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.

Hidden life stage selling opportunities

The needs of all consumers change over time as they age. It is my sense that many business owners miss out on the repeat business opportunities presented by this single life eventuality.

There are many permutations of life stage segmentation models available. I found the one below easy to understand.

Life stage segment Age and Family

Young Adults

Adults aged 20 – 39 with no children

Older Adults

Adults aged 40 – 59 with no children

Young Families

Adults with all children under 10

Older Families

Adults with one or more children over 10

Pensioners

Adults over 60 with no children

Mixed  

Multigenerational households

The application of such a framework in business is best understood by using a case study.

Most of us are clients of the motor vehicle manufacturing industry.

Enter Peter:

As a student, his parents gave him a second-hand vehicle.

He was fortunate to land a dream job after he finished his qualification. At this stage he wanted to update his 1995 student car. (He is now a Young Adult – see Life stage segment above)

He chose a branded vehicle dealership and purchased a pre-owned, newish vehicle. If the salesperson was savvy and had the business processes to support him, he would have captured the client`s information which is then used (with his permission) to:

  • SMS/e-mail updates on new models, special deals and service reminders using conventional communication mechanisms and social media platforms
  • prompt him after a period of time that his vehicle might be due for an upgrade, because of the kilometres done, or the age of the vehicle.

In this way the dealership is keeping their brand top of mind with the client – a personal telephonic check-in by the salesperson with an invitation to try out a new(er) vehicle may increase the likelihood of Peter considering this dealership/brand when he is in the market for another vehicle.

Fast forward a couple of years:

Peter is now well vested with this vehicle brand and has purchased numerous vehicles from them. He is married and has a 17 year old daughter. Because the dealership kept track of Peter`s life stage (Older Family – see Life stage segment above) and has an updated family record, they know he has a daughter who might be in the market for a student vehicle soon. Instead of leaving things to chance, they congratulate Peter on his daughter`s 17th birthday and offer to help him find a suitable vehicle for his daughter when he is ready to pursue this need.

I trust that the principle and benefits of:

  • capturing a client’s details and life stage,
  • ensuring that the record is kept up to date,
  • tracking the changes in the family structure,
  • using life events as selling/upsell opportunities

become very clear from the above.

Can you apply these principles in your specific business to increase/improve sales in a difficult economic environment?

“Interpreted information becomes a knowledge resource which enables directed and relevant marketing endeavours.”

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.

Six ways for businesses to become pillars of the community

Many businesses make a point of giving, from sponsoring sports gear to donating goods to a nearby charity. By helping out in this way, the thinking goes, the business fosters goodwill and loyalty in the community.

But charitable giving is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways in which businesses can contribute towards the welfare of the communities and cement their position as good corporate citizens. Gugu Mjadu, executive general manager: marketing at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), lists six ways in which businesses are sure to become pillars of their community.

Make your business profitable

In a certain sense, it sounds like the polar opposite of being community minded or charitable. But being profitable is the single biggest contribution that a business can make to the community in which it is based. It means that the service it provides is sustainable, and that community members will be able to rely on it being there next year and the year after.

Being profitable means that the jobs provided by the business to members of the community are stable, dependable and long-term.

In contrast, the respect earned by the big-tipping type of business owner who prioritizes buying flashy cars over business sustainability is as superficial and short-lived as the business itself.

Train your staff

All over the world, small and medium businesses are responsible for a huge amount of work-place training, simply because they cannot afford to appoint fully trained workers like big corporations can. They appoint youngsters with the understanding that the salary will not be great to start off with, but there will be lots of training. And in a small-business setting the worker is often in close proximity to the owner, who can constantly give expert feedback and on-the-job training.

In South Africa, where state-provided basic education and vocational training is to a large extent struggling, the role of the small business in keeping vocational skills alive has become absolutely critical. The few workers who are well trained and educated tend to work for bigger companies, while small businesses tend to employ untrained youngsters from their community in return for on-the-job training.

Yet the idea of training sits uncomfortably with many small business owners, who fear that all their investment in the on-the-job training of a youngster will be lost when they are poached by bigger businesses as soon as they are proficient.

It is bound to happen at some stage to every small business, but the fear is overrated. Research shows that one of the best ways to instill loyalty in workers is by providing skills development. The few who do leave for better-paying jobs are indeed the business owner’s contribution to the industry skills pool, which, although it may not be immediately apparent, benefits every business in the long term.

Be visible to the community

A business owner’s presence in the community provides another crucial contribution to the development of South Africa, which urgently needs role models to show the youth that self-employment or entrepreneurship is a valid and worthy alternative to working for someone else.

Business owners do not have to be flashy or glamorous in order to make an impression on the youth. A solid presence as a role model can be established by low-key involvement such as giving talks at schools or serving on the board of a local community project. And here charitable giving can play its most important role. When business owners sponsor the kit of a local soccer team, for example, the value they provide as role models is worth much more than the price of the donation.

Mentor young entrepreneurs

Apart from the general role modeling that business owners can do in their communities, they can also focus on imparting skills and knowledge to up and coming young business owners in their industry.

Even though they are strictly speaking competitors, the bond developed by mentorship is beneficial to both businesses. Experienced business owners can refer overflow work to the young entrepreneurs they mentor, and can strengthen their capacity by forming joint ventures with them.

Experienced business owners can also join, or set up, formal mentorship programmes. BUSINESS/PARTNERS, for example, has a pool of more than 300 business owners in its mentorship programme. Many of the participants are retired business owners who want to contribute to South Africa’s economic development by sharing their extensive experience with the younger generation of business owners.

Be vocal about issues that hurt your business

Workers have well established structures and methods to make a noise and exert pressure when they feel their rights are being threatened. Students are again finding their voice to raise awareness about their plight. But the voice of the business owner is largely silent, even in the face of serious damage inflicted by unnecessary red tape. Big business, when they do speak up, often do not face the same challenges as small businesses.

An important part of the problem is that business owners are too busy to spend much time participating and setting up local business associations. But it also has to do with a lack of a culture of activism. Join your local chamber or business association, even if it is dominated by big business, and even if you contribute just an hour or two per month. In their numbers, the voice of small business can become powerful.

Innovate

You don’t have to change the world like Google, or shake up industries like Elon Musk. Incremental and localized innovation is hugely beneficial to the community. Every time a business introduces something as simple as SMS notifications to its clients, or a new method copied from overseas, life becomes a little more convenient, products and services a little better or cheaper, and the business itself a little stronger.