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  1. #1
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    Proposal Sent! Now what?

    Our industry is riddle with Joe Blog web designers, and it's hard for clients to differentiate. Ifyou include things like SSL, CloudHosting, Support and Security configuration, tailored or template designs, then you can quickly inflate the price of a website to almost 30% more than what you would have normally.

    I am concerned about potential clients window shopping and going to for the cheaper option, only to find they made the BIGGEST mistake overlooking cruitial things like support and security.

    I no longer send detailed proposals, as this was a terrible waste of time. I send a price breakdown with a complete price. If clients agree to this I would send the completely proposal for signing.

    Once you've sent the proposal what should we do? Should we wait and have the client go elsewhere, should we call back after a day or two, or wait longer. Should we not send it via email and personally hand it explaining everything to them so they are sure to know what they are getting, reducing the chance of them going elsewhere because they are not properly educated.
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard johntabita's Avatar
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    I always like to quote the price face-to-face, not by email. That way, if he says, "no thanks," you've saved yourself the trouble of creating and emailing that document.

    The other advantage is that you can find out why he's turning you down. It may be a simple solution like scaling back the project to meet his budget. But if you don't speak with him face-to-face, you'll never know.

    Once the client agrees to the price and agrees to do business with me, then I deliver the proposal (in person) on the condition that he'll sign it and give me a check for a deposit.

    Of course, this is after you've met with him, asked all the right questions, and learned what his business goals and objectives are.

  3. #3
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    @johntabita ;

    From experience email a quotation does not work. There is a lot of trouble filling all that information in, and if 80% won't bite it tells me there is something seriously wrong with what I am doing.

    So you have 2 meeting, once for the initial thoughts and another to give out a price.

    I completely agree with your comments, particularly the scaling back to meet the budget. I guess some potential clients don't want to even suggest a budget. I find this situation more and more nowadays.

    Once the client agrees to the price and agrees to do business with me, then I deliver the proposal (in person) on the condition that he'll sign it and give me a check for a deposit.
    I can't see this working. How is he suppose to know what he signs if he's not had chance to read through it. I am a little new to these contracts. I've heard of companies who've not given contracts out because they say it's company policy. They wish to retain the contract and have a client read and sign it there and then. Is this something you're suggesting?

    Another issue with what you said if how can you arrange and agree to signing a depositing if they don't know the price beforehand. They will still need to know the price before you go for a second time. I agree, face to face is what we need, but maybe the structure here need to be defined a little.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    How is he suppose to know what he signs if he's not had chance to read through it.
    Because you'll simply be documenting everything you already discussed. 'If I create a proposal that documents everything we've discussed, at an agreeable price, with no surprises, would you sign it?'

    At this point, everything should have been talked through and a good indication of pricing been established. If the client is concerned about the contents of your boilerplate 'terms and conditions', forward him a copy of those in advance, as that's the stuff you would already have written up anyway, that's no big deal. Remember the entire 'contract' comprises of your standard terms combined with the client specific proposal.

    If the prospect insists he'll need time to think about it, press him to find out what concerns he thinks he may have. After all, if you've discussed and verbally agreed to everything, including the price, and he's telling you to write it all up in a contract, you are being perfectly reasonable to question why there's still a possibility of him dithering over signing.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with the prospect not being ready, but the idea behind this style of sales process is that you ensure every concern is tackled and remedied before you commit to spending a day or a week writing everything up in a contract. If the client isn't truly ready to move forward with you, find out why.

    'If I create a proposal that documents everything we've discussed, at an agreeable price, with no surprises, would you sign it?'
    "No, but I'd definitely consider it'
    'Are there any outstanding concerns with what I've discussed?'
    'Not really, but I want to talk to other vendors first'
    'No problem, I'd be happy to meet up again and discuss my proposal after you've met with the other vendors. What's a good date for you?'

    But bear in mind that as with any 'sales process' you have to be prepared to adjust according to each specific situation. The above example is very idealistic to say the least. At that point you instead could agree to send them a brief outline of your proposal, e.g. a one page summary or you may feel it appropriate to cave and spend the time on a full proposal. Whatever you do, never leave it open ended, always set up a specific next step for a specific date and time.

