Quotes and Proposals (QP) represent a mission-critical CRM business process that has received almost no help and attention from the CRM marketplace. Putting together a timely, accurate, professional quote or proposal is perhaps the single most important part of the sales process, yet it is often left to a kind of "mystical voodoo" within an organization-often a difficult process that is poorly controlled and tracked.
While completely solving the QP challenge can require more thought and action, there are some relatively simple steps you can take to vastly improve the process, improve customer satisfaction, and close more business more quickly.
1. Keep your commitments-deliver the QP on time.
While somewhat obvious and generally good advice, this is particularly important when it comes to quotes and proposals because creating and delivering the quote is often the first commitment made to a prospective customer. Keeping that promise sets the tone for the relationship-however long or short it might be.
The easiest way to handle this challenge is to avoid overcommitting on your QP delivery date. However, shaving hours off the time it can take to prepare an accurate, professional QP document is helpful as well. A tool that reduces the time and difficulty factor of creating a QP will also make it easier for the sales professional to sit down and tackle the job. If you're still using Word and Excel for your quotes, take a look around for a better tool or software package that can automate the process.
2. Check the spelling and the math.
In a recent study of more than 50 quotes and proposals, greater than 50 percent of the documents had math or spelling errors, while incredibly 28 percent had both math AND spelling errors.
Peer or management review and even approval of QPs can really improve the quality of the documents you present to your customers. Tools that ensure your math is never wrong can also be a tremendous boost to overall accuracy. Any time a salesperson must manually edit the QP document-especially numbers and pricing-there's a risk of error. Finding a QP automation tool that removes manual editing from the picture can really improve quality.
3. Get connected to your supplier catalogs.
Many quotes and proposals involve goods and services from suppliers and are therefore based on the catalog prices and costs of those suppliers. Nowadays you can integrate with many suppliers and access easy, real-time access to pricing, promotion, rebate, and other product content. This can dramatically decrease the time spent looking for such information and, just as dramatically, improve the accuracy of your quote, allowing you to take full advantage of the latest pricing and other terms and offers from your suppliers.
4. Deliver the QP to customers the way they want it.
There are many delivery options and delivery formats for the QP you have prepared for your customer: emailed as a regular document format; made available on a secure Web site; formatted for a mobile device; PowerPoint presentation; HTML web page; or PDF document.
So how should we deliver the quote or proposal? Exactly the way the customer wants us to, with the added caveat that the QP should be delivered in such a way that the customer can't lose or misplace it, and preferably so the customer can access it wherever they might be.
5. Make changes quickly and deliver them promptly.
Although possibly caused by mistakes in your original QP document, it's usually a great sign when customers request changes to your proposals. It shows they're interested, and paying attention, and moving toward saying "yes." This is no time to camp on the document-quite the opposite. It's time to move quickly and put a fresh proposal in front of the customer.
All of the other rules apply when iterating on your proposal. Keep your quality high by making your changes carefully-check the math and spelling. Get a peer or management review, if possible. If you make a specific commitment regarding the delivery time frame for the changes, keep it-but in any case, make the changes as quickly as your process allows.
These five suggestions can be applied regardless of what your quote and proposal processes are, or what tools you use in those processes. The good news is that a new generation of Quote and Proposal Automation (QPA) software packages is finally arriving to help sales professionals and organizations with these and other challenges in the QP process.
What has traditionally been a very manual or homegrown series of steps to get a proposal into the hands of your customer can now be streamlined and smooth. The ultimate goal is to close more win/win business with new and existing customers.
About the Author
Kent McNall is the CEO and cofounder of Quosal, creators of software that automates sales quote and proposal preparation and document management. Prior to founding Quosal, Kent was president of Gas Powered Games, a world-renowned developer of top entertainment titles.
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