You might think that quoting for a customer’s RFP (request for a proposal) is a fairly straightforward thing. After all, they send you a bunch of requirements for a product or service, then you put the relevant teams in your organization onto the task. Within a couple of days or weeks, dependent upon the complexity of the request, you send them a price per unit or for a given deliverable, then your senior sales people start to negotiate.
It’s how business has been done, in one way or another, for centuries. Nowadays, analyzing how your business works has got a fancier name, under the label people, process and technology (PPP).
Also, consider for a moment the fact that the world is now a much smaller place than it was, where nowadays, virtually any individual or organization is discoverable and contactable. Even 50 years ago, pre-internet, if you were a hotel looking to re-carpet your entire building in a refurb, you might get three quotes from known carpet suppliers. But you might be blissfully unaware that there was always a cheaper supplier only in the next county, but you’d never heard of them because you didn’t listen to local radio advertising or read the appropriate local newspapers!
Nowadays, a Google search will discover a plethora of goods and service providers locally, nationally and internationally at the click of a mouse. That’s why it’s essential to leverage the very best quotes you can muster for your customers, by using quote software. At the outset, it’s important to understand that there are really just three types of businesses that might need to use appropriate technology to help with their quoting needs:
Firstly, a very small business such as a sole tradership performing one job at a time might not need quote software at all. For example, a joiner making bespoke door frames and window frames for grand country houses will almost certainly be able to work out an accurate quote with a tape measure and a pen & paper. He’ll deliver the products in his own van and fit them with one other colleague, write an invoice on an old-fashioned carbon-paper pad and give it to the building owner. He’ll probably walk away with a roll of cash in the pocket or a check in the wallet. Straightforward stuff.
However, a medium-sized business (SME) with fifty or so employees might be producing several hundred door frames per week for three or four national building firms. They have to account for shipping costs, sales taxes, building regulations in various jurisdictions if delivering nationally, a whole lot more stuff than the sole trader needs to think about. In this case, it’s likely that some sort of digital transformation needs to be used in conjunction with the company’s regular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
Then you have the huge corporate timber manufacturing company with thirty factories across several countries, employing thousands of workers. Clearly, the complexities involved in cross-border shipping and manufacturing items for hundreds of different customers requires CPQ software (configure, price, quote) – this is an advanced form of quoting software, used for complex scenarios such as discount for quantity when bundling related products, or configuring customizable facilities that would be unavailable to non-bulk buyers.
So how to choose the best quote software? Do you need it, or is the back of a cigarette packet sufficient? Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider.
Audit your needs:
Firstly, if you have more than half a dozen employees, the chances are you’re going to need some form of technology to ensure that your quotes are accurate and competitive. Take into account the complexity of the products or services you offer, any customization options and any current integration with existing systems. Does this integration offer scalability if you secure a big order and have to start taking on subcontractors, for example?
Use reviews from established platforms:
You can research various technology solutions such as CPQ or at least CRM systems with quoting capabilities. Head over to a platform like Capterra – that have at least a degree of kudos in the market and read their reviews. Avoid any software advertised just via a couple of LinkedIn posts, carrying misspelled comments like: ‘This is great softwear, we use it all the time in our manufacturing company…’ (which, incidentally, probably doesn’t exist anyway).
It might seem obvious, but any chosen tech should be usable at a glance for anyone to use. The graphical user interface (GUI) should be understandable to the banana-fingered warehouse employee, who might be good at lifting big boxes but not so hot on keyboard & screen skills. A complex or confusing interface can lead to friction points, especially if your Frankenstein monster gentle giant warehouse guy sends 50 products to a customer instead of the ordered five.
Remote Access to software:
When sales teams and delivery crews are on the road, can any chosen software be accessed either by remote login or via an app? Is the security strong on that login portal? It’s likely that the days of your employees carrying around clipboards bulging full of printed paper are gone, so remote access is paramount. However, the last thing you want to do is make it easy for hackers to break into your system with ransomware, then delete all your data just for a bit of malicious fun. Industry standard encryption access to any software accessed by employees is of paramount importance.
You might need to create highly customized quotes, in which case a CPQ package is probably more appropriate than a simple CRM bolt-on. Ensuring that any technology you choose can handle a diversity of pricing scenarios and customization options is key.
Training Employees to use quote software:
Depending on the complexity of the package under consideration, it might be pertinent to see if the technology vendor has any training programs in place, or what their level of support can handle. If your employees are all staring at their screens scratching their heads with no procedure in place to answer their questions, you’ve got a big problem. Also, is the onboarding process smooth and easy for new users to understand any platform, what it does and how it works.
In summary, most businesses can’t afford to simply do nothing about updating or adopting quote software, but the most important thing is to be on top of the situation. Any time a quote isn’t accepted by a customer, ask yourself this one important question, and try to answer it honestly:
‘If I had access to more information, or had time to analyze exactly why the quote was turned down, would I have been able to do anything differently so that the prospect would have accepted it?’
If the answer is ‘yes’ or even ‘maybe’ then you need to turn to better technology when providing quotes.