If you've been following my advice and promoting yourself using content marketing, chances are by now your phone is ringing off the hook. Or maybe it's early days and you're still hungry. Either way, it's tempting to take whatever comes your way and do whatever it takes to win each bid – but as someone who's sold over 200 websites and lost twice as many more, I can tell you a thing or two about not wasting time in the prospecting process.
Determine where your prospect is in the buying cycle
"How quickly are you looking to make a decision?" I believe this is by far the most important biz dev question to ask. Are they just kicking tires and shopping around, or are they ready to pull the trigger? Don't waste a tonne of time diagnosing your prospect's problems if they're not absolutely in a hurry to get the job done – but don't burn any bridges either.
Skip the long-winded proposal
Formal proposals are a lot of work, and I'm not convinced they're worth the time and effort – at least not for small- to medium-sized bids. If you do write long, custom proposals, just cut the sales speak: it sounds insincere at best and desperate at worst. As I learned on WinWithoutPitching, make your words the proposal, and the contract the only physical document between both parties.
Send fast estimates instead
Rather than writing lengthy proposals, I respond quickly to most inquiries with a cover letter, a description of the deliverables, and a price – which, let's face it, is all most people are interested in. For this task, I defer once again to Ballpark, which allows me to get a professional-looking estimate out in two minutes flat. Usually, if the client-to-be is ready to move, this type of estimate gets the job done. If not, at least you didn't waste much time.
Be careful about what you give away
If a prospect asks to you work "on spec" (i.e., you do the work for free, then the client decides if they want to pay for it or not), you should run the other way. All this is telling you is that the prospect doesn't value your time or what you do. I was burned far too many times as a young lad by this practice. Never again!
That said, there are lots of great reasons to discount your work or even give it away. Pro bono can be rewarding if you can afford it – just make sure it's something you can get leverage from. For example, we just finished a website for the F— Cancer movement, a fun project to be sure, but also a great portfolio piece with big potential for publicity.
Whether you're just starting out or you're more established, you need to value your time, which is the greatest asset you have. So keep hustling ... every damn day!