Posts Tagged ‘sales’
In the penultimate entry in my Freelancing and Small Business Blog, I would like to return to the subject of quotations (or proposals). Having spent the last week sending out a dozen or so quotations, I have been reviewing my quotation template to make sure it is up to speed.
Quotation or proposal templates are great; they provide a base format for providing your prospects with estimates for your work, whilst reducing the amount of effort needed to put them together, and at the same time ensuring that no important element is forgotten (easily done when churning out multiple quotations).
My own template is in the form of two word documents – one called “Quotation Template – Basic” and “Quotation Template – Full Proposal”. The two versions carry almost the same elements, it’s just that the Basic version wording is cut down to a minimum whilst the full proposal has more details, more examples and provides more information.
As an example of the differences between the two versions, the “basic” version has a section called “How we work” which says (in a nutshell), “here is the quote, you order, we confirm order and delivery, we do work, we deliver, you pay”. The proposal has multiple paragraphs about all of this, but includes breaking the project into stages, use of my on-line project management system, staged payments, etc. In both formats, the text is pretty set, and very rarely do I need to amend these sorts of text blocks for a new quotation.
Which brings me to the subject of todays (almost last) post….
10 Things that your quotations may be missing
So as part of my review of my templates, I checked that my quotation templates covered in some way these important but often forgotten pieces of information that a client may need before raising an order:
- Currency – Let’s start with an obvious one, the currency of the quotation. It doesn’t matter if you use a £, $ or € symbol in the prices or state explicitly “All prices are in British Pounds”. A lot of companies are multinational, so prices can get confused as they move around.
- When can you start the work – Rather than putting in a specific date (and so making the quote invalid once the date is reached), it’s better to put something generic like “Generally work can be started within 4 weeks of an order/payment being received. But the exact date will be specified upon order confirmation”
- When the job should be complete – This will vary from quotation to quotation (unless you provide the exact same service each and every time), so you just need to check you have a heading or note for this area – and cover it when you put the quotation together in the format “…and will take approximately 7 weeks to complete”
- How long is the quote valid for – Your prices will change (I hope) from time to time so it’s no good your prospects trying to order a 4 year old quote expecting the same prices. My own templates state that “This quotation is valid up to the first day of September following the quotation date at which time we perform an annual price review. After the 1st September, the prices in the quotation may need review before an order can be accepted”
- Does it affect any support arrangements including cost – I have some customers who pay me a support and maintenance payment each year. For these customers, I have a clause (which I remove for non S&M customers) which says if/how it effects this years or next year’s support.
- Does it need any up front actions by the client- payment, hardware, specs, etc – Be clear as part of the quotation what is needed in addition to the order for work to start.
- Who owns the changes, code, designs – It saves the customer having to ask or make assumptions – if making designs, have template text which says who owns the changes, designs, code, files both before and after payment.
- When will you expect payment – In my quotation templates, I include a summary of my terms and conditions, which includes my payment terms, ownership, late payment penalties and other information. Don’t wait till the time of invoice to tell them what your payment terms will be.
- You have the right to reject the order – This may sound odd, but I have a sentence which states in a fluffy way, that I have the right to reject the order. Just because I quote and they raise an order, does not mean I always want to do the work. I may have fallen out with the customer (lots of bad payments), have more important work to do, or am no longer capable of doing the work (2 broken arms?!?).
- What you need to start work – The final thing worth adding to the very last part of your quotation template is the call to action – or what is the next action that you need in order for work to start. Be explicit, even if you have said it earlier in the quotation. Such as “Thank you for the opportunity to bid for this work. In order for me to get started, please send me a bundle of cash as soon as possible” (or whatever your next action is).
I’m a freelancer, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so buy from me maybe.
~ Altered version of Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
I have wanted to write about this subject for a while – and could not work out the way to phrase it. Then, whilst on holiday, I watched a poor lad propose to a girl in front of everybody in a bar, and she said a massive big fat NO!!!
He was devastated. But at least it gave me my hook into this subject.
Entering marriage is very much like the relationship between a freelancer and their prospective customer. It’s true that some customers may just want to grab an item, pay for it and be done with the transaction (such as when using Amazon), but for most time, customers want to be romanced.
Freelancers are brought into companies to carry out important work. But before they will raise an order for the work, the prospect needs to feel special, they need to feel a bond is there, they need to feel important, and they need to feel respected. Above all, they need to feel they can trust you.
Responding to an initial enquiry with a proposal and price is like walking up to a girl in the street and saying “Hi, we have only just met, but will you marry me??”. Good luck with that approach.
Seasoned salesmen always sales say that people don’t buy products, they buy people and relationships.
