Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Free consultancy or a business proposal?

It's a trick used by some businesses that need a problem solving, but don't have real cash to solve the problem, or no real intention of starting a procurement.

What's the trick? To request business proposals from qualified organisations on how to solve their particular problem. They'll even have suppliers come in and talk about the problem, potential solutions and write those solutions in sales documents and proposals...all at the expense of the supplier, of course...and the buyer will never have any real intention of spending any money.

These organisations think they can take the advise of an expert and implement what they can do even though they obviously haven't got the capability. If they had they wouldn't find themselves with the problem in the first place.

Many organisations have found themselves dealing with non-buyers such as this. But what can you do about it, as a business responding to a request for information?

One key thing is not to give the family farm away in your bid. One way to do this when it seems that the organisation is after free consultancy is to make the consultancy subject to a proposal itself. This has two benefits. Firstly, you get paid for the consultancy work and secondly you find out if the buyer is serious about buying. The consultancy project helps define the specification for the major components of the project.

The other way round the problem is to ensure that your solution can demonstrate so much value that they can't afford not to do it...and make sure that there are components of the service that are proprietary - so they can't do it themselves.

Lastly, remember to qualify every opportunity throughout the sales process. Find out what the project budget is...if there isn't one, or it hasn't even been discussed, then that's a first sign that the organisation is fishing for ideas. Don't respond to a proposal at this stage - offer support in putting together a business case, but if they can't sign off 5 days consultancy to help define the project and put together a return on investment, they aren't going to spend big on a larger project either.

If you aren't sure how to qualify your opportunities, then get the Learn to Write Proposals Prospect Qualification Toolkit.