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and they can be tough to come by. Thus, once the proposal is formally sub-
mitted, there is often the need to haggle and make changes. However, even
when this situation arises, if business developers work to diligently follow a
system”applying judgment when appropriate”each step in the selling pro-
cess should build on the previous one and result in a firm™s being in a favor-
able position to win new business.

Written Proposals
Regardless of specialty, proposals from professional services firms should ad-
dress five to eight main areas. Proposals typically range from 3 pages to 50 or
more, depending on the nature of the work and the size of the proposed en-
gagement. Proposals should be easy to read and error-free, but because this is
not always the case, the result is a differentiation opportunity for firms that
pay attention to the details.
Executives are partial to delivering hard copy versions of proposals to
prospects (and other documents as well). Each interaction with a prospect or
client is a marketing event in itself, and delivering hard copies allows firms
to demonstrate their professionalism, among other things. But prospects
166 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth


Introduction Provide a backgrounder that establishes and/or rein-
forces the premise of the project, especially if it
involves an emerging technique. Example: “According
to research by the Pew Internet & American Life Proj-
ect, the importance of the Internet continues to . . .”

Situation Analysis Demonstrate your understanding of the client™s situa-
tion and be as specific as possible. I had one prospect
tell me, after reading a proposal, “Well at least you were
listening to what we were saying,” which established
instant credibility.

Recommendations Based on what you present in the Situation Analysis,
deliver broad recommendations for improving the
client™s situation. Provide any new ideas that the client
may not have expected here to add value and

About the Firm While not always necessary, it may be helpful to
include information about your organization depend-
ing on the proposal requirements.This could include
history, service philosophy, processes, case studies,
client lists, and references.

Project Summary Describe the project in discussion at some level of
detail, how you are going to accomplish the project,
what the success criteria area, and assign respective

Staffing Depending on your organization™s service delivery
model, be as specific or vague as necessary. Smaller
firms can differentiate here by incorporating exactly
who will be working on the project, especially when it
involves experienced staff.

Costs and Payment Terms Specify project/engagement costs and payment
terms, billing information (purchase orders, ID codes),
billing contact.

Conditions Specify unique arrangements such as bonus terms,
guarantees, stock grants, confidentiality, termination
rights, and so on.

Engagement Agreement Provide a separate page to accept and execute the pro-
posal, by signing and mailing and/or faxing to your firm.

Exhibit 7.2 The Professional Services Sales Process
Proposal and Reference Management

often request e-mailed versions of proposals, and though their requests
should be honored, that doesn™t preclude firms from sending hard copies
along as well. Remember that every step along the way to successfully land-
ing a new client is meaningful, and none should be minimized.
Exhibit 7.2 illustrates the key components of a professional services pro-
posal and their respective roles, taking into consideration that the target au-
dience is both individuals closely involved in the vendor selection process, as
well as peripheral executives with a vested interest in its outcome, who may
not be familiar with your firm. Also, keep in mind that some components il-
lustrated may be extraneous if the sales process has been lengthy and the in-
formation has been presented thoroughly in other forums.
To promote user friendliness, longer proposals should contain a table of
contents. Almost without fail, prospects immediately f lip to the costs section
and then make their way through the entire document. It™s human nature and
unavoidable. As we™ve discussed, once the proposal has been submitted, there
should be no surprises because discussions have occurred along the way, so
sticker shock should not be a problem.

Qualifications and References
In the services business, qualifications (including the firm™s brand, which
should play a significant role in the selling process) and references go a long
way. They address risk management and can support premium pricing if used
effectively. “ When I was at Goldman Sachs, I was never asked even once by a
prospect for a reference. Now that I™m out on my own, I™ve never landed a
new client without being asked to provide references,” says one money man-
ager with an Iv y League education.
If you™re a graduate of a top-20 law school working at a big firm, that
means you™ll be billing out at $300 per hour during your fifth or sixth year;
that™s the price the market is willing to pay as it™s willing to pay $250 per
hour for an established art director who consistently generates good adver-
tisements that sell products. The same goes for the hot architect who has de-
signed the latest-and-greatest building in town”premium pricing is justified
if the services are presented and sold effectively.
As a professional services business developer, using qualifications and ref-
erences in the selling process is a fundamental technique. These aspects of
the firm should be promoted throughout the entire selling process and incor-
porated into proposals as necessary.

anything about your organization and its staff that is relevant to the buyer(s),
may persuade the buyer ™s decision to hire your organization, and /or establish
common ground with him or her for future discussions (e.g., alma maters),
168 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth

Company-Specific Information
• History
• Services
• Processes and /or methodologies
• Clients and specific client work
• Research, articles

