How to create the best possible quotation

When a prospective client invites us to do a quotation we need to realise that this is when the tackie hits the tarmac. This is when our marketing and word-of-mouth endeavours materialise in tangible outcomes … or not. If we get this action wrong we have wasted the time, effort and money that got us to this point.

This article serves as a checklist of the elements and packaging of a quotation that will give us a fighting chance of winning a tender/job.

1. Pre-quote Analysis

  • When the prospective client makes the initial contact, it is good practice to get as much information as possible in order to understand the client’s need and also to prepare oneself to have all the “tools” available for doing an accurate quote.

2. On the day of the quote

  • Confirm the time and the address of the client.
  • Pitch up (we have to be there to be able to quote).
  • Be on time (or notify the prospective client if you are running late).
  • Be presentable (a neat/professional appearance).
  • Write down all specifications (leave nothing to chance).
  • Have client referrals and examples of previous projects available (e.g. printed referrals and pictures of other successful projects placed in a flip-file). Give this to the client to look through while you are busy gathering information for doing the quote.

3. After the specifications have been determined and before leaving the client`s premises

Confirm the delivery date of a written quote (confirm if this time frame meets the prospective client’s requirements).

4. Quote email

Present a great introduction including these elements:

  • Thank the client for the opportunity of quoting for the business.
  • Confirm the prospective client’s brief, i.e. what the client asked to be quoted on.
  • Edify (stories of satisfied clients).
  • Indicate when the service can be delivered.
  • Provide a link to your website (if you have one).

5. Quotation as email attachment

  • Detailed break-down (individual costing of parts/service elements, as well a labour cost component)
  • The validity period of the quote
  • Deposit needed to secure the job (also provide your banking information – name of bank, branch code of bank, your account name, your account number, the reference to be used)
  • Use a professional letterhead with your branding – if you have one.
  • Make sure the terms and conditions are included in the quote to be signed-off by the client when the quote is accepted.
  • Include a client satisfaction guarantee – money-back guarantee/free repairs if not 100% satisfied, or even something as simple as “We guarantee to be on time for the scheduled job and to leave your premises cleaner than we found it”.

6. Quotation reminder

Sent an SMS to the client immediately after the email with the quotation had been submitted.

Proposed wording of the SMS

Good day…  (name of client). I have e-mailed your quotation to ………… (email address) as promised. Kindly advise if you do not receive it, or have any further questions. We will contact you to follow up on the quote. I look forward to your expedient response and trust that we will be able to do business. Kind regards ……………… (your name and the name of your business)”

7. Quotation follow-up

Phone the prospective client to confirm that he or she had received the quotation, address any further questions and gauge the client’s decision to accept or decline the quote. If the quote is declined, see Point 8 for a script example to understand the main consideration for his or her decision.

8. To do after the response on the quote has been received

  • Signed quote :
    • Check if the deposit has been received (if not, address accordingly).
    • Confirm the implementation/delivery date and time with the client.
  • Quote declined
    • Phone the client to determine why you lost the business.
Here is a sample script to consider:

Good day…………… (name of client), this is …………… (your name and the name of your business).

Thank you for granting me the opportunity to quote for your business. I respect the fact that you have chosen another service provider. Would you kindly tell me what your main consideration was for choosing another service provider, so that I may address any shortcomings on my part for future application?

(Leave it open-ended – take notes)

Thank you for your feedback. I will take this knowledge on board. I trust that you will keep our information on record for future reference.

Have an excellent day. (Ring off)

9. Implementation

Always deliver more than you quoted for (e.g. deliver faster; upsize your service support; fix something else while you are there, without charging for it).

The task of your implementation is to “wow” and surprise the client – make it a memorable experience for your client.

10. After implementation

Always ask them to rate your service afterwards (compile a brief questionnaire and let one of your back office staff phone each client; record the feedback; apply what you have learnt; give recognition where deserved and reprimand and re-train when required).  Ask for referrals and introductions where positive feedback is received.

11. In closing

You can improve your success rate in turning quotes into business if you incorporate a quoting process which is both structured along the lines of this article and implemented in a professional manner.

Remember, getting the quote is important for the livelihood of the business and you.

May your business grow from strength to strength.

The key is to set realistic customer expectations and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.
Richard Branson

To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straightforward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success.

Go to www.sanlamgameplan.co.za to download your free copy.

2010 EOY winner the embodiment of real entrepreneurship

Martin Beyers is no Richard Branson; he does not instantly draw you into his world with a wealth of charisma.

Neither is he a Steve Jobs; intent on taking over the world one iPod at a time.

He also does not remind you of Lakshmi Mittal; the creator of a global empire.

Yet, Beyers beat hundreds of South African business owners to win the 2010 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition.

The reason for his success in the competition – and in business – is that Beyers is the embodiment of real entrepreneurship.

