Those who work in sales and create sales quotes can attest that relationship building can be an important part of success.
More of an art than a science, being able to build great connections with new clients includes being able to walk a fine line in your communication style. You can balance your natural flow of conversation while staying conscious of where you can add value, and show genuine interest in your prospects’ endeavors and challenges while maintaining the professional front of the company.
However, even after you’ve established strong relationships and have built your client base, there are still little nuances to be aware of. Taking established accounts for granted and making assumptions that your company is the service provider of choice, or that your chain of communication ends at your key contact, can be a grave mistake.
As co-founder and CEO of voiceover marketplace Voices.com, I've come to find that how we build and preserve relationships can hinge on one key form of communication: the sales quote. Over the course of my time in business, we've predominantly focused on the way sales quotes are provided. In fact, the "How Much Does it Cost?" page is our most visited FAQ.
It can be too easy to treat sales quotes simply as numbers on a page or numbers given straight over the phone.
How Interactions Can Fail When Sales Quotes Are Brought Up
When you’re in the flow of conversation with a potential client, the topic of price naturally comes up. You may feel pressured to give sales quotes right on the spot, but there can be a few problems with this practice:
1. Without "good fences," businesses and clients can quickly become bad neighbors. When a sales rep gives out a number off the cuff, all too often, the number that’s given doesn’t come with any parameters.
The desire to give this number out immediately may come from a place of wanting to help, but what it achieves can be the exact opposite. That's because the prospect or client doesn’t know exactly what services have been included—or the cost of each—meaning they may not truly understand the value your company brings to the table.
2. Casual communication could end up where it doesn’t belong. Giving sales quotes over the phone or even in an email doesn’t give your client much to report back to their decision makers. Imagine a handwritten note or a plain, printed-out email arriving in a boardroom presentation alongside formal quotes provided by your competitors: This doesn't exactly create an image representative of your company’s true competitive edge.
3. Sales quotes without a breakdown is like an open door for a dispute. Quotes without parameters or breakdowns on what they include can become points of conflict down the road. This can be especially true when your client’s project expands or changes in scope and you have to adjust your fees.
Ensuring that clients understand not only the services you’re quoting, but the scope of the project they’re meant to cover, can help both parties get on the same page. It can also help form a good base to work from should the project change over time.
Generating Competitive Sales Quotes
Even your best clients may still compare you to the competition. Luckily, it doesn't take much to generate competitive sales quotes that stand out.
At the bare minimum, a professional sales quote should have three key qualities:
1. Just like you, your quote should dress for the job it wants. In the business world, it’s not shallow to admit that looks matter. I recommend making branding consistent across all your communications—your corporate logo, colors and style should be represented in your quotes.
It can be difficult for your sales team to be the physical embodiment of your brand at all times. That's why it is important to have your sales quotes and collateral represent you in places where you cannot be. Make sure that they show up to the meeting looking their best. After all, your competitors will be pulling out all the stops, so why shouldn’t you?
2. Even ballpark figures should accurately reflect your pricing structure. Our quotes include all end-to-end services we've committed to providing to complete the project. This means the client receives an accurate reflection of the work we’ve agreed to take on and the cost that will be incurred for such services, including copywriting, translation, audio production and voice over, and overall project management services and flexible billing options.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning the value of keeping detailed records. Salesforce allows us to merge our communications into a PDF and ensures that both the prospect and our company can look back at what was communicated, what the project parameters were and what services were included in the total quote.
3. Pay attention to the fine print. If you have disclaimers and terms and conditions, the sales quote is an appropriate place to include them. This helps avoid surprises down the road when the client is ready to sign on the dotted line.
Although easily overlooked, the way that you present estimates and final figures to your clients can have the power to set the tone for your future relationship (including whether or not you will even have a relationship). Far from just "being lucky," yours could be the business that was prepared for the exact moment that opportunity presents itself.
David Ciccarelli is the co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).