Staff-Specific Information
• Background
• Project work
• Previous employers
• Education
• Nonprofit work
• Research, articles

For professional services with more than a handful of people, the most
important qualification presented usually has to do with clients”a compre-
hensive list and what you did for them. The premise is obvious: If some other
respected company thought enough of your organization to hire you, then we
should be okay with it, too. Or, if you™ve completed a task successfully some-
where else, then it™s likely you can do it for us, too.
The role of qualifications in proposals depends on what the prospect is
looking for in the document and where you are in the sales process. In an
ideal selling situation, the proposal will be a straightforward document that
simply summarizes and documents what has already been agreed on ver-
bally. Because this is not always possible, qualifications may play an active
role in many of your proposals and should be well-crafted and compelling;
professional services firms don™t have clear features and benefits as products
do, so they always need to reinforce their expertise and experience. Regard-
less of the role of qualifications in the proposal itself, this information should
be presented and reinforced in all of the firm™s collateral as appropriate: web
sites, newsletters, postal mail correspondence, and so on.

MANAGING REFERENCES. Referencing clients can be tricky business. How-
ever, most clients that are being served well are happy to serve as references.
There are legal issues to consider, though, and you want to make sure that for-
mal permission is obtained. There are three ways to acquire permission:

1. Using a separate, stand-alone request document (see Exhibit 7.3 for an
2. Requesting permission as part of a broader document that governs the
terms of the relationship, such as a master services agreement
Proposal and Reference Management

March 28, 2002

John Smith
Chief Operating Officer
Acme Manufacturing
72 Main Street
Boston, MA 02210

RE: Reference Permission

Dear John:

Thank you very much for allowing Pixel Bridge Inc to include your organization on
our website client list, along with your testimonial. I would like to take this
opportunity to confirm your quotation and the ways in which they may be used in
the future.

You have offered the following quotation to be used in Pixel Bridge marketing

• “Pixel Bridge Inc has been a reliable Web development partner and I™m looking
forward to a long and successful relationship with the organization.”

We may use this quotation, fully attributed with your name, title, and company
name and logo, in our current and future marketing activities, including but not
limited to:

• In a case study appearing on the Pixel Bridge website

Your assistance will be invaluable to our own marketing efforts and will also reflect
highly on the professionalism of your organization. Allowing us to review your
organizations™ use of the Internet should enhance Acme Manufacturing™s image as an
innovative, cutting-edge company that embraces leading Web technology to
achieve its customer and business goals.

If you are in agreement with your quotation as reiterated here, as well as its uses
outlined, please sign the attached authorization and return the signed original to
my attention at the address below. If you have any questions regarding this matter,
do not hesitate to give me a call.

Thanks again for your help.


Tim Bourgeois

Exhibit 7.3 Example of a Request Document
170 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth

3. Using less formal means, such as e-mail correspondence, to document
the authorization

Pixel Bridge, a firm that provides marketing advisory services, includes
the request in the following extract as a clause in its master services agree-
ment, the document it executes with new clients after the proposal has been


Acme Manufacturing, by its duly authorized representative hereby irrevocably
grants to Pixel Bridge Inc, its subsidiaries and affiliates, permission to use the Acme
Manufacturing logo, name, and other promotional materials including testimonials
as supplied by Acme Manufacturing, in whole or in part, in the Pixel Bridge Inc
marketing programs and other programs described in the attached letter dated
March 25, 2002. Use shall include but not be limited to reproduction, transmission,
broadcast, publication and distribution in all present and future human or machine
readable forms and media, provided that Pixel Bridge Inc shall not have the right to
alter, edit or modify the Acme Manufacturing logo, name or other materials
including testimonials without the prior written consent of Acme Manufacturing,
except to size them for inclusion in the programs. Acme Manufacturing releases
Pixel Bridge Inc from any liability in connection with these matters.

Acme Manufacturing


Printed Name:



While obtaining the necessary client reference authorization is a straight-
forward task, managing the soft side of client references is a delicate pro-
cess, especially for newly founded firms that heavily depend on a handful of
clients to repeatedly act as references. Therefore, unless the individual is a
good personal friend, the firm should be judicious about going back to the
well. The best way to thank clients or partners for their help is by sending a
referral their way, and that should be given the proper amount of considera-
tion as well. “ Whenever we have the opportunity to refer a client to one
of our partners like a tax attorney or estate planner, we think long
and hard about it,” says a senior partner at a boutique money management
Proposal and Reference Management

firm, “because we know the value of the reciprocation can be potentially

Getting attorneys involved in the proposal management and /or development
process is a necessary step for most firms, but one that must be managed. A
few individual practitioners we know are comfortable doing business based
on a handshake and short corresponding document and have never been


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