If your business is constantly hitting bottlenecks or dead ends when it comes to quoting, it’s time to look at your processes as it will save you daily frustration and hours of wasted time.
In previous posts we spoke about the difference between systems and processes and how to create business systems for a new product launch.
Leads, sales and customers can easily fall through the cracks if we don’t have the right processes and systems in place and your business won’t thrive.
Business processes don’t happen by accident. It takes practice to get it right and they need constant tweaking.
INEFFICIENT BUSINESS PROCESSES WILL CAUSE…
- Loss of sales
- Duplication of work
- Communication breakdowns
- Dissatisfied customers and staff, and
- Potential legal issues.
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
~ W. EDWARDS DEMING
HOW QUOTING IS DONE IN MOST COMPANIES
Let’s say you have a web design, copywriting, photography, virtual assistant or any other services-based company.
You received a request in your inbox from a potential customer who are interested in your services. They want more information and a quote on a specific package.
You need to deal with the request and send out a quote to the customer.
This is an example of what the process flowchart for quoting can look like. Yours can be different as every business operates differently.
OK let’s look at what happened here:
STEP #1 – WEBSITE
A customer browsed your website and a website form has been completed to start the request process.
There a 2 options:
- You have a generic “Contact Us” form on your website where you get a name, email, telephone number and a short generic message OR
- You have a form that’s linked to a specific product/service on a specific page with a few additional questions in a drop down box, so you can get the best possible information to prepare a quote with, without having to contact them first.
STEP #2 – PEOPLE
The enquiry is received via email by yourself or a staff member while you’re busy dealing with other important things. A note is made to deal with it later or it’s simply left in the inbox to come back to it later.
STEP #3 – POSSIBLE PROBLEMS
- The day stays busy and no one deals with the request till the next day or late that night.
- If more than 1 person is involved in the process, Person A can assume Person B is dealing with it (or visa versa) and no one deals with it.
- Both people involved in the process deal with the request and try to contact the potential customer/ lead.
- The request is remembered, but when the potential customer/ lead is called, they are not available so a voicemail is left.
STEP #4 – POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
- The potential customer/ lead has found another supplier by the time you get back to them.
- Nothing is done as everyone assumes the other person dealt with it and now a lead and possible sale is lost OR
- Both contacts deal with the request and confuse the potential customer/ lead, especially if the message or pricing differs.
- Telephone tag is played for several hours or days until you speak to each other OR
- You phone and get hold of the potential customer/ lead, you discuss their needs and promise a quote (with or without a timeframe).
STEP #5 – QUOTE = MONEY IN THE BANK, RIGHT?
- A quote is prepared.
- The quote is sent to the potential customer/ lead within 1-2 days from the first time the request has been received.
2 POSSIBLE OUTCOMES:
- You never hear back from the potential customer/ lead.
- The quote is accepted.
IF YOU DON’T HEAR BACK, 2 THINGS CAN HAPPEN:
- Nothing happens – you don’t hear back AND you don’t follow up because you’re too busy or you forget OR
- You don’t hear back and you DO follow up.
In the second option, you get another opportunity to answer any questions or objections, make a sale or at the very least you’ll learn why they didn’t accept your quote so you can improve your product or service.
STEP #6 – OPERATIONS
IF the quote has been accepted, the following will happen:
- Create an account or invoice depending on your business model
- Check availability for services and timelines for the requested products from your inventory and communicate any issues
- Prepare the order
- Deliver the order
- Issue the final invoice (if applicable)
- Follow up on payment if it’s not received within terms stated.
This is where the process stops for most businesses. Be smart and make more money than your competition.
5 STEPS TO IMPROVE A YOUR QUOTING PROCESS
At least this company HAS a process, so that’s a great start!
However, you can clearly see all the inefficiencies in their quoting process like the bottlenecks, delays, potential loss of sales, duplication of work, potential for communications breakdowns and disappointed customers.
So let’s look at how you can improve your quoting process:
STEP #1 – WEBSITE
- The form is linked to a specific Quotes Page VS a generic form on the Contact Us Page. Get a name, email and telephone number at a bare minimum.
