There will be many times in your business life when you’ll be asked by a prospective client to provide references. These can include when you’re responding to an RFP (Request for Proposal), pitching to a new client or in the final rounds of a vendor selection process.
The client’s ‘ask’ will almost always sound something like this: “Please provide us with references from similar clients for whom you’ve provided similar services.”
Here are 4 common mistakes business owners make when providing references:
When you only provide name, title, phone number and email address as your reference information, you’re leaving it up to your potential client to do all the work. They have no information about what services you provided to your reference and therefore nothing to base their questions on.
Instead, include a brief description of the project you implemented along with the contact information. That will help paint a picture of your experience and provide a guide map for your busy client to use to pose questions and prepare for his call to your reference.
I’m amazed at the number of times that I see references where their description of their project reads like a menu of services from their website. There is a mountain of difference between the technical aspects of ‘what you did’ for your reference and ‘how you helped’ them.
Be sure to include a short description of the main problem that you solved for your reference. Sure, you can include some of the services that you provided in order to solve that problem. The key is to write this piece from your reference’s point of view. How did they benefit and what were the positive results?
Your potential client is busy. They also don’t live in your head or have the skill sets that you bring to the table. Don’t assume that the connection between your reference’s project and the one you’re vying for that seems obvious to you is also obvious to your client. Or that they’ll take the time to think it through and figure it out.
Connect the dots for your client by explaining briefly how the reference’s project is similar to the one you’re proposing. Even projects that aren’t similar on the surface can be similar in other aspects. For example : perhaps the referenced project also had a tight timeline and budget and you provided innovative solutions to meet these tough demands.
In today’s business world of privacy laws and restrictions, this last point should be obvious. You are not at liberty to share another person’s name and contact information without their permission to do so. And, it’s simply good manners to ask permission first.
Even if you’ve been given permission in the past to use reference information, it’s good practice to give your reference a heads-up that they may be contacted. That way they’re expecting the call or email and will make a point of responding.
Having a great customer reference is always a leg-up whenever you’re pitching to a new client. By taking a little care in how you craft the reference information, you’ll increase its effectiveness.
Key performance indicators (KPIs).
If you are fortunate enough to land a contract with a government or large corporate client, chances are good that part of that contract will include KPIs.
Writing a great RFP (Request for Proposal) response is a critical piece of the puzzle for bringing home a win. However, the way that you approach the RFP process can also have a big impact on how often you win.If your company regularly responds to RFPs, take a moment to gauge how well you do in the following three areas. If you find yourself coming up short, work at improving in these areas. Pair those improvements with a great solution and well-written response and then watch your percentage of wins increase.
We all heard them growing up. Those eye-rolling, words of advice that Mom would say ad nauseam: aka Momisms. The truth is; Mom said them because she wanted you to be safe, happy and the best you that you could be. It got me wondering how much of Mom’s sage advice was transferable to running a business.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, here are three of Mom’s nuggets of wisdom that just might help you build endurance, survive and thrive in business.
You’ve received an RFP, read through it and are ready to begin your RFP response document. Before you start your RFP response, make sure that you don’t fall prey to these three common mistakes.
An RFP (Request for Proposal) has just come out and your company is a perfect fit to put in a bid. Unfortunately, the lengthy document you have to review in order to do so can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to review an RFP to ensure that you’re compliant with the requirements…and to improve your chances of winning.
A website’s About page can be one of the most visited pages. It’s often where a potential client will go to check you out before making that first contact. Here are 4 tips to help you make the most out of your About page.
Recently I’ve been plagued by a feeling of guilt for not being busy enough. I know; it seems odd even as I write this. The fact is, I’m meeting my monthly goals and my clients are happy.
So why the guilt? It’s because I have time left in my day that isn’t bookmarked for a project or task.
Upon realizing this, it occurred to me that, perhaps now that I’m my own boss, I’m taking this ‘boss’ thing too far.
Let me backtrack a bit to tell you where I’m coming from. I got my first district manager’s job at the ripe old age of 26. Ever since then, right up until I left the corporate world nine years ago, I’ve been someone’s boss, fiscally responsible for the company’s district, then a region, then the country.
I like to think that I was a good boss for the many staff I had the great fortune to work with through the years. I don’t, however, think I’m a great boss for myself.
When you’re a boss, it’s all about productivity, profitability and results. And, I’ve never been able to walk away from the “measure it and you’ll be sure to pay attention to it” mentality of a boss’s role. Even today, eight years into my business, I measure how I spend my time daily, where my customers come from, what marketing brings the best results and a gaggle of other matrices for keeping me and my business successful.
That’s what bosses do. Right?
I’ve come to realize, though, that measuring success to prove that you’ve obtained it isn’t the same as having success. And, that some successes, in fact the most important ones, just can’t be measured. Like having a rewarding family life. Or giving something back of yourself to a world that needs it.
So, I’ve decided to stop being my own boss and start being my own best friend.
We’re all serious business owners who want success and know that we have to work hard in our business to get it. But that doesn’t mean that running a business should be all work and no play. In fact, play is an important part of your business (and in keeping you sane in the process of running it).
According to Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute of Play, play comes in many forms and doesn’t have to be competitive. Play can be found in art, books, movies, music, comedy and daydreaming. He likens it to oxygen, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
I have a favourite fantasy writer who has based a number of his books on the principle of ‘consensual reality’. That is, a thing only exists because enough people agree that it does. And, in the contrary, a thing ceases to exist if enough people agree that it doesn't.
Time poor. Time starved. Time strapped.
These common phrases describe how many of us see our workdays. So much so that time management is a popular topic when you ask business owners where they need the most help. Unfortunately, many look to time management as a tool to help them cram even more into an already full day.
List-making, waking up earlier to extend your workday, getting back to emails in the quiet time after kids have gone to bed…the tips for doing more with the time you have are endless.
As I see it, there’s one overlooked tool that strikes at the heart of being able to manage your time more effectively. And that’s self-respect.
What do I mean by self-respect? According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary, self-respect is “a proper respect for oneself as a human being” . In my dictionary, self-respect has a lot to do with acknowledging that the things you need to be healthy, happy and successful are just as important as what your customers need, what your family needs and what your friends and communities need.