The great thing about working with small businesses is the lack of formality that is so prevalent with larger enterprises. After all, you’re not expected to turn up to the customer site in a three-piece suit, and the last time you had to wear a tie was to your nephew’s wedding. Business casual is a way of life, and you can build relationships with your customers that can quite happily bridge the gap between customer and friend.
It’s important to keep in mind that despite the casual environment, you still need to have a couple of business-savvy tricks up your sleeve. Your customer saw you write a whole bunch of notes, and knows that you’re going to build a detailed plan. However, do not expect to show the customer your handwritten notes and have him sign off on his IT spend. It’s time to go back to your office, type up your notes and build out a proposal.
You can save yourself some time by creating some templates which can be re-purposed for each proposal (using OpenOffice.org of course). You’re always going to be asking a standard set of questions, and you’re always going to have a standard set of considerations. And then you’ll have the exceptions that are specific to each customer. Take a look at the numbers: hardware, software, and your time of course. Break them down so the customer knows what he is paying for. Add details where applicable about additional benefits covered in costs, like software maintenance for updates, support, new releases etc.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with your template, take a look online at small business information websites as many will have templates that you can use as a starting point. Remember to use terms within the proposal that the small business owner will understand. If it’s too technical, you might lose the deal.
Phew. It’s done. You’ve built a plan and you’ve created a proposal. You’re happy with the solution because you feel it definitely meets the business needs of your customer. Not only that, you have stated within the proposal exactly what business needs will be met and how you are delivering a solution that delivers on their primary goals for IT implementation.
Although much of the hard work is done, you’ve still got one more hurdle: presenting to the customer and closing the deal.