The final proposal should be presented to all the buyers together if possible. This means gathering your user buyer—who helped you craft the proposal—the sponsor buyer, all the detail buyers and the financial buyer—who will be difficult to wrangle.
Insist on it.
It’s hard to get everyone in the same room but it’s critical. You want to only present this once, if possible. You need to show to all the buyers how you have synthesized their needs into a comprehensive and cohesive plan and to give them all an opportunity to poke holes, ask questions and generally show everyone in the room—all the other buyers—what is important to them and where their concerns lie.
The presentation to everyone is another testing phase in that we can address any objections or questions during the meeting with everyone present. This too is important because when an objection is raised or question is asked, you will often find other buyers leaping to answer the question, or address the objection. Just like the phase where you were asking questions, it’s important wherever possible to keep your mouth shut and let the rest of the room do the talking.
When you go into the meeting don’t take any handouts.
You are asking why? Handouts will allow people to follow along and give them something take away, you think. But when you give out a handout, the automatic behavior, especially with a proposal, is to pick it up and flip to the back, the money page. When this happens, all they are thinking about is the cost and not the value. Their window of resistance starts to shut down.
You want to walk everyone through their context and top needs. During this process, even though you have done a refinement phase and even if you co-authored this with the user buyer, you can see the resistance window open as you have the conversation and they will have come along on the journey of Value with you.
At the beginning of the meeting we let everyone know how excited we are to be there and to meet with everyone (again).
We often start the meeting by asking everyone to mention 1 or 2 things that they would most like to see from this project if we work together. Remember though, you should already know this information and should have it synthesized into your proposal. Much of the point of this exercise if for them to hear each other articulate what they are looking for and raise any objections if there are conflicts.
At each section of the proposal presentation we pause and ask a closed questions and get agreement.
“Is this what you are looking for?”
“Are we on the right track here?”
“Does this accurately reflect your situation?”
“Are these the top needs you see addressing right now?”
Then we let them talk and ask questions or raise objections. We go through the Value section detailing what we will do and what they will get at each step along the way. We correlate each deliverable and process step back to the business so that they truly see the value of the work to their business.
At this point, before we get to the money section we stop and ask the room
Given that we can work out the money, does this proposal meet your needs and bring value to your company, your organization or this project?”
This is the place in the meeting where we need to get to agreement on the value so that they can appropriately weigh it against the costs.
If we have done our homework and synthesized all their needs properly and appropriately shown the value, then all the heads in the room should be nodding yes.
The short book Pricing Design by Dan Mall, goes into great detail about Value based pricing and how selling the value of what you do, getting agreement on that value by all the buyers, will allow you to sell anything. He says early in the book “Your job as a service provider is to create as much value as possible for your customers.The more you provide value for your clients, the more they profit. Their businesses do better, and they’re happier. That’s the backbone of value-based pricing—your primary driver is what you can achieve for your customers.”
The process of understanding all your buyer’s needs and synthesizing them into work that has value to them is a skill that takes time and practice. It doesn’t always work smoothly, especially the first time, and it may feel very unnatural compared to the old way of doing things. It did to us, but each time we work with a prospective client, we get to practice, fine tune and iterate our skills for understanding and reflecting value back.