You spend plenty of time creating estimates for new clients and projects. But are you getting enough of a return on your time investment? Sending out estimates and waiting on a response isn’t enough in a competitive world. Winning the business is easier when you have an effective strategy to find out what’s working, and what isn’t. Here are eight tips and techniques for managing estimates to maximize your bottom line.
Create a System
You keep track of your jobs, once you’ve landed them. But, what about your estimates? Some companies keep track of estimates by date or sales person. Others don’t really have a consistent strategy. If you are in either category, you can up your game by treating estimates as seriously as your job files. Keep them organized in a consistent way so that you can find them quickly. There are tools out there to simplify the process for you, as well. Whether you use a contractor estimating software or just save files to your computer, technology can help you keep better records.
Write Down the Details
Making quick notes in the field while meeting a client? Take a few minutes before you leave their location to write down all the details. You may think you’ll remember all the finer points later, but those details can add up. Does the customer want a brushed nickel finish instead of stainless steel? Making quality notes is a simple act that only takes an extra few minutes. But, you’ll make your estimate writing go more quickly. More importantly, you’ll have a better command of those details if the customer asks questions later or disagrees with your estimate. Get specifics right and you’ll stand out from your competitors.
Keep Organized Records
So you made a system, and filled it with great details. Now how do you keep using it? Having a record for your clients is important, and the records of those estimates are just as important as the system. You need to be familiar with where you kept your estimates, when you created them, and your strategy in putting them together. Email trails that thread on and on only drive you – and your clients – crazy. And they don’t really keep you organized.If organizing isn’t your strong suit, this is a task you can farm out. It doesn’t have to be an ongoing expense, either. A consultant or professional organizer can give you ideas on a one-time basis.
Communicate With Your Customers
Ask your customers for their timeline regarding a response to your estimate when you submit it. Show yourself to be respectful to their needs and timetables. Encourage them to ask questions, and give feedback. No matter what, schedule a follow up. Especially if a client doesn’t give a firm timeframe, you can impress them by following through. This isn’t a pushy sales technique; this is about delivering professionalism and commitment to your business.
Follow Up Every Time
So, you scheduled that follow up with the client. But, did you put it on your own calendar? Treat that follow up call or email just as you would any appointment. You can set aside consistent times to contact all your clients, or you can use technology to remind you. Consistent reminders help the follow ups become a routine part of your day or week. Make sure they are visible, and don’t get lost in the shuffle. Treat the follow up contact times as an important part of closing the deal on new business.
Following through on the same strategy with each client makes work faster for you. After a short time, delivering estimates, recording them, and following up will be second nature. Sure, it may take more time at first. But, you’ll gain confidence and professionalism as the process becomes second nature. Consider it an important step in getting great customer reviews. Consistency will leave a great impression. And if your customers talk to each other, this is one area of professionalism that is bound to come up.
Find What Works – and What Doesn’t
One of the great benefits of having a consistent, organized system is that you can analyze its effectiveness over time. When you track what you’ve done, you can see your weaknesses and your strengths – and make changes for the better. Are you giving your clients too long to respond? Your calendar can show those weak spots. Are your detailed records helping you stand out amongst your competition? That shows when you track your follow up process.But your system isn’t set in stone. It should adapt to meet your needs, and your customers' needs. Analyzing what works and what doesn't helps you improve your estimating process and win more business.
Technology for the Entire Process
Years ago, you needed an entire office staff just to support you. Times have changed, and technology makes it all easier and faster. Service business software, like FieldPulse, offers technology to help you manage customers, estimates/invoices, and scheduling. Tools like these are worth the time you put into them because systems like FieldPulse keep digital records of all your estimates (and other records). Whether you're in the office or the field, your records are available anytime. Plus, it allows you to track your follow ups and plan your strategy.
Getting More Business from Estimates
A good estimating process is the key to keeping new revenue coming into your company. Don’t lose business by not having a good system in place. An effective estimating process will help your business grow if you manage it right. By following these recommendations, the estimating process is a great area where you can stand out from the competition and win.
Easy to use, easy to customize, and easy on your wallet.