April 8, 2022

Success story from reader Giselle Hudson

Fellow list member Giselle Hudson wrote in with a success story about the power of asking the right questions BEFORE writing a project proposal (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan

I recently started chatting with an old friend about templates for powerpoint presentations. He needed specific slides and I sourced a free version pack for him. That led to him asking if I would be interested in supporting him in producing a report for the client based on the powerpoint presentation. I broke my own rule of starting with a strategy session and said "absolutely". I asked no questions and he sent both the powerpoint and a PDF as an example of what he wanted the report to look like. We had a brief Google meet ensuring I understood what he needed and then he asked for a quote.

Not long after I sent him my fixed price (because way before your sage advice I stopped charging hourly rates) he sent a WhatsApp message asking me "How many hours of work do you estimate?"

I remembered you immediately (talk about great positioning right lol) and did a search for the question he asked and your name. And here in this article, lay my response.

So I responded "I don’t know how many hours it will take which is why I don’t bill by the hour. Why do you ask?"

And the floodgates opened. HA!

He shared tons of info including some previous bad spending which yielded poor results that led him to become more diligent with his expenditure.

I let him share, only interrupting with , ’OK...I understand"

He then asked "where do we go from here?"

I was driving, so I didn’t respond immediately.

And then he answered his own question: "Here’s a thought, why doin’t I write the report and then send it to you to polish. WHen I send it you can then quote and we will agree to proceed or not."

"Sounds good to me."

Thank you Jonathan for giving me the support. I did not try to reduce my fees. I knew and felt confident in the figure quoted. And like you said, he did share how he came up with the figure he had in mind. Which illustrated that our values were different. Reminds me of something I learned in sales a long time ago when the potential clients said "Your price is too high?" - the response "compared to what?"

Again thank you Jonathan

With immense gratitude


I love hearing stories like this! Thanks so much to GH for sharing :-)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy writing custom project proposals.

Before I knew what to ask BEFORE of drafting a proposal, I always felt like I was winging it.

It would take me FOREVER to write a proposal. I dreaded it. I procrastinated.

After hours of staring at a flashing cursor, I’d finally dump a bunch of buzzwords and jargon on the page in hopes of at least sounding like an expert.

Then I would add tons of detail about the scope so the project sounded extensive and complex - which was true! - but I always had a nagging feeling that nobody was actually going to read it.

And even if they did read it, they wouldn’t be qualified to understand it. It’s not their fault. It was tech jargon and my clients were not technical.

Everything changed for me the day I finally recognized the difference between OUTPUTS and OUTCOMES.

An OUTPUT is a deliverable.

For example:

Although clients might ask for an output, what they really want is the OUTCOME that they believe the output will produce.

For example:

The trick to writing amazing proposals is this:

In your sales interview, go past the OUTPUT the client requests at first and uncover the OUTCOME they truly desire.

If you can do that, writing the proposal becomes automatic.



P.S. Do you spend hours writing proposals, only to have them fall through after endless negotiations? Or worse, the client never even responds?

You’re not alone – and you can do something about it.

This coming Monday, I’m launching a brand new 5-day challenge called Automatic Proposals to teach you how write better proposals in half the time it takes you now.

Topics include:

If you’d like to be part of the initial cohort, don’t delay... lessons start on Monday!


I hope to see you there :-)