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When tendering with a new client you are asked to put in a huge amount of effort, working for free to convey why you offer the best solution. Then you could lose the lead purely for budget reasons rather than quality when compared to your competition.
No one wants to put in a big effort and find that they have wasted their time. In this article, I want to look at how I handle tender requests, cover why I don’t work with every client that comes my way and focus on how I work out if there is value and a genuine opportunity in the tender for the clients business.
There is a common trait in early freelancers in that we want to take on every project that comes our way (I used to do it myself). The temptation is high to say yes to absolutely everything because sales leads are like gold nuggets, you only get so many contacts a week. Your mind tells you “make the most of this while you can”.
The issue with that school of thought is that it also conveys another trait, and that is desperation. Taking on every project, lowering your rates or trying to manipulate sales to come through your company all underline that feeling of desperate need.
No one wants to be with someone that’s needy or desperate. Over the years I have changed how I think about business. I view it very much as you would a relationship. To have success you need to work at it, convey your good attributes and work hard to fix your faults.
A new lead is an exciting prospect. This could be a really interesting project for you, it might open up further doors by allowing you to showcase what you can do.
I prioritise discussion about a new prospect sale before I give out a quote. Quoting blind is one of the red flags of a non-professional. If someone quoted to fix my car without asking questions and looking at it, I would be extremely concerned. This doesn’t seem to cross over into the creative sector. I still see a lot of fingers in the air, and guessing what people think the client can afford or would be willing to pay.
This sort of approach is a disservice to your client. You will be respected more when you take them through a professional well thought out process. For me, this has to start with a questionnaire. That doesn’t mean I ask my client to fill out a form. In fact, I prefer discussing the questions through the phone or on Google Hangouts. Every client is different and I want to establish in my mind what we are trying to solve with the request.
Getting under the skin of a problem lets me think out the scale of the project, and more so it allows me to tailor solutions that are the best fit for their business need. The most common request I receive is “I need to have my website redesigned.”
Does a professional take that at face value? Or do the dig into what’s driving this issue. If a client wants something they are trying to make sense of it from their own experience. I am not getting sales my website must be rubbish. They focus on the flaws and what they believe is causing the issue.
When a professional web designer asks what is driving the client’s decision they might find it’s not the website but the traffic that is causing an issue. Perhaps the client invested in a new website but has yet to promote it with relevant traffic. Have they looked seriously at Pay per click, content marketing, and offline print adverts?
This is why I always spend a lot of upfront time with the client finding the answers to these questions and building strong communication channels between us. This is prior to a proposal or pitch being assembled before cost and budgets are discussed.
You have two ears and one mouth, you should spend twice as much time listening as you do talking. In meetings, it’s common to see people trying to fill the gaps with more talking. When I discuss something with a client especially at this questionnaire and discovery time I want to ensure I am hearing all of the things I need to know to solve their issues.
If I talk over the client, assume what’s going on or try to pigeonhole the client into a premade solution I am doing them and myself a disservice. Design is all about taking a problem, breaking it down and solving it with a given solution.
After this discovery and questionnaire process. I have in my mind what’s causing the problems for the clients business. It’s not actually a design, marketing or development problem. If I am doing my job correctly it will be a business problem that has driven the client to reach out to me.
What I need to do is review the client’s answers, their business model and the return on investment I can offer them based on this information.
At Loudon Design, all work must meet the following criteria for me to quote or pitch for it:
If even one of those is unlikely to happen I will turn the work away. At this point, I will have only lost some time discussing their business. A discussion is a very small price to pay, as in reality what I am doing is filtering the world to find the business owners that I can bring value to, giving them the best possible chance of seeing their investment in me come back to them.
So you have questioned, dissected, discussed and the results tell you this is a good client that you can really help out. This is a brilliant position to be in because you have built a strong foundation for a relationship going forward and you know exactly how you are going to fix the client’s business problem. This gives you the content you need to build a highly relevant and bespoke pitch.
Wait, John, you are saying you make a unique pitch for every lead?
That’s exactly what I do. Every business problem is skewed by their sector, their internal structure, their revenue, location and positioning within the marketplace. Why would solutions of different businesses be the same? This is your best chance to show how good a listener you are.
To showcase how you would structure a solution and why it will work for the client.
Once I know I can bring value to a client’s business I go the extra mile to showcase just how passionate I am in fixing business problems with design and development. I will create a beautiful slides deck that covers every element of their issue and what I am going to do for them.
These documents are often design projects in themselves. Many don’t see the value in this type of work, as you are working for free. It’s that negative attitude towards tenders and pitches that gives me an advantage.
I use the pitch to showcase that I can design, that I understand the client’s business, that I am in harmony with what they are attempting to resolve. The pitch is my best opportunity to show that what I offer is very different to my competitors.
I can never understand why designers and developers do this. A client is a business man or woman not a technical resource of your team. They came to you because this is meant to be an area of your expertise, not theirs.
My default is to avoid technical specifics unless the client brings them up. The jargon that surrounds the solution is for me to worry about, the client is paying me to worry about that on their behalf.
The best businesses are prepared to wait for the right time to execute, they know when to scramble and when to hold fast on investments and decisions.
I don’t try and manipulate the timescales or costs, I put down the number of weeks it is going to take to make an excellent solution with the level of quality and polish I want my work to have. I don’t like rushed, botched work.
My past experience has reinforced this belief of quality over speed. I see all too often how small mistakes have a huge impact on a client’s revenue. If a company forgets something as simple as re-pointing old links for your website, you could be losing thousands a month.
A pitch is one-third showing understanding of the client’s problem, one-third outlining how you will solve their issues, and on third focused on conveying your unique selling points. I like to close my pitches with the values my company is run with.
All work undertaken by Loudon Design is Quality, Performance and Conversion lead. My team all share these common values and this shapes the type of work we produce.
Near the start of this article, I mentioned that every business is different, that also applies to web design companies.
I have found that I have a high degree of success when I pitch for work. I believe that this is directly tied back to the time I spend learning what is behind a client’s decision for reaching out to me.
My attitude towards all things is all in or fold i.e. In this scenario I would never pitch for something I didn’t truly believe I could bring Value and Return to. When I believe in the project my passion for the work will shine through in discussion and the pitch itself. Allowing clients to feel they are in safe hands and confident they will receive the perfect solution to their problem.