Also, they need to feel like they are the ones making the decision. Yes, you can persuade them, talk them round, and generally ‘sell’ to them, but if you put them into a corner to force their decision, more likely than not their answer will be NO. That girl in the bar may have said yes if he had asked her on a beach, with just the two of them (its how I asked my wife with no pressure of other people watching.
And just like getting a partner to say yes to marriage, there has to be a demand and desire; a sense of ‘everybody else wants it’. If the poor chap in the bar had proposed marriage when no other woman had shown interest in years, there may be a feeling of desperation – such as “he is asking me because nobody else will have him” – which is never a strong sales position.
But, if other girls were always hitting on him (and of course he was politely turning them down), then he would be in demand which raises interest and he may have had more luck. Put it another way, nobody wants to commit to rejections or the out of date products on the shelf.
It’s why we have panic buying at Christmas time for the latest children’s toy. Everybody wants it because… everybody wants it. Even if they are not sure why.
Of course, being a small freelancer or small business, it’s almost impossible to create this demand (where everybody wants you and everybody knows it). But it is possible to create a cloud of pseudo demand by:
- Not being too demanding or pestering for the work (but that does not mean don’t chase, just do it in a casual way)
- Never say you can start immediately (or at least say you will have to reorganise other projects if the customer prospect demands a quick start)
- You can even use reverse demand by saying “of course, we are selective on the companies we work with, so just need to make sure you meet that criteria” (which puts them into a pseudo exclusive club)
So when you bring it all together, don’t be the chap in the bar. Get to know your prospect, take your time, make the setting right, and then create the demand so that when you propose doing business, they will be happy to say yes.
Over the past few months I have experienced many examples of people running scared (or being too busy).
I received an invoice for services (which I considered were delivered very badly), which I rejected (with an explanation letter), and never heard another thing again. I have been sent various quotations for various bits of work – and not one of the companies or individuals has followed up the quotation with a phone call or email. A company I was working with made a small mistake, and actually sent me an email saying they assumed (with no communication from me) that I would no longer want to work with them and that they would not be invoicing me for the work done thus far.
I am seeing the same similar situations with some of the companies I am working for. I was asked to consult about recruiting and interviewing technical staff for a company. A lot of interviews were arranged, but so few people actually bothered to turn up for the interviews. No phone calls, no explanations, and no reasons – they just didn’t bother to turn up.
And the same is true for demos from companies bidding for a rather large Business Intelligence software sale to one of my customers – four companies booked for demonstrations; two didn’t bother to turn up.
The point of this is – for whatever reason, it should be getting easier out there to find customers, win business and make money.
After all, all you need to turn is turn up, make contact, and follow up.
No body else seems to be bothering to do this.
Let me kick off this brief discussion about the KISS system with one basic fact….
The more Complex Something is, the more likely it is that it will fail
Now let me expand on this with an example….
Let’s assume you have been tasked to design a prison. This prison will hold just one inmate – for life. So let’s start with the most basic of prison ideas.
You build a prison made up of four walls – the walls are 20 feet tall and 3 foot thick, with no windows or doors. Into this walled box, you put the prisoner. With no tools available – the chances of escape are very slim (other than somebody landing a helicopter in the prison or throwing a rope over the wall). Its simple – it works – it’s almost escape proof.
But, you need to feed the prisoner, and give them a view – so you build a door and a couple of windows. Now, they have a means of escape – the doors and windows become ‘weak points’.
So to compensate, you make it even more complex – now you have to place guards at the doors and windows, and complex locks. But by making it more complex, so it becomes easier to escape – there are more options. Locks can be picked, guards can be bribed.
So the cycle of making things more complex grows, until you have a system so complex that you have introduced 100 ways to escape, and another 100 ways to protect the 100 soft points.
The KISS principle in Business
Software for instance grows to be so complex with so many wiz-bang features that a program can end up with millions of lines of code, and millions of possible bugs. Whenever a change is required, all of the actions of the software have to be considered to see what any changes will break – and things can easily be forgotten. Which is why there are never ending patches in Windows and Microsoft Office Products.
Sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up with having the most features, buttons, menus, options, configurations, colours, languages, and choices. But this means more time and cost for design, development and maintenance – and more problems for you and your customers.
So maybe, keeping things simple (at least to start with) is a design and sales tactic worth considering in your next project.
In my house, we have a wooden plaque with our coat of arms – a merged coat of arms created from my wife’s family crest and my own (with a few whimsical touches thrown in for good measure to make it “us”). On this plaque there are two phrases included which are our family mottos (me and my wife – not our historical family’s).