  5. #5
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    I would concentrate on trying to attract more sales leads from more qualified prospects that might be ready to sign a contract right away. I've always had better luck increasing my pipeline as opposed to spending time trying to close sales.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  6. #6
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    Okay I pretty much understand what you guys are saying, but on both occasions now, in a row, the client say we will call you back and I called them 3-4 times and they kept saying the same thing without giving an indication to what might be wrong. I can happily call them back, but after a while you get tired and just kind of give up. Do you have any recommendations. The ones who agree always agree within 2 days, the ones, from experience who drag it on, never agree, and if they agree they turn into nightmare clients who nit-pick everything.
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    If you're getting a lot of this, it just sounds like you need to work on your 'qualification' process. Are you 'screening' these people before agreeing to meet them? Let's say someone rings you and says this:

    "Hello, I'm from Costakis Coffee Bar in Larnaca, we're thinking about getting a new web site. Could you come to our cafe to talk about it?'

    What's your 'process' at this point? Do you have a list of questions you need answering, or do you just say 'Yeah sure, no problem. How's next Tuesday for you?'.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    "Hello, I'm from Costakis Coffee Bar in Larnaca, we're thinking about getting a new web site. Could you come to our cafe to talk about it?'
    Off Topic:


    You sound very convincing. Costakis is actually a name here :P Costa to short for Costakis, so you suggested 'Costa' Coffee :P

    Normally if I don't know somebody I will send them a questionnaire which 60% of them will ignore, from this point on I don't follow them up filling this questionnaire, as clearly it's apparent they were price fishing. If on the other hand I know "Costakis" I don't ask them to fill in a questionnaire I simply meet them and trust their good nature, which apparently they have none. These people called me, and I followed them up meeting them, once met they don't want to hear again. Not that the price was too high, the price was perfect for what they asked for. Maybe they are busy. The only real downside is that this get's tiring after a while and loosing prospects is not something I want to do. I strongly feel I have to rectify my process streamlining potential clients before this happens.

    With 'screening', how do you do this? I do screen people, but sometimes I neglect this maybe down to financials, free-time, or just that I might know them from somewhere, which will make this screening process awkward. It's a little hard not to know somebody from somewhere considering I live in such a small community.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    You sound very convincing. Costakis is actually a name here :P Costa to short for Costakis, so you suggested 'Costa' Coffee :P
    My dad is called Costakis and is originally from a village near(ish) Larnaca

    With 'screening', how do you do this? I do screen people, but sometimes I neglect this maybe down to financials, free-time, or just that I might know them from somewhere, which will make this screening process awkward. It's a little hard not to know somebody from somewhere considering I live in such a small community.
    It's always tricky dealing with friends, but you can still screen them so you have enough info to know whether it's something you want to deal with 'properly' or just casually over a 'Keo'. With friends, I just tell them straight - I'm a busy person like you are, I've not got time to be messed around so while I'm happy to give some advice over a beer, if you are serious about the site, I will treat you like any other prospect.

    As for being contacted by 'acquaintances', i.e. people you vaguely know, well that's perfect, it's called networking! But that really doesn't mean you should throw good sense out of the window. You really should develop a list of things to look out for when someone initially contacts you, whoever they are. Things to look out for:

    What is the timescale for site launch?
    Are they aware of the rough costs involved?
    Who else are they talking to? Have they received any quotes from the other vendors?
    Who has contacted you from the company? Decision maker or gatekeeper? Will the decision makers be at the meeting?
    Are they expecting a full blown proposal, or just an indication of price?
    What happens at the end of the meeting? Are they in a position to agree a deal there and then?

    These are not 'technical' questions, i.e. 'what type of site', 'CMS or not', 'do you need a logo', 'what about SEO' etc. Those are also important questions, but often many of them can wait until your discussions have progressed. At this stage, just try to uncover any show stoppers and basically make an assessment as to how much time and resources you are willing to give up to this person. 20 minutes on the phone could save you a day of wasted travelling/meetings/proposal writing. And if they are unwilling to provide the information you feel you need, don't waste your time meeting with them. Send them your questionnaire and forget about them until they reapear with more concrete plans.

    But also don't forget that sometimes it pays to meet up with some prospects regardless. I mean to take an extreme example, if Google rang with some vague request to meet up, I'm not going to grill them, I'd just go down. Each situation calls for a little common sense and gut feeling. Not all meetings will lead to work immediately, but you may find yourself building some nice relationships for the future.

    However, we all know that there are a lot of time wasters out there and these people rarely lead to anything other than frustration and forum topics like this. It may take you a while to develop the 'deadbeat radar', but you will get there eventually.

