A common part of day-to-day business life involves the creation of quotations and proposals to win business. However, we see the same basic mistakes crop up that could potentially cost the sale. Here’s some tips I’ve picked up over the years.
If a job is worth winning, make it look like you want it
A well-crafted quotation can make all the difference as to how well it is received. It’s really important to make quotations clear, easy to read, and nicely presented.
- Be consistent with use of fonts and styling.
- Present your quotation clearly and use space to make information easy to digest
- Break up long paragraphs with sub-headings
- Don’t try to be clever with the layout, simple is best
- Include plenty of page breaks – don’t cram everything onto one page
- Pictures sell, so include imagery and/or graphics to illustrate key features
Top tip – ask your marketing team to create a smart, on brand template, for such purposes and make sure everyone in your team knows how to save a document as a PDF.
Never email quotes as a Word/Excel document
Nothing says “I can’t be bothered” like emailing your quote as a Word or Excel document, especially when it is so easy to save as a PDF. It’s a mistake I’ve seen multi-million pound companies make, and they wonder why their sales conversion rate is so poor, despite their great product/service and competitive pricing.
Pre-empt objections and key questions
You know your product or service better than anyone, and therefore you will know what objections and key questions potential customers are likely to have. Use your quotation document as an opportunity to pre-empt these queries by including and overcoming them in your quotation/presentation.
Include delivery details, timescales, payment terms and exclusions. This demonstrates an understanding of where the customer is coming from and show that you are prepared not to flinch from the difficult questions.
Wherever possible, print and present the quotation in person
Many a moon ago, I posted a carefully crafted proposal to a customer. On hearing this, my sales director looked at me and snarled “you might just have well have put it in the bin!”. Never forgotten.
Taking the time to visit a customer and run through your proposal in person shows that you care; it demonstrates better customer service and gives you a vital opportunity to gauge interest, and draw out and address any objections or queries they might have. Plus, you will be remembered.
Bind your quotation/presentation in a branded report cover or folder (again, ask the marketing team for one, they are not expensive) and make the effort to go and visit your customer to run through the proposal in person. A beautifully printed and bound copy will stay on a desk (and in sight) a lot longer than an easily-forgotten email.
Many is the time I have been to visit a customer and taken pride in the fact that my professionally presented quote folder is still visible, often with my competitors’ shoddy one-pagers stuffed inside for reference too.
Follow up with the electronic version afterwards
After you have presented your quotation in person, email the customer a smartly presented electronic version, saved as a PDF (remember – NEVER as a Word doc or spreadsheet). Following up in this way also offers a valuable opportunity to answer any queries the customer may have had when you met that you didn’t have an immediate answer to at the time.
Follow up again!
OK, not a design tip, but important nonetheless. Most sales people feel decidedly uncomfortable when told to ‘close a deal’ – it feels like the opposite of treating your customers like real people. But another cardinal sin is not to follow up at all. A nice soft approach is to simply ask how the customer is getting on with evaluating the proposal, and if there’s anything else you can do or provide to help.