Putting the Horse Before the Cart

Don't let your efforts in the qualifying and quoting part of the sales process be wasted by not following through with the same amount of energy.

You may not realize it but Ron and I have serious conversations about article topics. We always ask ourselves if the subject matter is relevant to our readers. Often our client interactions spur some of the topics as well as feedback from you our readers. So if there is a subject that you would like us to write about let us know.

Three weeks ago Ron and I discussed two essential components of the sales process. Qualification and quote follow-up. Ron wrote the last article about prospect qualification. One thing we know for sure is that when our clients pay close attention to these two specific areas of the sales process you will positively impact your sales results.

We often talk and write about the importance of time management. By qualifying how you invest your time in prospects and clients will affect your results. On the back end I often wonder why anyone who has a role in quoting or estimating jobs has such a hard time following up on all that effort.

Think about the all the time that went into a site visit, blue print takes offs, reading complicated scopes of work, attending pre-construction meetings, negotiating with suppliers, costing the job and generating the quote. Whew! Often a lot more effort goes into the ordeal of generating a quote than we think. Then we ship it off by overnight mail, e-mail or even attending the bid opening.

Then you WAIT! The phone doesn't ring and there is nothing in your in-box. So what do you do next?

Do your follow-up efforts consist of calling and asking how your numbers look or leaving numerous voice mails when you have difficulty making contact? If you are doing more than this I am encouraged because we know following up is much more than this!

Let's start with the overall goal. You want to make sure when a decision is made that you are the "contractor of choice". In order to get to this conclusion different tactics are involved. Asking some poignant questions and carefully listening to the answers are key!

Remember the old cliché "the selling starts when the client says No" I want to add to that. "Be prepared for the NO". You need to anticipate possible objections from the client.

  • You need to know your product inside out and upside down
  • You need to be able to explain how your proposal solved the client's needs and problems.
  • You should be able to succinctly explain why you are better than the competition.

 If you are selling low price; your costing and production better be above the rest. If you are selling value you have to prove it. How can you do this with a quote alone? You can't!

Here is one secret! You don't sell value, you present it so the prospect wants to purchase it from you and your company. This is not done with phone calls and e-mails alone.

The best way is face-to-face! You should be asking for this additional face-to-face meeting during the initial quotation phase. You want to have an agreement that after you invest all the time and effort in preparing the quote; that you have an opportunity to present it. Part of the sales process is to obtain this meeting. I know Ron would agree if you have too much push back at this juncture you have to consciously go through a last minute qualification process again.

If you are not dealing with the decision maker then you must decide if this investment has a chance to pay off. Let's face it. You can have a great relationship with influencers; but they only have a limited amount of power and can't battle behind the scenes for every vendor. However, they may be able to get you that meeting with a higher up. When the decision maker is in another city you can arrange a phone meeting; which is better than nothing.

If you are inclined to use technology to your advantage create an on-line presentation of your proposal and an explanation of your features and benefits to increase effectiveness. You can tout value and quality; but what company doesn't. Have you ever read a phone book at that reads: Lowest Price - Average Quality? You better have more in your arsenal than this.

We know our information has to be somewhat generic because it applies to different contractors in different markets therefore, I am suggesting that every person responsible for generating sales has a very specific individualized plan for follow-ups. This consists of tracking the information and having the right contact or response at time intervals that are communicated between the buyer and seller.

Once the proposal has been delivered what will your next steps be? Another hint... You do not need to be the only person to help in the follow-up process!

  • Have an administrative person make phone contact to ensure the proposal was received if it was not hand delivered.
  • Send a short e-mail thanking the buyer for devoting time to you during the quotation process and letting him/her know you are available for any questions or clarifications. This is especially important if you had influence in determining the scope of work.
  • Suggest introducing other members of your team to the buyer after the proposal has been submitted. A business owner or somebody who would be in charge of the performance of the project adds extra confidence about your team.
  • Request that important meeting to discuss your proposal once all others have been collected from your competitors

 One question I am often asked and is highly debated is where would you like to be positioned? First one in, somewhere in the middle or last contractor in? There is no perfect answer but I would choose both first and last if I made the choice! This is the whole purpose of the follow-up cycle. You make sure you are the last person/company the buyer has contact with before making the decision!

Understand that once you have scheduled the last meeting shifting to closing principals is required. (This is another article all together) You may not get a signature right then and there but you have positioned yourself correctly. The goal was to position yourself and your company to be the contractor of choice. Your proper and persistent follow-up will help you achieve part of your goal.

Following up doesn't end once you get to the closing process. Whether you win or lose the job their needs to be a continuation of efforts. If you are the successful contractor you should monitor the project and keep in touch with your contact. Conducting a post job walk through for customer satisfaction and quality control will set you apart from less professional contractors. Additionally sending a hand written thank-you note shows your genuine appreciation for the work.

If you are less fortunate and do not obtain the project it is worth the effort to understand why. Inquire with your prospect what were the most influential deciding factors in their decision making and ask to be part of future projects. Use the information about why you lost to understand what you will do different on future opportunities.

Ron Roberts teams with Guy Gruenberg as The Contractor's Business Coach. They show contractors how to grow their businesses profitably. To sign up for their FREE Newsletter or join their Private Club, visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.

Additional Resources that Build on the Topics of this Article
Quote follow-up
Time management
When the client says No