  10. #10
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    Off Topic:


    My dad is called Costakis and is originally from a village near(ish) Larnaca
    Considering the community is so small here I'd probably know one of his cousins or uncles etc. If not I am originally from the UK so Greeks kind of know each other there, in particular up Northern England. There is an 80% chance your dad left from a village beginning with an 'A', if I presume correctly, and there is a pretty big chance your from the central area of England, even though many Greeks in the UK leave in London. Guess your British-Greek-Cypriot of whatever you want to call yourself, just like me.

    It's always tricky dealing with friends, but you can still screen them so you have enough info to know whether it's something you want to deal with 'properly' or just casually over a 'Keo'. With friends, I just tell them straight - I'm a busy person like you are, I've not got time to be messed around so while I'm happy to give some advice over a beer, if you are serious about the site, I will treat you like any other prospect.
    So would you ask them to fill in a questionnaire. From experience people who fill in a questionnaire are less likely to mess you around, but asking some who's close to you, or who you know well is a little belittling and confusing to say the least. I would like to add from experience the ones more likely to mess you around are the ones who know you and therefore DEVALUE your time, which is pretty bad.
    What is the timescale for site launch?
    I don't really mind for this. I have a 3-month deadline on all projects.
    Are they aware of the rough costs involved?
    ... are they ever? It seams that there is a huge gap of what is actually involved in a website. Clients have no idea. I get the idea that it's felt that what we offer is like a graphics designer. I had one potential client even ask me to design him something quick to see. I could no way even entertain the idea.
    Who else are they talking to? Have they received any quotes from the other vendors?
    Is this normal, do people normally say they are fishing around. From experience such potentials won't fill in a questionnaire and would simply be going for the cheapest deal.
    Who has contacted you from the company? Decision maker or gatekeeper? Will the decision makers be at the meeting?
    Internally you don't know what's going on. What they have spoke about between each other is never to your knowledge.
    Are they expecting a full blown proposal, or just an indication of price?
    From experience this is always an indication. Never is it full blown.
    What happens at the end of the meeting? Are they in a position to agree a deal there and then?
    If you quote something like .50 c they will, but otherwise they say they have to think about it.
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  11. #11
    SitePoint Mentor silver trophybronze trophy

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    @shadowbox ;

    Do you get time wasters, how do you know if somebody is serious?
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  12. #12
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    I think you're misunderstanding many of the reasons for the questions I'm suggesting. When you ask a prospect 'What kind of timescales are we looking at for this project?', it's not only satisfying your need to assess whether you are able to meet that deadline, it's about gaining insight into the type of client you are talking to. Take for example, three different responses to that question:

    1. 'We're really looking to be live before 1st September, as that's going to tie in nicely with the marketing campaign we've set up.'

    2. 'Ohh I don't know, ASAP I guess?'

    3. 'Ideally, within the next 2 weeks'

    Answer 2 suggests someone who is possibly unfocussed and maybe in early stages, possibly a time waster. Further questioning required...
    Answer 3 tells me I either have someone clueless, unreasonable, or someone happy to pay me triple time - again, more questions will clarify
    Answer 1 tells me the project is being well planned, is very likely to have a defined spec and budget and that the client is less likely to be a time waster.

    You can rarely make too many assumptions until you've dug a little deeper, but the point is, beyond the 'obvious' answers, you can gain a fair amount of additional insight into the client/project from these types of questions.

    Is this normal, do people normally say they are fishing around. From experience such potentials won't fill in a questionnaire and would simply be going for the cheapest deal.


    Asking 'Have you spoken to anyone else?' is IMO quite a reasonable question and one I find most people are happy to answer. Again, the response can be quite enlightening. Not only will it help you gauge what type of client this is (price shopping by e-mailing the top 50 results from Google? Looking for the best solution for their needs by approaching only 3 or 4 carefully selected vendors? etc etc), it can also give you an opportunity to discover what else has been proposed to them already, and by who (do you know who your actual competitors are, and how much they charge?)

    Internally you don't know what's going on. What they have spoke about between each other is never to your knowledge.


    You're not asking about internal company business, you're asking who you are currently speaking to. What's his/her name, and who are they in the company. Owner? Secretary? PA? Marketing manager? Cleaner? And if they want a meeting, who will be there? Decision makers? People will the answers to all your technical questions? The boss? Never go to a meeting until you know who you'll actually be meeting and always find out exactly who you are currently talking to and where they fit into things.