Vision, creativity, innovation, careful planning, passion and hard work are the best adjectives to use.

The competition saw entrepreneurs from across the country vie for the title of Entrepreneur of the Year ®. They were subjected to strict judging criteria to ensure that the business was not only sustainable, but also exceptional.

Out of the 331 entries, 12 finalists emerged. Out of these, three category winners were crowned alongside the overall Entrepreneur of the Year ®:

  • Emerging Entrepreneur: Lovely Letsoalo – Wespark Itumeleng Pharmacy
  • Small Business Entrepreneur: Martin Brown – Radical Holdings
  • Medium Business Entrepreneur: Theo Bakkum – Awesome Snacks

Entrepreneur of the Year ®

This year’s competition saw a dramatic change to the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards as the competition was opened up to all entrepreneurs in South Africa.

The award was initiated in 1989 by private small and medium enterprise (SME) financier, Business Partners to give recognition to the vision, innovation, perseverance, drive and commitment of the individuals who run successful small and medium enterprises.

In partnership with Sanlam, the competition was able to spread its net wider this year and introduced the three new award categories.

Business younger than three years old could compete for the Emerging Entrepreneur award and businesses with turnovers of up to R20 million could compete for the Small Business Entrepreneur award. The last category, the Medium Business Entrepreneur award, was reserved for businesses with turnovers greater than R20 million.

Each winner received R10 000 but the Entrepreneur of the Year ® 2010 walks away with R100 000 in cash and the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive exposure in the public domain.

Martin Beyers

CERadvance manufactures specialised ceramic solutions which are used in industrial processes. The Jet Park based business is a niche player in a market filled with large conglomerates.

It has been able to differentiate itself through pure innovation and this caught the judges’ eyes.

Judging convener, PwC Partner Stefan Beyers, explains that CERadvance’s ability to look far into the future and to develop products on a continual basis is exemplary.

This is because Martin Beyers has been able to turn his ideas into profits and build a sustainable operation.

“We looked at many different types of businesses. It is always difficult to choose a winner because each case is so unique,” Stefan Beyers says.

Jan Steenkamp, Executive Head, Cobalt Solutions, Sanlam echoes this, saying that the quality of entries in this year’s competition was extremely high.

But, Steenkamp also says that Beyers stood out because he is able to use his creativity to come up with solutions that add value to a client.

Beyers explains that he entered the competition as he has learnt to constantly revaluate himself and the business.

Through the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® judging process, people outside of his daily reality – the judges – could enter the operation, identify shortcomings and successes and help him to improve.

“Winning acknowledges that there is a legitimacy to the business, that it adds value and that it is worthwhile. Entrepreneurs want to know that they are on the right path.

“You constantly have to revaluate yourself to ensure that you are on the right path because the small business reality constantly changes.”

Celebrating entrepreneurs

Business Partners Managing Director, Nazeem Martin, says that the competition is first and foremost an attempt to celebrate entrepreneurship.

“If this country is going to go anywhere we need to ensure that entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development is celebrated.

“Entrepreneurs need to take their rightful place as role models in South Africa so that when young people leave school or university, they consider it as a viable career option.

“The diversity of entries is an indication of the burning desire on the part of entrepreneurs to receive some form of recognition for the effort put into building these businesses and for creating jobs,” Martin says.

“Opportunity driven entrepreneurs, the ones that take advantage of a gap in the market, are the ones who usually create sustainable businesses. We have to celebrate entrepreneurs and honour them if we want to unleash the potential South Africa has in its youth.”

Steenkamp echoes this, saying celebrating entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit will act as an inspiration to others who have not yet made the leap into the small business environment.

The voice of SMEs

“We also want to ensure that the competition remains a national platform that brings real value to small business owners in their own businesses and the larger operating environment,” he adds.

“Through the competition and its workshops and seminars, we have created a platform for entrepreneurs to interact with their counterparts and be heard nationally. The SME space is often very lonely and the lessons learnt by these business owners over the years need to be shared.”

The Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards will further build on this platform next year, starting with an SME conference in March. Here, SME decision makers will be able to voice their opinion of the operating environment presented in South Africa and the challenges faced.

The seminars, workshops and conference will focus on areas such as financial planning, financial fitness assessment, business opportunities and advice and access to finance. Information on legal developments and changes to the regulatory environment will also be shared with delegates.

Furthermore, the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® project will interact directly with public sector officials to ensure that the SME voice is heard in the highest offices.

“Our vision is that it becomes the prime conference on entrepreneurship in the country,” Martin explains.

“We believe that entrepreneurs are the true heroes of the South African, and indeed world’s, economic society.”

One step at a time

EOY winner the embodiment of real entrepreneurship

martin-beyers

Martin Beyers is no Richard Branson; he does not instantly draw you into his world with a wealth of charisma.

