A quote management tool can save your business time, turn the focus from paperwork to engaging prospects and providing solutions, and share data directly with accounting for fast, error-free invoices. Proper selection, implementation, and use are, however, essential to maximizing the benefits you receive from your system.
Alain Lefebvre, founder of Alloy Insights Inc. and ASCII Group member, says there are some common mistakes managed services providers (MSPs) and value-added resellers (VARs) need to avoid to make a quote management tool a valuable part of sales and customer service processes:
Buying Before You Know if it Integrates with Your Business Systems
Although his former company (Great White North) had been using a quote management tool for years, Lefebvre recalls that when they first looked at quote management tools, they were uncertain which line of business applications it would integrate.
“The more you integrate your quote management tool, the more value you get from it,” he says. For example, he says some professional services automation (PSA) vendors provide quote management tools or modules, which ensure integration. But if you choose a quote management tool from another vendor, you should confirm it integrates with your PSA, as well as your accounting program, CRM, and preferred payment processor for online payments.
“Tight integration with all of your business systems adds complexity to implementing a quote management tool,” says Lefebvre, “but it’s worth it. We’re in a much better place because of it.”
Not Creating a Plan
Lefebvre says another mistake to avoid is moving forward with quote management tool implementation without a strategy.
“Make a plan for how you want to use it beyond just as a tool that generates quotes,” he says. “Think about how it will fit into your workflow and how it will communicate data with other systems and departments from the get-go. Look at your whole workflow chain – order processing, inventory, payment, finance – and when your team quotes that, it shows up the way you want it to in your PSA.” A quote management tool can also store and send additional documentation with quotes, such as service agreements, policies and billing practices.
A time-saving feature of a quote management tool is to use distributors’ APIs to look up availability and pricing automatically. “It saves the sales team time,” he says.
Lefebvre comments that you may not be aware of all of the features your quote management tool has, so investing some time to learn about it can yield excellent results. In addition to using the resources their quote management tool vendor provides, he has attended in-person training and conferences. “We’ve gotten high value out of it,” he says.
Expecting It to Do Everything
Lefebvre says quote management systems require doing some upfront and manual work. “We need to type in descriptions of the managed services we offer manually, but as we build out our product catalog, we will automate that more,” he explains.
He adds that occasionally Etlize, the functionality that searches distributor websites for products, may miss an item, requiring a sales rep to enter it manually. When the team quotes larger projects, Lefebvre says he puts a second set of eyes on them to ensure they are correct, but it’s not a regular part of the workflow. “You need to gauge how many quotes are going out and how much you can slow down the process by reviewing but still get quotes out on time,” he says. He adds that in the future, he plans to automate the review process.
The Biggest Mistake: Waiting
The most serious mistake that MSPs and VARs make with quote management tool implementation is implementing it after their sales team grows. Lefebvre comments, “The earlier you implement a quote management tool, the better.” At his former company, he says he began using a quote management system when the business had a team of only about six or seven people.
“It may seem like overkill, using a quote management tool for two salespeople,” he says. “But implementing it before you grow your sales team allows you to incorporate it into your processes as your business grows. “We’re still modifying how we use it year to year,” Lefebvre says, “As we grow, it’s just bolted in.”
He adds that when his former company grew and sales moved from the responsibility of the owners to a sales team, it illustrated how many business processes weren’t documented. “For MSPs trying to grow beyond owner sales, standardize and document as much of the sales process as you can,” Lefebvre says.
By choosing the right solution, planning implementation throughout your business, and establishing it as a part of your business processes early on, your quote management tool can automate a time-consuming part of your business. As a result, it will give you more time to focus on your customers.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members, including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. In addition, ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.