Sales quoting fails by owners who aren't sales-trained
Business owners with a skill that isn't sales regularly overlook six key sales problems that a sales quoting tool can help you to avoid
Sabotaging success without a sales quoting tool

6 ways you're sabotaging your success when you don't use a sales quoting tool

Published:
October 31, 2021

Many small business owners aren't sales-trained or experienced. They've started their businesses to get paid for an expertise or a skill they have. But a key part of running a successful venture is following processes and methods that turn your business from one that can make sales just because there's a demand for your skills, into one that can make those sales profitably.

Using a sales quoting tool is a consistency-finder. Don't be alarmed if you've never used one. They are mistakenly overlooked by many business owners.

What is a sales quoting tool?

A sales quoting tool is a piece of software that allows you to tailor a sales quote for your client to accept. Their sign-off confirms that they want to begin work with you.

What are the benefits of a sales quoting tool?

A sales quoting tool allows you to structure the products or services that go into the quote that will help the client solve the problems they have. It allows you to be thorough in establishing the full extent of those client problems, then be professional, consistent and profitable in the way you sell and deliver your services.

How do sales quoting tools work?

Sales quoting tools allow you to use templates to speed up the creation of the client's quote. They connect with your accounting software to pull in products, services and pricing to avoid double-keying and reduce errors. When the quote is ready you trigger it to be sent to the client for review and acceptance.

What happens when a client accepts a quote from a sales quoting tool?

When the client is ready to accept a quote, they will digitally sign an agreement that the sales quoting tool provides them, or the software may even be connected to a payment processor to take payment securely. On payment or acceptance, the sales quoting tool will communicate with your CRM so that you can automate onboarding activities like welcome emails, and with your accounting software to trigger the sending of the client's invoice. This all happens automatically.

Now we've explored what a sales quoting tool is, let's help you discover the six sales saboteurs that could well be impacting your success by not using one.

1. The curse of expertise

There are a lot of hats to wear when you turn an expertise or skill you have into a business that serves clients who face the problem your expertise solves. As well as doing the work, and administering the business, it's also your responsibility to make the sales that keep the business running.

One of the biggest sales mistakes that non-sales trained business owners make is to allow their leads to dictate the entire sales process. As experts in our fields, we all do it. It might be when we respond in black and white terms to an enquiry form, or when we just provide the specific quote that the client asks for directly from an enquiry call. How often have you quoted your prospect only for exactly what they've asked you for?

And how often, as you do the work, do you wonder if you should be braver and probe the wider picture of the problem the client has? As experts, we often experience clarity on what a client's wider problems are long before they do. Usually, the problems are wider or deeper than the thing they've specifically asked for help on.

But we don't probe.

And so we don't quote for the fix.

And so the client's deeper or wider problems remain.

What is the curse of expertise for small business owners?

As experts, the curse of expertise is when we assume that clients have a certain level of knowledge when they are discussing our expert topic with us. So we make assumptions. We do not probe. We fail to uncover the full picture. Worse, we don't help the client to do so either.

Asking additional questions in this circumstance is not being pushy:

  1. It helps the client understand and get clarity on what the full scope of their problem is.
  2. It confirms in their mind that you are the expert who cares about and understands their problems and how to solve them.
  3. It helps you to address the curse of expertise and see the full breadth and depth of the client's problems for what they are and to quote for that, more completely.

Not addressing the curse of expertise leaves your client under-served.

Not addressing the curse of expertise leaves you under-paid.

Using sales quoting tools to solve your client's problems and your curse of expertise

Experts get wrapped up in their skill or expertise. When a client enquires about you helping them to solve a problem that can be addressed with your expertise, how often do you immediately switch into problem-solving mode? Because you're a 'doer' rather than a 'seller', often you don't stop to follow sales process. This is where establishing a sales quoting tool as your client agreement mechanism can give you the discipline to stop, to ask, to explore, and to quote (and serve them) more completely.

Just because you run a small business does not have to mean that you have to look unprepared. Sales quoting tools (like Connectably's) are accessible and affordable.

It's perfectly normal to start a business with more expertise in your skill than expertise to make sales from that skill. But to get you paid at a level that your expertise deserves, learn quickly how to overcome your curse of expertise and how to form the habit to use a sales quoting tool and follow a sales quoting process.

2. No easy way to accept

How you start any relationship is how you start every relationship. When you work with leads and clients, they will develop feelings about the experience they have with you as you manage their engagement end-to-end. Some experiences will be positive. Some less so. Some might not be fully obvious. Every encounter with you and your brand will develop a clearer impression of you.

It might not be any single awkward signal that kills the deal completely for your client. In fact, they may still work with you once. But those awkward, uncomfortable interactions are the ones that can kill any hopes of a longer-term positive feeling and lead them to not reward you with more work, a testimonial, or a referral (the measures of client success).