Every so often, my 10 year old daughter looks at the plaque, runs her fingers over the crest and words, and repeats the phrases to herself – fascinated by their meaning (which we explained when she was very little).
These phrases are not only our family mottos, not only the way we do business, but also the way we ‘do life’.
The phrases are:
“Te Dormio Te Amittere” – which is below our family crest. It’s Latin, and when translated to English, it means “you snooze, you lose” (in other words.. DO IT NOW)
And the other phrase is….
Ask for Nothing and you shall receive it in abundance – not sure where this quotation came from, but it’s very powerful (for us).
Both of these quotes are about the same thing – getting what you want by asking for what you want – and asking now!!!
The Power of Asking
Which leads me on to asking – or more importantly, the way you ask. This can make a huge difference is business and life.
When I was at university studying psychology, I remember this professor giving a series of lectures on the method of asking – and it has stuck with me today. He taught my class that a few choice words can be the difference between getting what you need/want, and not getting anything at all.
Let me give you an example….
Suppose tonight, you have a craving for a steak for your dinner – oh yes, a nice big fat juicy steak – with chips (or fries for my American friends) and all the works – now doesn’t that sound good?
Well you could go home and say “What’s for Dinner?” and hope that in a very unusual alignment of the stars, your partner just happens to want the exact same thing – its not going to happen.
Better would be to say “I fancy steak tonight. Can we have steak tonight?”- which says what you want. But hold on, this still gives lots of other options. You could get a response of “sure thing” (great), but you might also get “no”, or “were having fish” or a host of other replies. So the question is good, but not great.
So what about something more demanding, that says what is going to happen such as “I am going to have steak tonight – want to join me in a steak?” – which says that you are definitely getting your meal of choice – but what about your partner? Well they still have a multiple choice of options including “yes”, “no”, “I have fish here – were having fish” etc. So better, but still not there – you still may be feasting on Mr Fish tonight.
The best way to get what you want is to ask with the assumption already made. “I’m in the mood for steak – yeah, steak is what I am going to have tonight. Now, what time shall we eat our steaks? You hungry now?”. It says your having steak – and it assumes your partner is going to have steak – but it still gives them control about what time to eat – so everybody feels that they have a say. Of course they can still go down the “I don’t want steak” or “Looks, here’s fish” option – but it’s a better conversation to have than the “What’s for dinner?” question.
You have set your position – the rest is down to negotiation.
All of this applies to business questions and more importantly, to selling. You just need to check your customer for feedback to make sure you haven’t crossed the line (in which case, pass it off as humour and take a selling step backwards). But isn’t a conversation which starts with something like “Well here’s the quote – now that we have gone through it, when would you like to schedule the project setup meeting and order the hardware?” a good conversation to be having?
Last month, I went on holiday to China. It was a good holiday. It was a great holiday. But I was puzzled about the flights to and from China.
I flew with British Airways both ways, and noticed that the plane was 25% empty. Economy was packed – not a free seat to be had, but premium, business and first class were practically empty. Not surprising I guess, seeing we are teetering on the brink of another recession and people are cutting back.
But what surprised me was this – why were BA not upgrading passengers? By moving people up one or two grades, they could get more people in the plane and therefore could make more money from the flight.
What is the cost of the Upgrade?
Ok, so maybe I am being optimistic. After all, upgrading somebody from economy to business is just throwing money away. Isn’t it?
But hang on – what is the real cost. The fuel used is the same. The cost of handling the passenger and their bags are the same. They still have to have the same number of stewards. The plane is going there anyway. So what are we really talking in terms of cost to BA? A better meal?
And what about the advantages? They can fit more people on the plane, the flight is greener (more people equals better fuel ratio per flight/person), the stewards in upper class are not so bored.
But the real advantage is that people who only ever travel economy may find what they are missing from travelling premium or business. They may like it so much that they may decide to travel in that class in the future. In a nutshell, it’s a great sale at minimum cost.
Can you give a free upgrade?
So with things being as hard as they are, is it worth thinking about whether you can give a free upgrade to your own customers? If things are fine and you are over busy, then that’s all well and good. But if you have spare time on your hands, is there something else you could offer as a free upgrade?
What about the rights to the source code, or designs, or web content? What about the test data you produced, or access to the specifications, or some after sales support?
Of course, the customer has to know they are being upgraded for it to be worthwhile and seen as good value. Just handing it over is not enough. But saying, “here is the agreed delivery, and as a special treat for your business in these difficult times and as a way of saying thank you, please accept (whatever you are giving them)”.
Point out this is provided as an upgraded for this time only, and that you normally provide this service/feature/benefit as part of your premium service.