Neither is he a Steve Jobs; intent on taking over the world one iPod at a time.

He also does not remind you of Lakshmi Mittal; the creator of a global empire.

Yet, Beyers beat hundreds of South African business owners to win the 2010 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ®.

The reason for his success in the competition – and in business – is clear within minutes of meeting the man: he is the embodiment of real entrepreneurship.

Vision, creativity, innovation, careful planning, passion and hard work are the best adjectives to use.

 Vision

Beyers studied ceramic technology and worked as a production manager and product developer for a large multinational.

He explains that in the ceramic industry, volumes and standardised products are the name of the game.

“My passion lies in product development and I realised that my interests were not aligned with that of a big firm.”

Because the industry is so specialised, most players know each other and partner Dave Kelly approached Beyers in 2000. Kelly operated as a ceramic reseller but saw the potential a production line offered.

Today, CERadvance is completely focussed on providing its client base with specialised ceramic solutions.

The Jet Park based business is a niche player in a market filled with large conglomerates and Beyers intimately understands the operation’s place in the food chain.

Innovation

Beyers says that the ceramics industry largely focuses on the hardness aspect of their products to add value. But, ceramic is also a material that is extremely heat and corrosion resistant.

“It was only logical to focus on these elements. If you focus on solutions that are commonly available, you need to be volumes driven. This means that it is difficult to focus on niche products where you need to have a lot of interaction with the client. You only have one chance to prove yourself.

“There is space for both approaches in the market but they are extremely different.”

CERadvance acts as a technological partner to its clients where specific solutions are developed using ceramic technology. While this approach might take some time, the eventual solutions offer the client significant cost savings and improved efficiencies in the long run.

Beyers explains that the less often you have to replace a component through wear and tear, the less downtime you have in a production facility. It is this practical cost saving that allows the business to be a niche player in a standardised, volume-driven market.

“You need to understand your product and what it can do. Then, you need to able to look at specific applications. I was lucky in having clients who were hungry for better solutions and who essentially challenged us to come up with products.”

The proof is always in the pudding and CERadvance has managed to double its turnover in the last year to about R15 million.

Beyers explains that the business has grown exponentially in the last number of years as the recession has forced its clients to improve efficiencies.

Planning

For a small, niche player it always difficult to compete against large competitors. Beyers says that from day one, he attempted to provide CERadvance with a professional image that would instil confidence amongst clients.

This included ISO 9001:2000 certification, lecturing at local universities, being visible at seminars and expos and joining industry associations.

He explains that it was extremely important to let the market know that the business was not a fly by night and that their solutions were practical and offered direct value.

“No amount of marketing can beat offering value,” he says with a smile.

CERadvance finds itself in a Catch 22 situation when it comes to product development and capacity. Beyers explains that if a contract is secured, the business needs to be able to deliver immediately. But, this means investing in machinery and infrastructure when the contracts are not yet on the books.

“If you don’t take the risk you will never win. But there is a whole lot of educated guesses behind the decisions.”

This strategy has paid off over the years through continual reinvestment and at the moment, CERadvance’s factory is rapidly becoming too small for its 25 staff members and their production lines.

Hard work

Beyers’ solutions are unique to each client and he explains that you cannot implement a specific solution developed for one scenario in another.

This, to him, would be a dangerous move because he will be unable to completely guarantee the results his clients have come to expect.

But, this reality also means that there are a number of products being developed at any given time. The lead times range from a few weeks to a number of years.

“Some of our products have been in a constant state of development and improvement for six years. The secret is to have a number of products in the pipeline.”

Beyers expects that some products might become standardised as the business moves into a new era but he is quick to add that philosophy has always been “one client, one solution”.

He seems to take the pressure that comes with this business approach quite easily and the secret lies in the enjoyment received through successful product development.

 Self-evaluation

“Creativity is close to everything I do. I think that if an artist does something (remarkable), it is called creativity and if an engineer does something (remarkable) it is called innovation. To me, it is the same thing.

“You don’t have to write a business plan that says: “we will innovate”. It comes to light through the daily operational processes; by finding solutions to problems as they arise…

“There are two parts to innovation. The first is to come up with an idea and the second is to pitch this idea in a way that it defends and sells itself.

“I think there is a shortage of people in South Africa who are able to successfully commercialise their ideas.”

Beyers has learnt to constantly revaluate himself and the business and this was one of the reasons for entering the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition.

He explains that the process allowed people outside of his daily reality – the judges – to enter the operation, identify shortcomings and successes and help him to improve.

“Winning acknowledges that there is a legitimacy to the business, that it adds value and that it is worthwhile. Entrepreneurs want to know that they are on the right path.

“You constantly have to revaluate yourself to ensure that you are on the right path because the small business reality constantly changes.”