Here are some definitions which are absolutely critical to gaining conceptual agreement with an economic buyer and creating a proposal that’s accepted every time:
OBJECTIVES: These are always business outcomes, never deliverables. A “three-day management retreat” is a deliverable and an arbitrary alternative. “Creating seamless management/client relationships which maximize repeat business and minimize duplication” is a business outcome. You can move from deliverables to outcomes by asking, “Why?” as in, “Why are you considering a management retreat?” That will move the buyer from alternatives to objectives.
METRICS or MEASURES OF SUCCESS: These are indicators that show progress and/or completion. They must be based on environmental evidence and/or observed behavior. They can be scientific (e.g., increase in average sales size as measured by the monthly sales reports) or anecdotal (e.g., people coming to me directly for resolution of conflict with other departments will drop from one a day to one a week). Bob Mager’s famous line helps here: “How would you know it if you tripped over it?” When people say they don’t know how to measure improvement, ask them how they know the issue isn’t working right at the moment. What’s the indicator? There needs to be at least one metric for EVERY objective.
VALUE: The nuance most overlooked, there should be 3-4 value statements for EVERY objective. Value constitutes the impact on the organization when an objective is met. It may be monetized and tangible (e.g., saving $2 million a year, reducing attrition by 7 percent) or non-tangible and emotional (e.g., the work environment aesthetics will improve, I’ll feel less stressed). Even something as obvious as profit as an objective can yield diverse value (more investment in R&D, larger bonuses, attract more investors, pay down our debt, and so on). The more value, the larger your fee, because the ROI will be all the more dramatic.
You need to reach CONCEPTUAL AGREEMENT on these three points prior to the proposal with the buyer. The proposal is, therefore, a summation NOT an exploration (or negotiating document).
An ECONOMIC BUYER is someone who can “write a check” without any other approval for the project in question. They are virtually never found in HR, training, or learning and development. Those areas primarily deal with venders who sell commodities, such as training programs, not consultants
Resources of mine:
Million Dollar Consulting, The Consulting Bible, Value Based Fees, Million Dollar Proposals, How to Acquire Business
© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.