- You get as much specific information about their needs as possible e.g. which products/services they’re interested in, quantity required, by when it’s need it, budget available and anything else relevant to your business.
Give a preliminary estimation from the info they provided, if possible.
Use the information they provided to be better prepared for the call, by having the right product/service info and pricing available when speaking to the potential customer/ lead.
Include any suggestions of other products your business offers that the potential customer/ lead might need. Think about Amazon’s suggestions “You might also like…”.
Great questions to include in your website form:
“Where did you hear about us?”
“When is a good time for us to call you?” or have an online calendar link where they can book themselves in for a call with you.
STEP #2 + #3 – PEOPLE + PROBLEMS
- Create an automated email reply to the enquiry form to notify the customer that the enquiry has been received and give them an indication of when they can expect to hear back from you.
- If you are the only person dealing with enquiries, set up your email so that all enquiries go directly to a dedicated folder in your inbox. Plan your day to ensure you check this folder at least 3 times a day and have time to deal with enquiries.
- If there are more than one person dealing with enquiries use a system that can track who dealt with the enquiry and when it happened, to avoid any duplication. Set it up that if one team member cannot reply within a set time, then the enquiry will be passed on to the next available team member who can respond.
- Voicemail – Call but don’t leave messages as they can be can be lost or missed. Instead set a reminder and call back again in 10-20 mins or in the dedicated times you planned for. Never leave it up to a customer to call you back.
STEP #4 – POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
- They already found another supplier: Improve your business’ response time immediately. Ask them politely to share with you the reason why they chose the other supplier. Use any information to improve your products/ services.
- You got hold of them and speak to them about their needs: Really listen what they need instead of only trying to sell your stuff. Ask for any details that will help you serve them better e.g. their timelines, etc. Have they also considered XYZ and upsell them on any other items your business offers.
- Quote: Get all the details needed to prepare the quote, say by when they can expect the quote and stick to that time.
STEP #5 – QUOTE = MONEY, RIGHT?
- Quote: Always try and send out the quote before the deadline you promised it by, as this sets the tone for the relationship.
- Follow-up: Always follow up! Contact the potential customer/ lead the day after the quote was sent to confirm it has been received (emails get lost in junk folders). If they have time to talk, ask if they have any questions or need more information on the products/services, pricing or timelines. Then close the sale.
- They aren’t interested: Be brave and ask why not, in a friendly, non-threatening way. What can you do better next time to win their business?
- Regardless of the outcome, ask their permission to add them to your mailing list for future promotions, announcements of new products/ services or events as it can lead to future sales. If they’ve had a pleasant experience with you there is no reason why they should object.
STEP #6 – OPERATIONS
- Create Account/ Invoice: If you often have to chase payments start invoicing 50% upfront before any further work is done and then 50% before delivery.
- Communicate often. Whether there are problems or not, keep in touch with your customers on a regular basis and let them know how their order or project progresses, what the next step in the process is and manage their expectations. People are far more understanding of delays or mishaps if you’ve been in touch throughout the process.
- Orders: Always try and deliver the order before the promised deadline as it’s bound to wow your customer, lead to more sales + better Word-of-Mouth (WOM) for your business. If you run into problems, see point #2 above.
- AFTER CARE:* Most businesses don’t give their customers a second thought the moment the order has been delivered. This is your most important time to make an impression and stand out from the crowd.
- Add all details to your database and set a follow-up date in the future 2-3 months from now to call them.
*AFTER-CARE QUESTIONS TO ASK:
// Was everything as expected?
// Were they happy with the customer service?
// Any suggestions for improvement?
// How likely are they to recommend you to other?
// Who else do you know that you can refer me to?
// Will it be OK with you if I touch base in 2 months’ time?
// Get their feedback over the phone and use it as a testimonial (with their permission). Record the feedback call and then get it transcribed. Then use the testimonial in your marketing material.
// Always ask for MORE BUSINESS – who else do they know that you can talk to and do they themselves need anything else?
Create or refine your quoting process in your business.
Do you have a documented quoting process in your business? Leave your comment below.
Author: ALICIA MENKVELD |Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 21 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy and sales for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.