There are four words every business owner should prepare for: “Send me a proposal.”
Whether business is booming or inching along, business owners, marketing directors, and subject matter experts should view those four words as an opportunity for growth.
If you Google “statement of qualifications” you are going to find many resources on the personal side to work-related growth—typically in the format of a resumé or cover letter. As for Theme Strategic Proposals, our expertise falls on the business side of helping your dream or idea come to life. Let’s look at how a statement of qualifications (SOQ) is a pivotal first step toward winning new business.
What is An SOQ?
An SOQ – also referred to as a qualifications statement – is a brief sales document that justifies, to the customer, that you’re credible enough to fulfill the task at hand. In other words, your SOQ will provide any business prospect a reason as to why they should hire you and not someone else.
Do not mistake an SOQ for a Request for Proposal (RFP). With an RFP, a business will give you a specific outline of what questions they need answered. At best, an SOQ is more versatile than an RFP. And don’t forget the original request we mentioned at the beginning: “Send me a proposal.” As opposed to a robust RFP, those four words might be all you get.
But if you take an SOQ seriously, and heed the following tips, those four words provide a window of opportunity. Here’s how to climb through it with confidence.
Three Core Components
If you, or other business owners you know, work and sell in the business-to-business or business-to-government space, having an SOQ is imperative. Your business can fail or succeed due to bids, estimates, and/or price quotes. Which begs the question: Are you happy with your current bidding or estimate process? Do you have all the necessary documentation highlighting why your business is the best option for the customer’s need? Do you default to the standard black-and-white pricing chart in an effort to win a deal? Before we touch on formatting your new and improved SOQ, consider the following three components to include.
1. Company Overview
If you’re the business owner—great! You’re the one who needs to write the company overview. Perhaps you already have one in place, but it’s important to craft language that specifically targets how your business helps customers in need. If possible, bring another employee into the process. They’ll provide feedback and edits prior to cementing the SOQ company overview.
If you’re not the business owner, it’s a good idea to invite your boss into the process. After all, it’s their company. But you want to help them make it great.
2. Services/Products You Provide
No one likes a restaurant with a menu that’s hard to read. We’ve all eaten at places with menus that are 1) hard to read, 2) overwhelming with choices, or 3) confusing as to what they specialize in. (“Pepperoni pizza? I thought this was a seafood restaurant…”)
Don’t provide your prospective customers with a bad menu.
The services/products section of your SOQ should be clear, concise, and comprehensive. In addition, it’s important to highlight how your offering(s) line up with the knowledge of the customer. (i.e., Did the customer ask for a bid to build a soccer stadium, but you only show experience building ice cream shops?). Keep your services simple—provide your three to five offerings that improve the lives and businesses you encounter. The prospect might read your SOQ and inquire about a service they didn’t know you provided, or one they didn’t know they needed.
3. Relevant Company Experience
“Company Overview” and “Core Services” explain what you provide, but “Relevant Company Experience” explains why your business is ready to answer the call and exceed expectations. This section is make or break, and is a huge reason why a pricing chart is not enough when it comes to sending over a proposal.
In our proven process, Theme works with business owners and marketing managers to present company experience in a compelling way. We encourage customers to include a combination of qualitative (e.g., customer testimonials) and quantitative metrics, and use infographics or other visually appealing methods to seize the reader’s interest and imagination. Which leads us to formatting.
Where to Begin
Crafting a quality SOQ document is hard work, but it’s rewarding.
Think about what your business currently has in place and what you would send a prospect in response to “Send me a proposal.” Now consider the following . . .
A visually-appealing document highlighting your business.
- Cover Letter
- Statement of Qualifications
- Pricing Chart
This post has been all about item three—the meat of your full SOQ document.The cover, cover letter, and pricing chart are just as important, and you need an expert in your corner to make the whole document pop.
Side Note: The cover letter should always be customized to the opportunity/client.
Don’t get a lump in your throat the next time a customer asks for a proposal. Reach out to us at Theme if you have any more questions on this vital component to the proposal process. An SOQ allows you to walk in confidence. An SOQ allows you to prosper.