Saturday, December 29, 2007

Project Closure

The Final Step: Project Closure

This is the grand finale, the big daddy of the steps and the most sensitive stage of the sales cycle. Every word that you say might have an impact on the client's decision thus it is very important to weigh your words. You have to be very tactful here. A lot of clients try to push in a lot of extra features or functionalities beyond the original scope of work you have discussed, while promising to award the project to you. The first thought that comes to mind is that they are trying to play dirty pool and you maybe right. But then again its general human psychology to ask for more than their money's worth. So what do you do? You are in horns of dilemma whether to increase the project pricing and make the smile on your boss' face wider or agree to deliver the additions without increasing the project pricing to ensure closure. And this is the time when you start wondering why you chose marketing and sales as your career in the first place. Decisions! Decisions!

Another type will try to negotiate with you over the pricing after everything has been settled! In this case, find out if you can afford to give a discount. If not, inform the client clearly but in a subtle way that you cannot reduce the price further.

If you have reached thus far, the client is quite likely to go with you. If you increase the project pricing, the client is likely to tell you that he is already stretching his budget with the current pricing but still have decided to go with you since you seem like a good company and have been very professional in your approach. These are words that most sales person longs to hear and why not? You deserve to close the project after all the hard work you've put in. Loads o' Francis Ford Crapolla!! The client is trying to pull a fast one on you and you know that! Inform the client very clearly what your standing is. Take a top down approach and inform the client what the possible deliverables are within the current pricing. If the additional functionalities are very important then they have to compromise on some other functionality. Either that or tell the client to bugger off!! No just joking!!

Talk to the client and try to find a middle ground. Most folks respond well to reason. If this still doesn't work, take up the the work but outsource it to a smaller company or get a freelancer to do that work. You may have to compromise on your profit just a little bit but its better than working at a loss or losing the project altogether.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Proposal Review

Step Three: Proposal Review with the client

Hi All! Have been away for sometime. In my last 2 posts we have discussed Needs Analysis and how to create Effective Proposals. In this article we will discuss the next step which is proposal review.

It is very important to be on the same page as the client. This is a very important step during which you should discuss all the elements of the proposal and figure out the final scope of work. Discuss with the client what you will do through a step by step approach and what would be the roles and responsibilities of both parties. This is also the time when you should clarify all billing and pricing related details. The idea is to clarify any doubts that either parties might have and also to ensure transparency at all levels. If you have missed out on including any point or the client has added to the scope of work, make sure that you send a revised proposal. If you see that there has been a lot of change in the scope of work its always prudent to conduct second of round of discussion with the client.

Few years back I came to know about an excellent web conferencing software called GotoMeeting by Citrix, though it had its limitation on the MAC platform. This application has really helped me in the past to explain things to my clients and also to give demos or presentations. Moreover, it lets you record the presentations which can be reviewed later on for self analysis or to show your team how to hold effective discussions with clients (if your presentation was really good). Webex is another great tool though a tad bit expensive. If you are negotiating with a client who is based locally, it is always an effective measure to have a face to face meeting.

In my next post I'll discuss the final points which if done correctly should ultimately lead to project closure.

Cheers everybody!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Effective Proposal

Step Two: Creating effective Proposals.

An effective proposal decreases the incidences of misunderstanding (and instances where sentences begin with with "I was under the impression....") between you and the clients when the project is under way and acts as a basis for a formal contract. When competing for web design and development or marketing contracts; a professionally presented proposal more often than not decides, whether you win or lose the business. Not to mentions, it also shows your professionalism. Do not forget that you are representing your company. The first golden rule of marketing as you know is....Sell yourself before you sell the product! Please don't take that literally!! If your client is impressed with your approach, chances are that they will buy from you (having a good offer on plate also helps ;-)).

When putting together a basic web site proposal, you should include the following elements:

Your Information: Include an overview of your company and the area of expertise. In other words enough reason as to why someone should buy from you.

Project Overview: The business you are submitting the proposal for, your understanding of their products and services, the target market, the goals of the web site.

Scope of Work: A description of the site you are proposing to develop. Include elements from the client's current branding you will utilize or new elements that you will develop.

Special Considerations: such as language, security or other issues pertaining to the business, site or target market that will need to be or should be addressed.

