Quote management isn’t a predictable block on your schedule. Demand for new products or services can unpredictably explode — or tank. A timely example is the demand for new solutions or services for the restaurant industry, hard hit by the the shutdown related to coronavirus.
Of course, you always want to generate a healthy volume of quotes, but if you use manual quote management methods it’s probably easier for you when demand is low. Working on a single quote at a time, value-added resellers (VARs) or managed services providers (MSPs) aren’t too hard-pressed to look up product availability and pricing on individual distributors’ websites, referring to in-house price and bundle lists, and checking math. It’s time-consuming, but probably manageable.
When the economy takes an upturn, and pent-up demand is released, however, you could find out just how error-prone manual quoting processes can be.
Brian Laufer, Vice President of QuoteWerks, explains, “With a manual process you’re having to work in multiple systems while updating these systems each time a change is made. What happens when you forget to update one of those systems? Now your reporting is off. What happens if that errored quote turns into an order? Now your order is wrong. Then your purchasing is wrong. Your invoicing is wrong. One mistake snowballs into multiple issues.”
“It’s important to have a quote management tool with automation features. These include integrations into your CRM and PSA systems, distributors and price files, and accounting when the quote is won,” he says. “Document management and tracking are also important, so a quoting tool should also give you the ability to utilize customized and branded documentation, customized templates, and a built-in approval process to ensure accuracy.”
Parker Trojanowski, a Product Manager for the ConnectWise product team, stresses the benefits of templates. “You can create templates and even assign them to specific sales teams if needed. Templates containing the products, pricing, language, etc., will help you efficiently get quotes out faster,” he says. “As the demand for quotes spikes, sales reps can select templates and update quantities to send out quotes quickly.”
Laufer adds that quote management tools with capabilities such as sending electronic versions of quotes, enable online acceptance, signature, and payment are also beneficial — especially in an era of social distancing. “This helps streamline the process for both parties being able to execute an agreement much faster and collect payment to get started. These quotes can be interactive, including different options that the customer can select, videos about products and services, and built-in collaboration features enabling the customer and sales rep to communicate in one place.”
For more information on quote management tool features, see DevPro Journal’s Product Comparison.
Dealing with a High Demand for Quotes
Trojanowski says VARs and MSPs should prepare now, anticipating the types of quotes their customers will be looking for when the economy picks back up again.
“The higher demand will likely have some commonality and center around more service-based items than physical products,” Trojanowski says. “Quoting them quickly is important, but a quote tool that is built into a larger platform provides will give you the ability to quickly convert these won deals to service tickets and agreements. Having signed contracts and information automatically attached to service tickets and agreements makes things far more efficient when you need to work smarter, not harder.”
Trojanowski adds, “It’s important to understand the economic impact that your customers are facing and adjust your pricing strategy accordingly. If you do not have a pricing strategy, try to find the time to make one as soon as possible. You may need to make hard decisions and offer a deeper discount — or not sell a deal because it will ultimately cost your business more in the long run. A great quoting tool can help support those decisions, but solid strategy gives you a starting point to work from.”
He points out that the right quote management tool can help tip the scales in your favor. “Including a personalized video message in the quote and understanding when prospects are interacting with the quote so you can place a well-timed follow-up call could make all the difference in winning their business,” he says. “A properly configured quote management solution will help keep you organized and efficient as the demand for services increases.”
“These are the moments that will help define your business for years to come, and your customers will remember how you served them in this time of need,” Trojanowski says.
Make the Best Use of Downtime
Laufer comments that if your business is experiencing a slow-down now, you should view it as an opportunity. “Many times, MSPs are so busy that there is little time to look at the resources that are available to them for the systems they have in place or improvements that can be made,” he says.
“We recently had our annual user conference where we had hundreds of people who had been utilizing QuoteWerks for a number of years — many of which implemented QuoteWerks years ago. It was surprising to hear how many of them didn’t know about features we have added in the last few years or even in our latest release,” he says “The biggest reason they gave was just that they didn’t have the time to invest because of how busy they are in day-to-day activities.”
“Now is a great time to take a closer look at the tools you have in place and see if there are features you are not fully utilizing or add-ons that could help you become even more efficient. Investing in training options is also a great way to get others up to speed or simply learn more about them,” Laufer says.
“Refine your process now, so when things pick back up, you are ready,” he advises. “Are you using templates to help your reps automate the creation process, so they don’t have to start from scratch? Do you package items together? Create those templates. Prepare now so you’re ready.”
“Speed and accuracy are going to be important. When the economy bounces back, competition for projects and clients is going to be fierce,” Laufer says.