If you’re like many service industry businesses, you have to assume that every job you quote will be quoted by other providers too. And in this competitive environment, the percentage of “jobs quoted” that become “jobs won” is your Close Rate, one key measurement of your company’s growth. And of course your close rate is greatly influenced by winning contested sales. If the customer doesn’t like your price, or they don’t like your quote, or you don’t get it to them at the right time, somebody else will probably get the job. They don’t usually tell you why, either, so you’re left guessing about how to win their business next time and how to improve your close rate with the next opportunity.
There are lots of things about how a customer receives your quote that will influence how it’s received. The “Three Ps” (Presentation, Professionalism and Price) are an important place to start. Every customer has their own minimum expectations for how well a quote is presented, how professional the service provider is and how much they will pay for a job. If you fail to provide an Acceptable bid… one that meets their version of the three Ps… they won’t consider you.
But once you’ve met the minimum requirements to be considered, you start competing for real. And customer reactions are completely subjective. Some will pay more if your quote seems more “official”, while others will settle for a sketchy quote if you seem personally trustworthy and professional. Some rely on brand recognition, while some can be influenced by a good salesperson. And while some customers chose the lowest price and are willing to risk lower service, others pick the most expensive provider and think that paying more will buy them better quality.
The thing is, every customer is different, and each reaction is subjective. So using one tactic to improve your overall close rate isn’t always effective. Sure sometimes the customer will only go for the lowest bid, or sometimes they’re very specific about billing or service times. But much of the time, the customer’s reaction to your quote is framed by random influences and by your quote’s context against the other quotes the customer gets.
Get There First
It seems there’s no one single answer for how to close more sales, and even price isn’t always the best way to win more customers. But cutting across all the random factors that can influence your close rate, we see one factor that seems to have a positive influence most of the time
The single most-powerful way to influence customers to pick you, might be just to get your quote there first. We think a couple factors influence this.
1. I Want info Now!
By the time a customer calls and asks about a service, they’ve probably been thinking about this work for some time. And the more impatient the customer, the more valuable it is to be the first bidder. The first quote will be the first feedback they’ve received about their project, and they’re likely to examine it more closely and think about it more deeply than they will with later bids. They’ll also see your fast turn time as a favorable indication that you’ll get the work done on time too. So even if they’re not ready to make a decision, the impression of your fast response leaves you in a favorable light when decision time comes.
2. Setting the Tone
If your quote arrives in the customer’s hands before anyone else’s, your quote becomes the benchmark they use for comparison. For job scope, this is a huge advantage. The order and process you quote will be the first way the customer visualizes the job being done. If they really like some specific aspect of your quote, they may even demand it from subsequent quotes, making it harder on competitors to change the discussion and drive the sale. And for pricing, if your price is the benchmark, any quote far above yours looks like price gouging, while any quote far below yours looks too good to be true.
3. Quick on the Trigger
And of course some of these customers are really excited to get their job started or just don’t have the time to agonize over multiple quotes. For these customers, being the first one in with an acceptable bid might just be all it takes to win the job. If they’ve already hired you before the competition gets their bids in, you win… Period.
How to be first?
Being first clearly has advantages, but it isn’t always easy. There are two key components of this… Being accessible and having quick turn times.
First off, it requires dedication to being accessible and responsive. You need to be ready to respond to customer inquiries when the customer is ready to talk. This might require hiring and answering service or the addition of dedicated staff to answer phones and quickly respond to customer inquiries. If you are a small operation, it might even mean taking sales calls while in the field. But ideally, it means that when a customer contacts you, you’re ready to engage with them immediately.
Have Faster Turn Times
Once you’ve made contact, you have a specific window of time before the first competitive quote arrives. This might be minutes or it might be days, and you have no way of knowing. Obviously, the best way to get your quote there first is to get it there as fast as possible.
We’ve seen lots of our customers have success with sending quotes by email. It saves a day over the post, and it saves drive time (and expense) over dropping off a quote in person. Some companies generate their quotes out of an integrated software system, but all you really need is a basic computer and word processing software that’s readily available from Microsoft, Google or others.
And of course all our customers use Go iLawn or Go iPave to assess their jobsites online. In addition to the many presentation and accuracy advantages of online property assessment, our software helps you quote jobs much faster. You eliminate drive time, so a simple job quote can be measured up online, put together, and emailed off to a client within just a few minutes of their call. And if you’re quoting lots of jobs, we eliminate overhead time, so you can get more done in an hour. You can switch between properties in a few seconds, rather than using your time to map the site, drive to it, measure it, and draw up a quote.
If you have targeted neighborhoods you want to own for service, or maybe you have customers you really want to upsell, you could also have quote pre-work done before the customer calls. It may sound like a lot of work to do on speculation, but we see our Go iLawn and Go iPave customers do it all the time. If you have a customer for job XXXX and you assess their site using our software, it would be easy to also assess the site in case the customer wants to move ahead with job YYYY and job ZZZZ. if you’ve already done the work, you can literally quite them on the phone. What could be faster than that?
What works for you?
Is being first a goal at your company? Why or why not?
And what’s your secret for being first? Tell us in the comments!