The Problem Page
Every proposal you put in front of a prospect to pitch an idea you believe will help them should include a Problem Page that recaps the challenges (and opportunities) they told you about during your initial meeting.
These problems and opportunities are the basis for the ideas you’re about to present.
A vital component of pitching and selling ideas and creative solutions to prospects is the Discovery process. Some folks call it a Customer Needs Assessment or a CNA or a Needs Analysis, but it’s essentially a meeting with your business prospect that is all about them.
You show up armed with questions (smart questions!) and nothing more.
No brochures, no proposals, no contracts. Just some really good questions designed to elicit responses about the problems and challenges and opportunities they are facing, along with your ears tuned in to listen-mode and a note pad and pen for taking notes.
Your goal is to find an interesting problem that you can help them solve, or a valuable opportunity that you can help them leverage for success.
When you find these interesting problems and challenges, you go back to your Bat Cave and percolate on a plan that you can help your prospect implement. Once you have the plan outlined in a proposal you schedule another meeting with your prospect to present your concept and ask for the sale.
The time between uncovering the problem in your first meeting and getting back in front of the prospect to pitch your proposal at the second meeting might be days (maybe weeks) later.
While you may have been thinking of nothing other than your prospect’s problem and the brilliant solution that you’ve come up with, your prospect has been busy running their business, dealing with customers, taking care of their family, getting their car repaired, planning a family vacation, trying to remember to if they were supposed to pick up a gallon of milk or pick up their kid from soccer practice on the way home tonite, scheduling a department-wide software update, and any number of other things they deal with on a daily basis that have absolutely nothing to do with you, your company, your services, or your ideas.
When you get back in front of them, you need to take them back to your original conversation where they shared their pain and frustrations with you. A simple Problem Page that recaps the important discoveries from your first meeting goes a long way to getting your prospect back into a problem-solving state of mind.
Create a page early in your proposal (within the first 3-5 pages) that allows you the opportunity to say “the last we spoke you said…”
- You were concerned about employee attitude and moral
- Unscheduled employee sick days were putting your customer projects behind schedule
- And that you wanted to find ways to provide additional benefits to your employees
Do you see how even these example bullet points get you thinking in a specific direction?
Now comes two really important questions you should ask before diving into your proposal details…
- Did I leave anything out?
- Has anything happened since we last met that would change the items listed or your priority to solved these issues?
The first question gives your prospect the opportunity to bring up an item they’d internally prioritized above the ones you wrote down. If they add anything, you should treat it as vital new information that should be taken into account as you proceed with your proposal.
The second question forces the prospect to consider if anything has changes since the two of you spoke. Sometimes the initiatives and interests of a company changes (and sometime they forget to tell the people who are trying to help them).
If something has changed, it’s better to find out before you go through your entire pitch and get told no at the end because there was a shift in corporate focus. Knowing of a change in advance also gives you the option to either incorporate those changes into your proposal on the fly, or ask to reschedule your presentation for another time so that you can go back to the drawing board to adjust your existing proposal in order to make it a better match for the changes they just sprang on you.
Including a Problem Page in your proposal makes you look customer focused, better prepared, and demonstrates your ability to cover all your bases and adapt to evolving circumstances — all valuable things for your prospect to know about their vendors prior to bring a new project partner on board.