Web site flow chart or Site Map: Include a diagram showing the different pages of the proposed site and the navigational structure.

Flowchart Description: A detailed description of each web page, how it fits in with the overall web site theme and the project element it addresses defining the flow of logic.

Delivery Timeline: This is calculated after consolidating the effort estimation provider by a developer and designer. This should be a description of each stage of the web projects' development, the estimated completion date and notes regarding client consultation and supply of information/feedback from the client. If possible, you can also mention that the delivery timeline does not include the time taken into consideration for client feedback.

Project Costing: You would need to include a descriptive breakdown of costs and the Project Total, including an end date after which the price might need to be re-calculated. This will include/exclude items such as domain name registration, hosting fees and outsourcing sections of the site you will not be able to develop yourself. This may also include milestone payments for involved projects and/or site promotion activities. If the project amount does not include some or any of these elements, please do mention it. Make it clear that traffic takes time to build up after implementation and promotion should only be done after the site has been tested thoroughly. Improper implementation can cost months of traffic and a great deal of lost business. Ensure that you take into account business related items including travelling time, electricity, telephone and consumables (In other words, certain elements of overhead cost) and factors in the cost of the development of the business proposal as well. Lastly, always try to provide a separate proposal for maintenance if your company is going to take care of post deployment maintenance.

A good proposal will take hours of your time and you should be compensated for that. In your eagerness to gain the contract, you may lose money if you quote too close to the bone. Bear in mind that things rarely go according to plan in web development and delays can be expected. Time is money fellas!

Terms and conditions: Expectations and commitments. It is not unusual for web projects to be delayed due to clients not supplying feedback or content necessary to complete sections. It is just as important to be clear in what you expect from your clients as well as explaining your commitment to them. Conflict resolution issues and feedback mechanisms should be described. Not to mention change requests mid-way of the project. For instance, you can let you client know that Design changes after HTMLization, will either cost extra and/or will lead to an increase in the delivery timeline.

Your clients will need to know what will occur if they do not supply information when requested, or request changes mid-stream and the action that you will take if you are running behind in the project yourself. You need to be clear on payment details and consequences of failure to pay for the services that you provide.

Mock-ups (samples): Be careful not to give too much away, just enough to give the client a good idea of what the site will look like. Ensure copyright notices and intellectual property statements are in place. Also, be sure to ask the design to put a watermark over the logo and/or the template. Keep the opacity between 15 and 20%

Web site maintenance: Summarize an offer of ongoing site maintenance or the implications of the client deciding to update or maintain the site themselves after it has been established.

The above points are usually sufficient to put together a professional web design proposal for a small to medium project. If you are drafting a business proposal based on criteria given to you by the prospective client; be sure to address all the points.

If the client suggests the proposal documentation be a certain format, respect that. In the culling process, the first proposals to be trashed will be the ones that do not address all the criteria the client has laid down.

Bear in mind that not all the web design proposals you submit will be accepted. You should be prepared to do the necessary revisions to satisfy your clients and to find a middle ground where both feel comfortable. A prospective client asking for revisions is a good sign - they are genuinely interested and have gone through the proposal. Thus, it is quite natural to be excited about it. Having said that, do not over-commit in the eagerness to close the project.

Also remember that some companies will ask you for proposals purely to use as a comparison against another company that they are interested in utilizing; so try and limit the amount of time you spend on the draft until the client gives indication of serious interest.

Hope this works for now!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Needs Analysis

Step One: Find out what the client wants.

This is what I call the Needs Analysis stage. Though it sounds very basic, trust me a lot things can go wrong here. It is very important to capture the correct requirements from the client. Based on this information, the next steps will follow. First and foremost, it is very important to realize that not all clients are tech-savvy. Thus what they are looking for in the first place is consultancy. It is very important to make a distinction between needs and wants. For Phase 1, ask them to prioritize the needs. I go through a series of questions that helps me to determine:

  • What the client's business does
  • Why customers buy from them
  • Who their competitors are
  • What their objectives are for their site
  • When their deadline is
  • How often they will update the site and how they will do it
  • What style of design do they like

Once you've found out exactly what it is that your clients want, you're ready to begin writing your proposal. And because you've used a simple question and answer process during the Needs Analysis step, the task becomes so much easier.