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Winning Quotes and Proposals - Which of These Two Companies Would Get YOUR Business?

By Chris Newton

Imagine for a moment that you’re from Smith Industries. You have these two quotes in front of you for a print job of 55,500 new brochures for your company. Which one do you call up and give your printing job to?

It’s a critical question. While you’re pondering this, ponder also what your own clients and prospects are thinking about your company’s communications.

On the face of it, you’d simply have to give your work to B/Y Printers, wouldn’t you? After all, they’re quoting on exactly the same job, with exactly the same specifications, and their quote is £677 less than PPS Print. No contest!

Ahhh, but there are some facts I didn’t tell you…

You see, PPS Print is a truly professional organisation, with a commitment to excellence, with excellent back-up support, leading edge technology, a team of highly trained specialists delivering additional value added services, and a reputation that earns them one of the highest repeat business rates in the industry.

And B/Y Printers? … well, that really stands for ‘BACK YARD’ Printers. They operate out of a dingy workshop with ink stains on the wall, and something green growing out of the coffee cups, with out of date machinery and no systems. The owner is a ‘one-man-band’ who runs himself ragged doing the printing, running around doing all the quotes, and slapping together ‘artwork’ for clients’ jobs. As you might imagine, he is continually cutting corners wherever he can to keep his chaotic business going.

The result you’re going to get will be … well, a back yard job. The inks will be a bit washed out, the trim on some of your new brochures might be just a bit crooked, the photographs a bit smudgy. You may well find that you end up dumping the lot and starting again! Suddenly that £677 has been the most expensive ‘saving’ you’ve ever made!

But here’s the catch. You weren’t to know any of that from just the two quote forms. So how could you be expected to make an informed decision? Or more to the point, how did PPS Print expect you to make an informed decision when their quote form does nothing to educate you and build value around their added benefits?

Sadly, while B/Y Printing is (fortunately) a hypothetical company, the scenario isn’t! So many great companies miss out on business because they fail to tell their story. They fail dismally to demonstrate the value that makes up their price.

In truth, the real company in this exercise, PPS Print, delivers amazing service and value added benefits. Owner Marcus Brailsford is a committed and experienced expert in the printing trade. When he ‘quotes’ on a job for a prospective client, he runs through his mind an entire checklist of items … appropriate paper stocks, different inks that will give different results on different papers, different sizes, cuts and folds to make the job more economical and eye appealing, checking the quality of the client’s photographs and thinking about graphic design and fonts for reproduction.

Trouble is, you wouldn’t know that from his ‘quote’ form, would you?

You wouldn’t know that he also has an in-house professional graphic design team, continually invests in the latest equipment and technology, has a maintenance program so he can guarantee delivery times, and that he has a robust database back up facility to protect his clients’ files and previous artwork, and so the list goes.

As a client, I suspect you’d agree that any one of these benefits could be worth many times the £677 in his ‘more expensive’ quote. But it begs the question: Why hasn’t he communicated these things? (Truth be told, he’s now working with our team at Results to achieve exactly that.)

I am convinced that with more effective communication, he could easily increase his current 20% ‘conversion rate’ of enquiries to sales, to 40% or more. And he’d be doing LESS quotes too, because in communicating what his company stands for, some enquirers will deselect themselves before he wastes hours every month doing quotes for people he doesn’t want to work with.

Many companies fall into a big trap here. They calculate the ‘profit’ on the jobs they get. But don’t really factor in the cost of the quotes they sweated over producing but didn’t get. In the case of PPS Print, at 20% conversion, the 8 out of 10 jobs they’re NOT getting could be costing them as much £2,800 by the time you take into account the costs of marketing, sales meetings, travel, preparing quotes and following up. This cost has to be offset against the two jobs they do get. Which is why most companies lose money on the first sale, and often don’t even realise it.

Just briefly in summary, let’s explore the potential that Marcus has for communicating his ‘special added value’ which should be explained in his quotes and proposals.

  1. You’ll remember that I mentioned that Marcus runs a mental checklist through his mind of quality checks and items when he’s assessing a client’s job? Here’s the catch. HE knows what in his mind, and the value of that information, but the client has little perception of those vital elements. Imagine though if he had a hard copy checklist that he went through with the client, outlining his 25 or 30 key production, design and strategy considerations. Reps from other companies who come in and ‘quote’ merely on the cost of paper and ink and print run time will be exposed as lightweight in comparison when compared with the creativity, professionalism and thoroughness displayed by PPS Print.

  2. And how about this? When he makes an appointment to visit a prospect, what if he sends them a copy of his checklist IN ADVANCE, so they can start thinking about some of the key issues they’ll be covering? Suddenly, he goes from a ‘cap in hand salesperson’ to a high level consultative expert in his field.

  3. Then there’s the ‘mindset’. Marcus is wisely pretty discriminating as to whom he goes out to visit. In contrast, the average ‘cap in hand salesperson’ runs out to see just anyone who enquires. And not surprisingly, they get treated like a doormat! Marcus has a powerful opportunity to position himself and his company here, on the phone, BEFORE he agrees to assess their print job. It can be a simple script, something like this: ‘John, from what you’ve told to me so far, PPS Print may be the right solution for you. So that we can be sure you’re a match for the type of work we do, let me just ask …’. This enables Marcus to qualify the prospect on their expectations on quality, budget, timing and so on. If they qualify, he can explain how the relationship progresses from there to completing the job. Of course, if he feels the prospect is not a ‘match’, he can courteously explain that, and save himself a wasted quote.

  4. What about the printed quote presentation he sends out? Can you also see that this is a brilliant opportunity to RE-sell all of the great value-add benefits he brings to the table. He could start by wording his actual pricing/specifications to build in more value. Instead of ‘Artwork – PPS to create’, this should read: ‘Because this project is so important to you, your brochure will be designed by our specialist team of graphic designers to deliver outstanding professionalism and visual impact.’ Instead of ‘Packaging – Packed as convenient’, it should read: ‘From our discussions, your distribution company requires bundles of 1,500. With that in mind, we’ll band up the brochures in lots of 1,500 and clearly mark the boxes for accuracy and efficiency. We will do this at no extra charge as a service to you.’

  5. As well, Marcus should attach a second page with the quote form, a quick-read sheet that bullet points the value added elements offered by PPS Print.

  6. Just a quick word on ‘Quotes’. Personally, I don’t like the word. I believe it should be banned! ‘Quote’ means ‘this is just a price, shop against me’. In reality, if you set the expectations correctly up front, by the time you get to doing a well articulated, value-added ‘proposal’, you should have such a working relationship with the potential client, unless there are some horrible surprises in there, it should be green lights all the way. We could spend a whole article on this topic.

  7. And a last word … have a look at the bottom of PPS Print’s (actual) quote format above. That bit at the bottom, ‘Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.’ ARRGGGHHH. Never put that on a proposal, a letter, or anywhere else. It’s tantamount to saying, ‘I don’t care if you throw this in the bin now’. Successful business is all about keeping control of the transaction. This sentence should read, ‘You may have some questions before we move forward. With that in mind, Marcus Brailsford will be in touch with you over the next few days. Naturally, feel free to contact him direct in the meantime. Thank you again for your business!

Well there you are, even a seemingly simple thing as a Quote form (Proposal), offers a myriad of opportunities to enhance the positioning and profitability of any organisation, and to dramatically increase the number and quality of jobs that come out of them. We’ve just scratched the surface in this article. I trust however this exercise has been thought provoking and of value to you in your own business.

Want to learn more about creating winning quotes and proposals?

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