Awkward handshake

At Connectably, we call the end-to-end sales and marketing processes The Simpler Method®. This describes the seven processes from when a lead Signs-up to discover more about you or make an enquiry, through to the point they Refer you to others as a delighted client. In relation to the Onboarding phase of the relationship, covering the parts where you Propose and Launch the work, you should avoid these awkwardness-inducing methods to get your client to accept your quote:

  • When you just send just an email to summarise the work you will do for a client it makes you look unprofessional or a little bit amateurish. Your client already receives 147 emails per day so when you summarise the great and meaningful work you will do for them using that exact same format it makes you difficult to stand out. It's also a very awkward way for them to accept, especially if there's some back and forth to the exchange. Saying 'yes, alright then' feels like the client experience equivalent of a shopping trip with a toddler where you give in to their request for a chocolate bar. You're brow-beaten, and they're only satisfied for a brief moment in time.
  • When you just send an invoice to start things off it feels like your finance department is running the relationship. When have you ever felt warmth from an invoice? Nobody wants to begin a working relationship with an immediate reminder that money is owed. Just don't. That is all on this one.

Instead, use a sales quoting tool that sends a summary of the work in a PDF format. It's a single, professional-looking reference point for the relationship that summarises the problems the client has that you'll solve, outcomes the client will achieve, and a detailed breakdown of their investment to do so. It will also include a way for the client to either sign-off or even set payment settings (e.g. card / direct debit) for the work you will do for them:

Sales Quoting Tool v2
PDF output from Connectably's sales quoting tool

Upon acceptance, your sales quoting tool should be able to communicate with your CRM to confirm the deal has been approved:

  • In disconnected software, you might achieve this using a cleverly-crafted web of connections using Zapier.
  • In connected software, like Connectably or HubSpot, where the sales quoting tool is part of the CRM software, there's an immediate loop back to the CRM and automation functions, so that you can record the sale and immediately welcome the customer on board with an email welcome sequence.

3. Profit gaps

You leave profit gaps in your business when you do not maximise sales opportunities with your leads and clients. Although your client feels closer to their problems than you are, as the skilled expert you know how to solve those problems far better than they could. Thanks to your experience, you are also better positioned to know what wider knock-on effects there will be for them when they do not address hidden issues. This can happen when have not yet discovered all of the problems, or if they have misunderstood the wider complexities of those problems they're aware of now.

When you only partially fix a problem that you have a feeling might get bigger or has more parts to it, you create a profit gap in your business between the return you make on a job and the return you could actually make by solving all the problems in full.

Mind the gap sales quoting tool
Mind the profit gap

Bigger problems, bigger invoices

As experts, we're paid to solve our customers' problems. The bigger the problem for someone, and the harder it is for them to resolve themselves, the more they are likely to pay for it. So if your expertise can solve more of your customers' bigger problems, it makes sense that you would ask them if you can solve more of that problem for them. They'll thank you for it, and you'll be rewarded for your work.

Using a sales quoting tool to formalise this process can help you to surface these bigger problems. It helps you to create a sales discipline to ask deeper questions and then position you to solve those bigger problems. People pay you more when you solve the bigger problems that they cannot solve themselves and others overlook.

Shut up and take my money

Profitability is a duty to yourself and your ongoing clients

If you don't make enough profit to cover longer-term losses, or give you a buffer to ride out unprofitable periods, then your business is at risk of having to close completely. So it's your duty to yourself to run a profitable business. If you have ongoing clients who are reliant on you, then it's also your duty to them to be profitable so that you're there for them longer-term.

4. A duty to solve problems

When you can see wider problems at your client beyond those you've been contracted to resolve, but you don't set a plan to solve the wider issues in full, then you leave a ticking time bomb of hidden or unmasked problems.

When the inevitable happens and those problems emerge in full, it can leave the client feeling that you've under-served them, or that they haven't received value for the money for the work they engaged you to do. It doesn't matter if the hidden problems were not directly your responsibility. In the client's perception you were the expert they hired so you're associated with the re-emergence or failure to resolve them.

Do you think that leaves a delighted client, happy to recommend and refer you? Of course it doesn't.

It is your duty as the expert to surface those problems using a sales quoting tool, and then come up with solutions to those problems. If the client subsequently chooses to ignore your recommendations, or work with somebody else who quotes them to address the narrow problem they first came to you with, then at least you can sleep easily that you were the person to raise the wider issues. Perhaps they'll remember you later when the wider problems you identified come to light, so be sure to keep them in an email nurturing sequence.

If you use a sales quoting tool at that initial problem discovery meeting:

  1. This is a great way to thoroughly and diligently get to-, and then summarise the real scope of a client's problems.
  2. There will be a consistently formatted quote record and standalone document that they and you can retrieve quickly if the client later needs it. That's more likely to happen if they have a disappointing experience with the provider who they selected to only solve the narrower first problem they came with. And:
  3. Hey, this might sound a bit cynical and opportunistic, but let's face the truth: nothing wins you more hero points than being the saviour to a client when they've already been let down by somebody else. Having a robust sales quoting tool process positions you well when the hero points are on offer later 😉🥇.
Youre welcome sales quoting tool

5. Chasing more leads

You and any staff you employ have a limited number of hours to devote to all the activities you need to run in your business. Every hour spent finding, nurturing or selling to new clients is an hour that costs you money, rather than makes you money. By contrast, if you can spend it profitably, serving existing clients, it's far more valuable to you.

