Tips for writing a good business quotation

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Actually, I’m not talking about those kinds of quotations, although that is a good one. What I am going to share are a few tips that I’ve built up over the years for writing business proposals. Specifically, these tips are for writing proposals for companies providing trade services to consumers or small businesses, for example someone providing a quote or estimate for new carpet tiles. Although I think they will work for most other types of Service proposal. I’m not going to go down the cheesy ‘Write a sales proposal that will blow your customer away!’ or ‘Sales proposals that will increase your conversions by 1000%!’ style that are found all over the internet because most quotes or estimates sent out by tradespeople don’t have a massive amount of margin and are sent in volume, so you can’t really afford to spend too much time on each one.

Having said that, by spending a little more effort on each one and getting organised you can actually send out a very good quote in less time. I’m going to explain this by showing you an example of what I consider to be a good quote. It’s no surprise that it’s been created on Flobot free business quotation software. Now strap yourself in because this is a fairly long article.

The Example

Click the picture and open in a new tab to see it clearly or you can download it here and then just expand it.

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Make a template

Before I waffle on about the example, let me state the obvious. If you fit carpets, install boilers, landscape gardens, paint walls etc. the chances are most of your quotes look pretty much the same. So write a good proposal and save it to use as a template for the next one. That’s how I built this quote so quickly. It’s a template. Sounds like common sense, because it is – but I’m always surprised by the amount of repetitive typing that contractors do when a ‘cut and paste’ with a few adaptions is all that is often required. So, if you don’t have Flobot make a template and save it on your desktop so you can access it quickly.

Make yourself different and memorable

Most tradies (I’m going to use the Aussie slang for tradespeople because it’s good and we don’t have a better equivalent in the UK) spend most of the time working out the price for the customer and that’s where they put all their effort. Fair enough, most people will scan the quote and go straight to the price. But subconciously they are taking in the look and feel of the quote and tying it in with the meeting they had with you to form an opinion of you and your company and help them make a decision of whether or not to accept your proposal.

So, even though they go to the price first, they’ll be back. In order to win the business you have to try and differentiate yourself and show the customer that you have something to offer other than a low price. You’ll go out of business sooner or later with that model. Probably the only place you can do this after the meeting is the quote. As most customers adopt ‘the get three quotes’ selection model, a professional quote will probably eliminate one of the three straight away, regardless of price because their quote has no attention to detail, looks awful and makes the customer wonder what the standard of work will be like.

And finally, before we move to the example, don’t make your quote too long. Two or three pages is optimal, no-one is going to read any more than that, if that.

Introduction

I’ve written a nice, personalised paragraph basically showing them I care, I’ve listened to their requirements, I can solve their problem and they can get hold of me. This is important to potential customers because they want a professional to do the work and they also want to be sure that they can call you and get hold of you if it goes wrong and you aren’t going to disappear like a magician. It’s a generic sentence and comes from the template.

The Summary

The basic details of the property and how long it’s going to take (approximately). A quick scan tells the customer that I have indeed sent them the correct quote.

Description of the proposed work

Details. Put some concise but accurate details in because firstly it makes you look like you know what you’re doing but also because it makes the task sound more complicated and lengthy that it probably is and helps justify the price. You’re not conning anyone but there is a lot more to most jobs than meets the eye – let them know that.

Headings. I’ve used headings to make it easier for the customer to read, draws the eye to the points I want make and breaks up the page.

Warranty or guarantee. I have offered a warranty because new customers are risk averse. If they haven’t done business with you before this will give them some peace of mind and even if your competitors are cheaper, they may not offer any guarantee of the work. Always try and add something.

Payment terms. I like to get everything up front and leave nothing to chance when it comes to payment. Have the conversation early and let them know you won’t be waiting for payment – this is the subject of many of my other posts.

Pictures. They say a thousand words. It helps visualize the project. In my case I’ve put some tile samples in followed by a ‘here’s what it could look like’ shot.

About us. To top it off I have put in a picture of the team (it’s not actually, this is a team from thelittlecarpetshop.co.uk thanks guys!cavendish devere
). It’s cheese on toast, but I tell you it works because ‘people buy people’ as my brother Stephen says. He’s right and that’s why they pay him the big bucks. Now, I’m not advocating a flippant approach if you’re looking to provide services to Buckingham Palace but for domestic work and small businesses a few pictures of your contractors on real life jobs instils confidence into your customer that you are a real outfit and you take pride in what you do.

I’ve added a little bit of blurb about the company but not too much. Remember the quote is about the customer not you. ‘Tellin’ ain’t sellin’. (Another one of my brother’s soundbites, I’ll list them one day.)

Awards, testimonials and accreditations. I don’t really need to explain why you need these in here, do I?

Breakdown of Costs. The juicy bit as far as your customer is concerned is the Breakdown of Costs. I have tried it many ways over the several years I’ve been sending proposals and I’ve come to the conclusion that less is more but too little is not enough. This is probably the topic of another post so I won’t dwell on it here but the trick is to put enough details in so you don’t look like you’re hiding anything but not too much that they get resentful over the labour charges or start looking on the internet to work out your margin on the materials. No-one like to feel like they are being ripped off, but customers rarely take into account that you are running a business, that you need to make profit and that your business costs are incorporated into the materials and labour. Anyway, I digress. This section is short and sweet and to the point.

Further details

This section is where you are going to put your ‘call to action’ or create your ‘compelling event’. I use two methods, the one on the example is to offer the customer a discount for making a quick decision. The other one I use is to tell them that I am going to call them on Friday afternoon to discuss the quote with them so we can take the next steps. It’s good practice to chase up your quotes on the telephone because it gives you the opportunity to sell your services again and make you stand out from the crowd. With that statement I’ve now primed them for a call and assumed they will be purchasing. I find it increase my closing ratio significantly.

If you’re not comfortable with that use the first method but whatever you do don’t leave it with ‘if you have any questions please give me a call’. They won’t call and you deserve a response whether it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ for all the hard work you’ve already put it to secure their business – never forget that.

In summary

Spend a little time making a template that you can send out to potential clients quickly
Adapt it to make it more personal
Add pictures to enable them to visualize the successful project
Put in details of the job, accreditations and testimonials to build your credibility as a professional with the client
Show enough but not too much of the breakdown of your costs
Create a compelling event to entice them to buy
Close more business and make more money

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