Basics of Proposal for Salesforce Independent Consultants & Freelancers
May 14, 2021
Managing client’s expectations in the right way is what will catapult your freelance career. It’s a common thing that new freelancers who want to become independent consultants have amazing experience in the technical side of things but are lacking experience on the business development side. And one of the unavoidable areas in any business development setting is building the proposal.
So if it’s unavoidable, the video below covers the one key thing that separates a good proposal from a bad proposal: setting great expectations for your customers. If your proposal answers the question: Have I covered all of my customer’s expectations?” then you likely have a very good proposal in your hands.
So let’s take this opportunity to cover three things:
- Quick overview of a Proposal or Statement of Work
- Setting up known expectations
- Setting up the unknown expectations
Step One: The Proposal
Once we start talking with potential clients, we’ve gathered the project’s requirements, it’s time to create a proposal.
While there are differences if one wants to be extremely technical, many use the words “proposal,” “statement of work,” and “quote” with loosely the same definition. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter the name you give to it, but the information you offer. So, what should be in this proposal? What items should you, as an independent consultant, include in this document?
There might not be one recipe on what to include. Personally, when you’re talking to a potential client for a smaller project, you may want to minimize the number of documents that you need, so merging a proposal into a statement of work is not an uncommon strategy. This means that on your document, whatever you choose to call it, you should list out the contractual side of the project:
- What the deliverables are going to be (the items you are going to complete)
- How long the project is estimated to take
- And most importantly, what should the client’s expectations be throughout the project.
Statement of Work and Client’s known expectations
Managing client’s expectations is a different area in the business development end of a consultant’s job. One of the biggest issues consulting companies have are setting the proper expectations so that communication and relationship with the client can prosper. So the known expectations to set in a proposal should be fairly straightforward. You need to include an executive summary of what your understanding of the project is, a list of the deliverables that you will be working on to create the solution the project is calling for, and then discuss how the payment (or payments) for the project, the invoicing schedule, will look like.
With all of the known expectations covered, you’re set, right? What could possibly go wrong…
In most cases, once you start the project (and this is very common), you will quickly realize that there is more to the project than meets the eye. Perhaps a few validation rules were not discussed, maybe a few automation that “they thought were out of the box” or “naturally included with the rest of the work.”
This tends to be like a snowball, where once the client is frustrated, the contractor can easily get burnt out (especially if they are over the hours they predicted for this project) because the communication doesn’t flow: most often because there were things that were learned after the proposal was signed, and now you may be arguing with the customer with what the definition of “done” looks like. And you thought you were going to deliver specific items, which is not what the customer understood.
So at this point, you may be thinking: “well, maybe I should just have more meetings,” but at the same time, one very important thing you want to avoid is slowing the deal down too much. The time is now, and you don’t want to give too many reasons for this project to stall or have them go with someone else who gets a proposal on their desks sooner than you have. So the reality of it is that it’s extremely difficult to know everything that there is to know about a project before you start. And we’ll talk more about that when it comes time to setting unknown expectations.
Coming back to your proposal, t doesn’t mean that this document provides an answer for every little thing that might come your way during the project, but a good proposal should precisely cover your work when the unexpected happens. In most cases, customers won’t even know what they need; they might think they do, but they’re also counting on you, the expert, to tell them if that’s the right path. So here’s where the great consultants separate themselves from the average ones.
...and you are here to become a great consultant, right?
Setting the Unknown Expectations
As a consultant with experience in the field, you know that unexpected things will happen. It’s a mathematical fact. Therefore, no proposal is complete without setting yourself up for that eventuality (or almost certainty).
Here are a few crucial things you should consider including in your proposal:
- An assumptions section, which outlines all of the things you are “assuming” based on conversations. Are you assuming no Apex code will be required? Are you assuming that the data for import will be provided to you in an Excel file? Are you assuming that the customer will provide all of the content for the email templates you will create during the implementation? All valid points should be meticulously listed in there.
- An exclusion section, which outlines all of the things you are purposefully keeping out of this scope. Are you explicitly stating that you are not responsible for any data cleanup and that is the customer’s sole responsibility? Are you stating that based on your understanding, no programmatic development is needed and that the entire implementation should be accomplished with declarative tools only? All of this is important because it sets the ground for “if this happens,” you can point the finger and say this was not considered initially, but because of new requirements post-kickoff, we may need to consider a change order.
- A “do not exceed” disclaimer. This is an interesting one, and it saves consultants a lot of time. In your estimate, there should be a disclaimer that states that the scope of work is an estimate and that a 10-20% margin is given for any items discovered after the fact. Any overages within that margin will be billed in the final invoice. Any items above that margin would require a change order form.
Again, those three items will set the expectations early on that these things will likely happen and that you (as a professional) have covered all of these possibilities. You may not need them, but if you do, you’ve set the right expectations early on with your client on how to address them.
As a consultant with experience in the field, you know that the thing you expect the least will happen.
That is why setting the right expectations is so important and should be in your proposal: so both parties are on the same page during the length of the contract. When dealing with a client, communication needs to be upfront and as straightforward as possible to make sure both parties are always aligned on what needs to be done, the amount of hours, and the cost of the job. Being explicit on the tasks, hours, and cost is important, but the unpredictables are what the client will rely on you as the expert. This is why setting the right expectations within a statement of Work document becomes important.
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