    From experience this is always an indication. Never is it full blown.
    You can give a rough indication of price over the phone, nobody needs a full blown meeting for a rough price estimate. Giving them a rough price over the phone will also help you with the 'Do they have a budget' question. Again these are not just practical, technical questions, they give you insight into how much thought they've put into the project, how realistic they are, what their priorities are etc.

    If you quote something like .50 c they will, but otherwise they say they have to think about it.
    Try to find out what their plans are about making that decision before you agree to the meeting. Again, it's an insight question. Do they actually have a plan in place on how and when to make that decision over who they will be using, what are they expecting from you after the meeting? Again, if it's just a rough pricing, do you need to meet up? Do you think it would be beneficial to meet up anyway? Are they looking for a 20 page proposal? Or are they ready to move forward immediately after the meeting, assuming everything you've discussed is spot on? Based on everything they've told you so far, are they sounding like a nightmare, a sure thing, or a decent possibility?

  13. #13
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    BTW, remember this shouldn't just be a barrage of probing questions like some concocted sales script - try to just have a pleasant chat with them and incorporate the questions in the natural flow of the conversation. Takes practice

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    Answer 3 tells me I either have someone clueless, unreasonable, or someone happy to pay me triple time - again, more questions will clarify
    Like paid x3 for the same work?

    Have you spoken to anyone else?' is IMO quite a reasonable question and one I find most people are happy to answer.
    That works, I don't think anybody would decline to answer this.

    ...do you know who your actual competitors are, and how much they charge?
    I know them, but I have no idea what they charge. In recent years there has been a influx on web designers selling very cheap websites, no more than 100 EUR, and on the other hand I've seen people sell websites for 4 - 5 thousands, depending. There is no way to know precisely what they charge and for what, unless you see their prices online or pose as a potential yourself (which I'd rather not do). Somebody could sell a template, whereas somebody else would go through a tailored wire-frame - website design. Clients always seem to stay so focus on the price, that they miss the big picture on what they are getting.

    Do they have a budget?
    I've only asked the question twice and on both occasions this was declined to be answered. A rough indication on the price is what they expect me to give. They have been unwilling to give an indication of how much they want to spend, as they somehow feel I would simply quote what they suggested.

    Based on everything they've told you so far, are they sounding like a nightmare, a sure thing, or a decent possibility?
    Nightmares are common in web design. There is so much ambiguity and so many variables in what we do that in the end, if you don't follow a fixed structure with some kind of rule sets you'd end up with a nightmare. I want to refine my structure so that I don't have any issues. I won't deny it, I have had my fair share of nightmare clients, but business needs to be a two-way thing. We have to keep our clients happy whilst keeping our business profitable. There are times when potentials will almost use money (candy) in a form of bribery to get more work for the same candy. There are so many things that could happen, but from experience, money talks, but few would walk the walk even if their pockets are filled with sweets!

    On another note, possible clients normally agree instantly or within two days. So far I kind of lost interest on chasing those 2 clients, mainly because they were unwilling to give me an answer, and kept asking me to call back. As you probably know, the situation locally is not the best economically, with this in mind I would feel that time wasters would be on the rise.

    The questionnaire was suggested by a friend, and worked great when used! I understand you saying potentials won't have time to fill it in, however, the value of time is relative to it's timekeeper. Sometimes making out we have lots of time devalues ourselves, and thus people would always like to go to somebody who have no time for them, strangely enough (maybe I should take up a part-time job somewhere :P)

    BTW, remember this shouldn't just be a barrage of probing questions like some concocted sales script - try to just have a pleasant chat with them and incorporate the questions in the natural flow of the conversation. Takes practice.
    I think you're right. I need to incorporate this in my natural flow of conversation, which kind of sucks at the moment. When I talk business it happens to be 80% business, 20% personal, if that makes sense. It's worse when you know them personally. Thanks for your advice however, this would nail that issue I had with them.

    It's always good to meet people which might need us later. An excellent way to meet somebody is to give something for nothing and in turn they will know you exist. It's much more affective than online advertising. I am trying this out now, which is working great!

    In terms of chasing up deadbeat clients, well, I am thinking on whether I should focus on them. After all, I know that working is beneficial in our career, but wasting time on somebody who will or will not, is not something that I can justify as being a good value of time.
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