You’ve probably heard of the Five W’s (and one H) before. If you don’t remember them, let’s review them — or at least a variation of them you can use with prospects.

  • Who is responsible? or Who is the buyer?
  • What needs to happen?
  • Where do we expect to see change?
  • When does the project need to be done by?
  • Why does this need to happen?
  • How do the goals need to be accomplish?

If you’re crafting a proposal but can’t answer all of those questions then you’re not ready to write the proposal because you really don’t have the information you need.

Let’s walk through the questions.

Who is responsible? Who is the buyer?

As I said last month proposals only go to buyers. The buyer is the person that could say the word ‘yes’ to your proposal and it would happen. They’re the person that can knock down barriers within the company that may come up during the project.

If you don’t know who you should be sending the proposal to then you’re not ready to send it. In my initial client email I simply come right out and ask who the decision makers are on a project. Then I require that all the decision makers are on my call. If they can’t all make it then the project isn’t important enough and I’m likely saying ‘no’ to continued involvement.

What needs to happen?

This one most people can answer well. They can make a list of the 30,000 tasks that need to happen to technically execute on the project.

You obviously need to know this, but what you should never do is put all of those tasks in the proposal. Put in the major 3-5 highlights — not every little task that needs to get done.

Putting in everything takes you out of the strategic partner role and puts you back in the tactical role. That means you’re no longer the peer of the buyer, you’re just a hired hand — immediately diminishing your value.

Where do we expect to see change?

Where in the organization are you going to see the positive benefits of the work you’re about to do? By answering this question you show the prospect that you understand the value you bring and that you understand how they want their business to be affected.

If you can’t answer this it’s because you haven’t spent enough time digging deep with the prospect to identify the value in the project. If you’ve been on a bunch of calls with them but aren’t able to answer this question, then you haven’t built enough trust for them to tell you what you need to know. Therefore, you need to talk more — or just forget it, they’re not going to trust you.

When does the project need to be completed by?

When is all about the prospect’s timelines. Does the project need to be live in two weeks? Is that really enough time to do it right? Do you even have the time to put in the work to hit that deadline?

Yes this sounds silly but so many consultants I talk to send out a proposal with a start date a few weeks out and the prospect declines the proposal because they need it done faster.

I get this information by asking the client in my initial email what their ideal launch date is.

Why does the project need to happen?

When you approach the why question it’s about the big picture strategic purpose of the project. There isn’t just a single why either, there are often many.

You set up a new online store so they can make sales online (why 1). You set it up because their competitor is now online and they are getting all the foot traffic after people visit their site (why 2). You do this work so that the prospect can warehouse a more diverse product by hitting a wider market (why 3).

When you’re digging in with your prospect don’t just stop at the first why — go deeper. The deeper you go the more value you’re going to find. More value means higher fees for you.

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How will the goals be accomplished?

This is more than just the tasks and the timeline; it combines both. This is where you logistically plan to take on the project. Are you going to need to hire someone? Are they available? If they aren’t currently, when will they become available?

Far too often, consultants get a ‘yes’ from a prospect and then have to scramble to get the required assets together to actually make it happen.

A smart business owner lines up those assets beforehand and makes sure they’re ready to jump when the prospect says yes.

Using the questioning methods

All month we’ve talked about effective questioning of your prospects. If you take the time to practice those questioning techniques, answering these questions above is going to be easy. When you sit down to write your proposal it’s going to take 10 minutes instead of hours if you’re trying to guess at the answers to questions you never asked.

If you need help getting these questions answered with your prospects get in touch. I’d love to help you win at business.

photo credit: silwenae cc