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Honest Intentions

Another Episode of Perfect Pitch
Topics: Proposals

November 17, 2009 at 9:21 am by Blair

Tagsperfect pitch (4) 

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Rachel Cary said:

Funny. Painfully funny.

Just had a thought/question: what is the difference between writing a proposal and writing a contract *if the client doesn't sign it*...? In other words, you could put together your contract vs. your proposal and the client could *still* not sign it. There is simply no way to ensure that if you write up a contract, the client will actually sign it, even if they say they will. Granted many will, if you actually say 'yes, I'll write this up IF you'll sign it'... but some could (and I will wager will) balk at the last minute.

Any thoughts there? Have you ever had this happen to you?

Blair Enns said:

Hi Rachel;

Thanks for your comment.

There's no way to absolutely ensure the client will sign a contract before you write it up. The important points are:

-Have the conversation with the client and make the distinction between a contract and a proposal
-Begin writing once you have an agreement in principle
-The purpose of the contract is to escalate commitment on an agreement already made. The paper does not come out until there is an agreement. The order is: Verbal proposal (sometimes with some scratches on a whiteboard or piece of paper), verbal agreement in principle (it can be subject to working out some details), followed contract for review and signature/
-Written proposals contain 'sell': background on the client, his situation, the agency, reasons why client should hire agency. None of this appears in a contract and none of it is very effective in a written proposal. We put it there because we're asking the document to do what we ourselves should do in person or on the phone. We hide behind it.

I was set free when I was told, and sometime later truly understood, that I did not need to be in the proposal-writing business. Just imagine what you could do with all those hours. :)


Rachel Cary said:

Thanks for your reply. I'm already sold, believe me... I have yet to truly put this into practice, but I will when the next big project rolls in.

I was just thinking that a (sneaky) client could always say 'sure, I'll sign it', you draft it and then they refuse to sign and still use your info to shop around. I have in the past included a clause in the agreement that says that the info is proprietary, but you never know what someone will do with it once they have it in hand. And these days, seems like everyone is looking for the cheapest price more than anything, and some are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. We live in the days of Bernie Madoff, unfortunately.

I agree with you're still giving away a lot less with an agreement vs. a proposal.

Thanks again!

Martin Thoma said:

Here's a thought....if you were to get PAID to write up the contract codifying your agreement in principle, then you would have a very clear distinction "between writing a proposal and writing a contract *if the client doesn't sign it*

Maybe Blair has a perfect pitch up his sleeve for that one.

Blair Enns said:

Why, yes, Martin, I do. :)

Most phased engagements are examples of getting paid to write a proposal. The first phases are Diagnose and Prescribe. Anytime you've got a complex situation where you're not sure what the solution is, it makes sense to try to close on a diagnostic. The deliverables are findings and recommendations, including timeline and pricing. In this way you're essentially getting paid to write a plan or proposal.

The odd client will say they will sign and then not do it. You can't fully indemnify yourself against this. The important point is to make the distinction for the client and make sure he knows that you'll start writing once there is an agreement in principle.

Documents don't win deals. Go back and look at every proposal you're written and ask if it was the proposal that won it for you.

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