This article is intended as a guide to help you generate successful results when responding to ConsultantFORCE project opportunities. These guidelines will enable you to make effective responses in a comprehensive, yet efficient manner. Visit the ConsultantFORCE website project list on a regular basis and respond to project opportunities within 24 hours of the actual posting date if at all possible. It’s a good idea to establish this as a daily routine in the same way you check your e-mail on a frequent basis. We provide an automatic matching function but this may not always be 100% accurate so it’s possible to miss out on potentially good matches. As a general rule, replying quickly will create a good impression with the client and put you ahead of potential competitors.
The ‘General Comments’ Section of the Online Response Tool
I’d recommend entering in as much relevant information as possible into the ‘General Comments’ section by providing detailed information. Always try to give as many specific examples of similar experiences you have had with other clients. This is one of the most important areas of the response, so your investment in time in this section is worthwhile. Avoid simply saying, “See our website, brochure or attachments etc… for more information”. You want the client to see how well you meet the criteria directly within the online response form itself. In this way you are far more likely to stimulate interest in your consulting firm. As you create these specific examples, cut and paste them into a saved document so the next time similar criteria come along you will be able to utilize these same examples for future replies. Always try to respond with as much concrete data as possible. When creating your project response, try to add content that will motivate and stimulate interest from the client – something that sets your consulting firm apart from other candidates. How much information should you give regarding actual solutions to help the client? Obviously, you don’t want to give too much ‘free’ information at this early stage, but at the same time, you want to show you have innovative ideas that demonstrate to the client you are someone that can help them reach a final solution. Give enough detail to engage their curiosity, a sales ‘hook’ – but stop short of giving too much in the way of specific solutions. It goes without saying that you should spell and grammar check everything you submit, so that you are presenting a professional image. To give comprehensive responses and, at the same time remain efficient, you can “cut and paste” pertinent information into your responses. You could use content from previously saved project responses or you can use the project response archive for this purpose. When pasting saved information, you should still edit the content so that it is customized to this client’s particular situation.
Example Project Description:
We are a healthcare organization seeking to identify and engage a consultant to help us restructure our Environmental Policy and to manage our operations in a manner that is protective of Human health and the environment. We are looking for better ways to meet our Environmental goals through conservation, reuse and recycling programs. We are committed to improving environmental management in the community to safeguard the environment.
Ineffective Response: We would be ideal candidates for this project. View our website for details. (This statement lacks qualification – what makes you an ‘ideal candidate’?
Simply suggesting they ‘view the website’, implies, “I don’t have time to provide you with details, but if you research our site, you can see why we are ideal candidates”).
Effective Response: Our company has extensive experience working on exactly this type of project. We have been responsible for restructuring major Environmental Policies and have managed operations of this nature in a manner that have been sensitive to the surrounding environment. Our operations are dedicated to providing specialized environmental consulting services and we can provide an extensive list of diverse clients who have received outstanding results in similar projects. We will provide different options on how you will be able to meet your environmental goals through conservation and recycling programs.
Estimated Budget ($) and Budget Comments
Although this section of the project response form requires a ‘quote’ – there may, or may not be enough detailed information to give an estimate of the final budget. This might require you to ask the potential client more detailed questions about specific aspects of the project, so that you will be able to give them a more accurate estimate of the final cost. You can use the “Budget Comments” section to ask for more information on the project. Remember, you are certainly not giving a “Quote” at this point – you are simply giving a broad indication, from your own past experience, of the probable budget range given the information you have so far. A final quote will not be specified until after the full scope of the work has been agreed by both parties.
Specific Project Requirement Section(s)
Give specific examples in the fields where you explain how well you meet the project criteria. When rating yourself on the specific requirements of the project, remember you are the expert, so you should rate yourself appropriately, giving yourself credit for your expertise (10 is highest). In these fields that request specific criteria, create detailed yet concise responses exactly tailored to the project requirements. You might also want to try to ‘mirror’ the writing style of the project description. For example, if the client seems to be extremely detail oriented, then respond in kind.
Example Project Requirement #1 – Over 15 years of experience managing marketing projects.
Ineffective Response: I am a well qualfied consultant for this project. (This statement lacks detailed information and qualification. The word “qualified” is misspelled.)
Effective Response: I have been working in this industry for twenty five years. I have completed several projects in this specific field, including our most recent project with Briggs & Myer. I have attached a case study that highlights our success in this project.
Example Project Requirement #2 – Consulting firm would preferably be located in New Jersey
Ineffective Response: We do not have any offices in New Jersey.
Effective Response: We are located in Portland, Maine; however we are more than willing to travel. We also have the capability to undertake much of this work remotely. General maintenance with 24-hour customer support can also be serviced by remote access. In addition, we have a trusted consulting partner that we work with on a regular basis in your area if you need immediate assistance.
The idea is to get your consulting firm beyond the “first cut”. After that, the client will probably do more due diligence on the firms they think have the qualifications they are looking for by linking to your own company website, viewing your ConsultantFORCE Reference Report, opening any document attachments etc.
Document Attachment Section
You should clearly demonstrate that you are well qualified for the project by completing the initial project from in a comprehensive way. This shows the client that you have the required expertise to be a good contender for the project. Once the client is satisfied you have the experience he’s looking for, he can add you into his short-list of candidates. At this point he’ll want to do more due diligence on your consulting firm and will start the process of reviewing your company website, ConsultantFORCE Reference Report and open document attachments you included in your response. In most cases attaching documents that are relevant to the client needs will illustrate that you are highly qualified to take on the job. Your goal is to always emphasize that you are a prime candidate by providing examples of similar work you have already successfully completed for other clients. It’s a good idea to prepare this material in advance, so it’s worth taking some time to create documents that you can attach to your replies. For example, you might consider creating a Company profile, Client list, Past Project Summary List, Resumes, PowerPoint Presentations, Demonstration Videos, Testimonials and any other general marketing collateral – essentially anything you can prepare in advance that you can attach to your project responses. This will reduce your reply time considerably yet still supply the client with a good impression of your capability to take on the work. You’ll want to add information that will trigger the client to select your firm for the next step: this might include a conference call or a request for further information. Once your documents are attached for client review, the buyer will then have complete information about your firm: your original response along with a link to your own business website. Assuming you have received three reference requests, they will also be able to see you have the “Quality Checkmark” that identifies you as a well qualified firm. When the client first views your project reply, they will then be able to link directly to your Quality Performance Report.
After your Response has been Submitted
Once your response has been submitted, the client will have your contact information and may get in touch with you if they need more information or once they decide on how they would like to proceed. When the client has contacted you, your relationship with that client is now the same as any other new client you may have sourced by more conventional means through your own marketing, networking, direct referrals etc. As a result, we expect that you will follow up with them in a pro-active and professional manner. The potential to close the project is now very much in your own hands and is dependent on your presentation and sales skills. Frequently the size of the project determines how long the project will remain ‘open’: larger projects can easily be anywhere from six months to a year in review due to the sometimes lengthy decision-making process. Other clients may have protracted contract negotiation procedures. In all cases, our Client Managers will follow-up with the client at regular intervals to get updates. We recommend that our consultants manage their active project list by ‘Archiving’ older projects which are still under consideration which will allow you to focus on future opportunities as they arise. Even after a project is “Archived” in your list of replies, it remains ‘Open’ and the client will still be able to contact you directly.