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How freelance engineers can increase their success in the digital world - Part 3 - Show understanding

Gavin Christie

Gavin Christie
Sep 25, 2016 12:16

Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series on how freelance engineers can increase their success when competing for work in the digital world.

In Part 1, I explored some of the fundamental differences between winning work in the new digital world and the traditional face-to-face way. Then, Part 2 looked at the importance of relationships and how these can be developed in the digital work.

In this blog I thought I would explore in more detail how demonstrating an understanding of the client can dramatically increase your success rate in winning. I’m going to give you a few tips on how to be client-focused and why it’s important.

Believe me, so many engineering consultants talk about understanding clients, but fail miserably. There is a lot of talk about client-focus, but all too often, ego or self-interest gets in the way. You can probably relate to this.

When it comes to winning in competitive service-based industries, one of the easiest ways to increase your success is to show your client you understand them. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate you know their issues/challenges and, more importantly, that you have experience in overcoming them.

Face-to-face sales processes are a great place to start as they have proven to be highly effective over many years. Conventional wisdom says that if you meet a client for the first time, you should try to get them to talk about themselves and their business, before you talk about yourself.

It’s a bit more of a challenge in a virtual world. But, the same principles are still valid and will deliver the same impact. You want your prospective client to know that it’s all about them and that you are there to help solve their problems.

The best way to do this is in your proposal and it starts with your cover letter.

In the world of professional services business development, one of the most commonly used and effective persuasive writing techniques is the ISBP Principle – Issue, Solution, Benefit and Proof. It’s a recipe for building a persuasive argument. It’s well-used in service-based industries – but few get it right.

The good news is that you can easily use the ISBP principle to write a highly client-focussed and persuasive cover letter and proposal. In my experience, the ISBP principle can be used to great effect for multi-billion-dollar proposals through to small projects of less than $1000.

So, how do you apply this in writing high-quality proposals and cover letters? Well, it starts by writing about the client’s issues in the first paragraph of your proposal. Write about their project and some of the issues/challenges they are trying to overcome with their project. You may need to undertake a little research into their business in order to do this well. Alternatively, put yourself in their shoes and think about why the client may need your services.

Next you write about your solution and the benefit it will deliver to the client. How you will solve their issue/challenges? What benefit will it bring to the client? Have you solved a similar issue or challenge in the past? Can you back up what you have said with some proof by including a project testimonial? Proof sells – it always has and always will.

These tips serve you two purposes. Firstly, it shows your client you are client-focussed, genuinely interested in their business and have a good understanding of the challenges associated with their project. Secondly, you put the client’s mind at ease that they are working with someone who understands them and is aligned to their business objectives.

In the next edition of this blog series, I’ll explore in more detail the importance of demonstrating experience in your proposals. I’ll give you some more tips that will help you win work if you consistently apply them in your business development activities as a freelance engineer.