In our rush to define all the great things we’re going to do for our customer, we sometimes forget that we can’t do everything on the wish list. Even worse, the customer sometimes forgets this, as well. Even if the person you work with most directly understands the priorities and constraints of the project, her colleagues may assume that you will be handling their issues. Ironically, what we often forget to include in our proposal is what we’re not including in the project.

This can lead to confusion in the sales cycle and, if you win the business, more serious problems during the project. One of the few things more frustrating than working hard for a customer and not getting paid is working hard and not getting paid for because you didn’t deliver something that wasn’t even on your project plan.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity and the health of your business, define not only what you will be doing, but what you won’t be doing.

For example, after defining your project tasks and deliverables, you can add something as simple as:

Possible Future Phases:

  • Automating the data feed from the legacy system. Doing the manual data migration will take significant effort, and let the sales team use the system. However, we won’t really know what it will take to automate this until we can dig into the data and understand how clean it is.
  • Training video. The training document is a faster, easier, more cost-effective way to deliver training, especially since we expect the user interface to change over the next few months. We know many users would like a video (so would we!), but it’s not a good use of time and money at this point.
  • Geolocation and routing feature. The sales team would love the ability to list customers by proximity and devise the most efficient route for visiting all of them, however this requires too much computing power and the “List Customers Near Me” feature will provide a lot of value to the sales team without requiring a supercomputer or more.

This makes it clear for everyone what is not part of the project, and why. Keep in mind that just as your proposal is not only for your contact, but for your contact to get her colleagues on board. The whole project team from your company, the customer, and any partners, should be clear on what has to happen, and what is not happening (at least for now).

Got any interesting stories of things someone forgot to explicitly exclude from a project proposal? Leave a comment below…
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