It's easier and more profitable to serve fewer clients

Let's take a £100,000 business, where the average value of a client is £1000:

  • You need 100 clients to generate £100,000 in revenue.
  • If you sign 1 in 3 prospects you meet with, you need 300 sales meetings to sign those 100 clients.
  • Assuming each sales meeting takes an hour of your time, plus an hour of preparation or follow-up, that's 600 hours relating to sales meetings each year.
  • Assuming 1 in 3 leads become meeting prospects, you need 900 leads per year.
Busy chasing leads

Now let's take the same £100,000 revenue target, but because you use a sales quoting tool and a more structured sales process, you identify more client problems to solve. As a result, you discover that every client is worth 25% more to you, so £1250/client:

  • 80 clients generate £100,000 in revenue for you (20% fewer clients to serve).
  • Even if your meeting to conversion rate does not change, where 1 in 3 prospects you meet become clients, you need 240 sales meetings to sign those 80 clients (20% fewer).
  • You devote more time in the sales meeting to explore the client's problems more deeply. But because your business uses a sales quoting tool, you spend less time preparing or sending the quote. Assuming each balances out, you still spend two hours per lead in total, so 240 meetings equates to 480 hours of your time in the sales meeting process each year (120 hours saved, or 3 weeks of your time 🤯).
  • Assuming 1 in 3 leads become meeting prospects, you need 720 leads per year (20% fewer)

The time and resources saved for your business are not insignificant. Whatever the cost to generate those leads (your time / advertising / referral fees etc), you are more profitable when you need to sign fewer clients. The time available to you to serve each client is higher and that has a knock-on positive impact on client service.

It makes good business sense to establish thorough sales processes, supported by an effective sales quoting tool.

6. Lost control and consistency

Do you ever stop to consider who's in control: is it your leads and clients, or is it you? It's an important consideration.

Fix on fail

An 'enquiry / fix response' approach to running the business you're the expert in sees you responding to enquiries you receive with a service that fixes that specific problem for the client.
It's a 'fix on fail' approach to problem resolution, rather than one that considers a bigger picture. Serving individual enquiries one by one, as the client sees them, is simple to manage but leaves you exposed to underlying issues that develop later at the client.
What's more, it never sees you positioned for the wider expertise you have; only narrowly on what you've fixed.

'Enquiry / fix response' is an approach that doesn't take into account wider or underlying related issues that might make the problem worse, now or in the future.

It's also a relationship where because you don't take control of the sales and implementation process, your client is in de facto control.

As well as taking control of your sales process, it makes:

  1. their post-implementation review of success entirely subjective...
  2. around their version of what they think they have asked you to do...
  3. to solve the problem they have perceived they have.

That's three factors that are completely out of your control.

Without using a sales quoting tool to bring structure to the quoting process, you relinquish control for both the inputs and how the outcomes are measured. All these factors result in a lack of consistency, of:

  1. what you deliver;
  2. how you deliver it, and;
  3. the criteria you and the client will use to measure a successful outcome.

It makes delivering that successful outcome - whatever that now is - much harder and less predictable to achieve.

You're running a business where you want to be known for being the trusted expert, not one where you want to be seen as the plumber fixing each pipe when it breaks, or leaving your client standing over you telling you where to- and how to use your knowledge and expertise spanner.

Using a sales quoting tool brings discipline, control and consistency to the process of delivering successful client experiences. A sales quoting tool allows you to define what successful outcomes look like. So before you next respond to an enquiry form SOS, give thought to how you can bring consistency and control to the process and what a difference it will make to the outcomes when you do so.

Ted Line of Duty Sales Quoting Tool
Be less 'Ted': Ted Hastings, Line of Duty:
Full of integrity to do the right thing, but never fully in control, or solving the deeper problems in the Central Police force

Sales quoting and proposals software

The sales and marketing software market has many popular sales quoting tools. There's a functional- and process split between those that are:

  1. standalone but connect-able using a cleverly-crafted web of logic- and trigger-driven connections using 3rd party connector services like Zapier, or are;
  2. part of a more complete, single log-in small business management software solution where the sales quoting tool triggers other CRM and automation activities in the core software, like HubSpot, Keap, or our own Connectably solution do.

There's little doubt that using a sales quoting tool delivers greater consistency, repeatability and profit-generating potential for your business than not doing so. It overcomes your curse of expertise and helps you to deliver smooth onboarding and customer delight for your clients. I hope this article has opened your eyes to the potential of moving away from the unstructured and disjointed processes that are in your business now. If it's whet your appetite, then see how Connectably's sales quoting tool can help you to sell and deliver work more consistently.

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About

Gareth Everson

Gareth's the founder of Connectably. He's a business systemiser who helps small business owners who aren't always natural "software people" to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business. Connectably is a self-funded software business (founded 2017) that serves other small businesses. You can follow Connectably here, and connect with Gareth here.
Author: Gareth Everson - Founder Connectably

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