How to win business after you've sent the quote

There’s nothing more irritating than seeing a project, contract or job within your grasp and then losing it after ...


There’s nothing more irritating than seeing a project, contract or job within your grasp and then losing it after expending lots of effort in pricing, writing and sending a quote. In this article Benjamin Dyer of Powered Now provides tips on how you can win more profitable business. 


I don’t think this will surprise many readers but like everything in business, there aren’t easy one-fits-all solutions to winning bids. One of the complexities is that before a quote is submitted, your prospect will already have formed an opinion of how professional you are and to what degree they trust you. These will be crucial factors in determining whether your quotation is accepted, so they need to have received plenty of attention.

My company Powered Now knows this better than most. We build software for people that work in the field trade such as builders, plumbers, electricians and many more. This is an industry dominated by that initial quote. We’ve heard countless stories over the years about the difference between a winning quote and a rejected one. So what makes the winners stand out?

Set expectations early

Turning the quotation process into a formality is a skill that separates great sales people from everyone else. By the time you’ve got that quote out to your customer it really needs to be seen as documenting things, a small piece of admin to get out of the way before the work can commence.

One of the ways to do this is to set price expectations early. No-one likes a surprise, and suddenly producing an unexpectedly high price is a sure fire way to lose business.

You need to be flexible and responsive and demonstrate your expertise during the initial discussions. This will go a long way towards winning the job before the quote is written.

Watch out for the Cowboys!

My company sells to the trade industry which sometimes has a bit of a bad reputation. However the truth of the matter is there are cowboys everywhere! No doubt we can all tell stories of purchases gone wrong, whether it’s a plumber or web designer. We’ve all been on the receiving end. So it’s critical, assuming you get the chance, to warn customers what they need to look out for and make a major effort to demonstrate that you’re not amongst the problem companies.

One way to do this is to provide real life examples of similar work you’ve done for other clients in the past. Maybe back it up with customer testimonials or provide a reference from a happy customer. There are lots of interesting studies that demonstrate that us humans are actually a pretty fickle bunch. We like to buy as part of a crowd so make it easy for your customer to do their own validation.

Get the contents right

Getting the contents of your quote right doesn’t have to be a laborious task, however winning quotes tend to follow a similar pattern:

  • They are detailed. Make sure you include a good description of what you are quoting for. “Extension for £15,500” is not very convincing.
  • Despite this, don’t provide a blow-by-blow price breakdown. Such breakdowns can lead to the hassle of customers doing detailed pricing comparisons, or taking it upon themselves to get involved. However the worst outcome is if your quote is used as a benchmark with competitors, a full breakdown can help them immensely.
  • Explain that anything not explicitly included is excluded. This helps to avoid assumptions.
  • Make it clear whether this is a fixed price (quote) or a best guess (estimate).
  • Tell the customer what they told you. This demonstrates that you have listened and helps to create a feel good factor that can remind them of why they wanted the job doing in the first place.
  • Provide as much information as possible that will give you credibility, such as customer testimonials, membership of trade associations, qualifications, guarantees and references to similar jobs that you have done before.
  • Provide your terms of business, such as up-front money for materials or maybe pre-payment of 50%. Always say that the price will change if things that you couldn’t reasonably have foreseen come to light, or the client changes or adds to what they want.

It is essential to respond fast to requests for quotes. James Chandler of Chandler Building explains, “We turn up on a job to quote, price it up on the phone and email it to the customer while we are on site, all using the Powered Now app (Declaration: this app is from my company). We’ve noticed that getting the paperwork out to the customer quickly normally means we win the job.”

Pricing

Pricing is a key business skill, the truth of the matter is you tend to get better at it with more experience. Get your pricing wrong and you end up with unprofitable work or losing to others because your price is too high. The result is you only get to do loss-making jobs, which is not good news. 

Your aim shouldn’t be to be the lowest cost, instead you need to work at helping the customer to see that you are the best. The majority of prospects don’t buy the cheapest clothes or just shop for their holiday on price, so why should they adopt this approach for anything else?

To get better at pricing it’s always a good idea to have a post project debrief. It can be tempting to jump straight into the next project but spend some time comparing all of your estimates with what the project actually cost so you can do better next time.

Remind the customer

I’ve left the most important tip to the last one and often it’s the most effective. We all lead busy lives and sometimes people simply forget to follow up! So once a quote has been sent follow up a few days later to get feedback. Lots of our customers tell us that sending a text message can be the most effective method of checking the quote was received and checking if there are any questions.

Sadly, you won’t always win the quote. The best approach then is to lose gracefully and thank the prospect for considering you. Opportunities often come around again, and if you act with integrity you might be the first in line if the winner falters, so best of luck!

 

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