likely encountered just as many highs and lows, but how I choose to frame them is what determines my mood.

What I challenge you with today is to stop and really examine your focus. Are you feeling positive or negative? You have the power to pick your focus. Regardless of how your morning started or any residual stress left over from the week prior, you can choose to start anew. There will be days when finding the silver lining feels impossible, but really try to avoid taking the easy way out by choosing to be negative. Remember, what you focus on expands.

I’ll leave you with this thought from Regina Brett that has always cheered up even the most dismal of days…

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Are you intentional about your focus? Share your tips or struggles and let’s start a conversation!

 

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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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