When it comes to getting new work, one of the required steps is writing what amounts to a combined proposal/engagement letter. It’s more of a proposal if you’re assuming what the prospect wants; it’s more of an engagement letter if you spend time finding out what the prospect needs. But semantics aside, preparing these letters is a lot of work. Given that, what is your proposal win percentage? Are you content with your fees on the proposals you win? If your answer is “no” or “not always,” this article may help.
When it comes to getting new work, one of the required steps is writing what amounts to a combined proposal/engagement letter. It’s more of a proposal if you’re assuming what the prospect wants; it’s more of an engagement letter if you spend time finding out what the prospect needs.
But semantics aside, preparing these letters is a lot of work. Given that, what is your proposal win percentage? Are you content with your fees on the proposals you win? If your answer is “no” or “not always,” I can help.
Most of you know I travel full-time in an RV. And as you might imagine, I don’t get as many chances to propose on valuation assignments as I did when I had my stationary practice in Philadelphia. So, in order to maintain my target revenue, I had to learn how to increase my win percentage—and be content with the fee—on the projects I had an opportunity to propose on.
Here are five lessons I’ve learned that have helped me get better results.
It all starts with a phone call and the much-hated question: How much will it cost to value ABC Industries, Inc.? I don’t know … do you want me to guess? I mean, how could I possibly know without more details?
But I gotta respond. And PDQ, right?
Chalk it up to FOMO—Fear of Missing Out.
After all my years in practice, I still struggle with this thought: if I can’t throw out a number immediately, or if I’m slower to produce a proposal than my competition, I won’t get the work.
I then wallow in this thought: the prospect requesting this fee estimate is the last prospect who will ever contact me, and if I don’t get the work, I will need to take a job as a Walmart greeter.
The reality is I’ve learned more work will come along if I have a marketing plan that I consistently and persistently apply.
And think about this: if it’s a fire drill to respond with a proposal, what will the playing conditions be like when it comes to doing the project?
Vetting prospects and turning them into high-value clients that treat me right is hard. Getting all of the information I need to determine the correct scope of project is hard. But in my experience, the former is more important than the latter because I don’t want to work with difficult clients no matter how good the information is.
Talking to a prospect and determining her needs takes a few phone calls and e-mails. I may even need to review some documents. Then we work on a project plan together to make sure that we both understand the needs and outcomes in the same way.
Only after this legwork is complete, which could take a few days, do I send over an engagement letter. If at any point the prospect isn’t enthusiastic about the process, or thinks it’s taking too long, we stop, and I move on to the next prospect that understands the way I work.
One of the goals in my process is to talk to the decision maker. The decision maker is the real client. Sometimes, we don’t get to talk to the real client. Not often, but it happens.
The real client may vary on the type of the engagement. I expect to talk to an attorney in an estate tax matter. Or the business owner for a transition plan. If it’s anyone other than the person I expect to talk to, like the controller or CFO, I’m wary.
Generally, I won’t waste my time sending a proposal to a “screener.” All they can do is say “no” since they don’t have the power to approve the proposal or send the retainer.
Somewhere along the way, I like to think that I transformed into a valuation “wizard.” For sure, I’m not the crème de la crème. But I’m pretty darn good at what I do.
There’s no lasting joy in taking on an assignment for less than I’m worth. Or if I had staff, it wouldn’t be fun explaining to them that I got this engagement for less than I wanted … so, you know, go easy on the charge hours.
So, I try to remember that wizards are busy people. I don’t have time to send proposals to prospects that aren’t a good fit, and when they’re not, I tell them. It’s not a judgment on them or their value; it’s simply a fact that I can’t serve them as they want to be served.
Many of our proposals have taken form over years of practicing. We started with MACVA’s template, cobbled together the best parts of other practitioners’ letters, and had them reviewed by an attorney.
There is a problem with this. At one point, all these proposals were likely prepared and reviewed by lawyers—the writing/languaging reflects that. And any lawyer will tell you that most attorneys don’t write particularly well.
So, I don’t write anything in my proposal letter that I wouldn’t say in a conversation. No above referenced or aforementioned … no and/or or hereinafter … no pursuant to or shall.
As a result, I get asked fewer clarifying questions and receive fewer requests to modify my terms. And I feel less like a pickpocket trying to snatch some advantage from a prospect and more like a professional trying to collaborate with a client.
That’s it. Give some of these lessons a test drive on your next projects. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Many BVFLS practitioners hit a time and income ceiling and not make the money or have the impact they are capable of. They get stuck in “survival,” “stability,” or even “success” mode … treading water and feeling frustrated by their limitations. If you are feeling frustrated by those limitations and want to grow faster and more effectively, e-mail me at email@example.com.