You never know, your customers may like it up there in the expensive seats and decided to fly your premium service from now on.
I have just finished reading the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book by Dee Blick. Actually, that’s not true. The fact is, I have just finished reading the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book for the third time – and I only got the book a couple of weeks ago.
My method of reading a business book is that as I read the book, if there are tips and advice I think I can apply to my business, I turn a page corner over. Then when I am done – I go through the turned page and turn them into ToDo tasks which I action over the course of a few months or weeks. However, when I got to the end of Dee Blicks book, I found that the majority of pages were turned over. So I re-read it, trying to find the key elements which I can apply. You know what? I didn’t know where to start, there were that many.
The fact is, this is one of the best Business Books I have read. From the very first page (and I mean the first page – before all the copyright and print edition nonsense), its all good stuff. Everything you need to know about marketing, selling, branding, and growing a small business.
Subjects include a Marketing Master class (what you are selling, why, pricing), using strong sales words in documents and proposals, Sales letters (including lumpy sales letters), newsletters, turning bin-able sales correspondence into must keep and respond items, branding, blogging, on-line promotion, exhibitions, and lots more – it’s all covered. On every page there are ideas, backed up with examples of what won’t work, what will, and what will work in different situations. There are hints, tips, tricks, examples and more advice than you could possibly imagine is in one book.
Which leads me to a problem. With most books, I have between 1 and 20 ideas to improve and grow my business – easy to add to my Do list. After reading this book, I have at least 100 (if not more) – so where to start?!? So I am going to re-read it slowly, a page a week, and I am going to implement all the ideas I have highlighted, one at a time. I have no doubt that these improvements will drive my business forward and generate even more sales.
If you need just one marketing book that covers it all, buy this book.
But if you can only buy one business book which will help grow your business, you should still buy this book: the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book by Dee Blick.
As part of my Google Optimisation experiments, I made a few changes to a number of my web site pages. Now, I don’t get a lot of traffic, so it takes a while to see if anything makes a major difference. But, I have seen one metric drastically improve overnight.
It’s on my contacts page.
I actually thought my contacts page was pretty good. I had all the boxes ticked including:
- My company details listed – with my business address, and location
- Not making the contacts page ask for mandatory sensitive information (i.e, phone number is not mandatory)
- A clickable email address – in case people wanted to just, you know. . . email me
- A simple web enquiry form in case they preferred web form communication
- The company number with the internal dialling number in case phone was their preferred method of communication.
Despite all of this, the bounce rate was still at around 70%. 70% of people who made it to my contacts page never made contact. I could not understand why. I tried various versions of the web page – sometimes with the web form on the left, sometimes on the right, sometimes with the phone number in bold – I was only seeing differences of around 3 or 4%.
Then I added something – just a bit of text – to my contacts page. Immediately, my bounce rate reduced to 20%, and the number of enquiries jumped.
When I think about it, it was silly not to have this text on my contacts page in the first place. After all, people visiting my site don’t know anything about me, just as your visitors do not know anything about you. I am asking them to provide their details to me, and they have no idea what I am going to do with them.
Which is why I think the following statement on my contacts page (in plain sight, directly below the contact form) has really helped get more people contacting me for business meetings:
We hate spam as much as you do!
We promise that we will never sell, share or trade your details. Ever! We won’t even add them to any mailing list that we run. We will contact you about your enquiry, and that’s it!
Now it could be said I should be adding them to a mail list and emailing them, but I have never had the time or motivation to create regular newsletters – I prefer the personal touch. And so far, its working!
The customer Doesn’t need a Drill. What they need is a hole
The same is true with anything anybody sells – they don’t need the Thing – they need the Outcome.
They don’t need the car, they need to be able to get to somewhere whenever they want. They don’t need a seat on a plane – they need to be somewhere else that’s sunny. They don’t need the flashy new web site – they need more customers. They don’t even need that consultancy service – they need answers and advice they can depend on.
It’s an interesting flip on sales thinking. Are you selling the Thing, or the Outcome.
It’s one of the things I am testing in some web site, brochure and leaflet changes. My web site was all about the service I offered – so I am trying versions that are all about what the Outcome is – and its showing good results.
So what are you selling? The Thing (that nobody wants or needs), or the Outcome?
Is it time to check the wording on your adverts, web site and literature?
As a company, I love Amazon. They grew from nothing, they offer a great service, they keep their stock/systems/prices up to date, and they even managed to come through the DOT COM bubble fairly unscathed. When you think of Amazon, it’s also very hard to think of another online competitor. In short, they are a great company.
But, they still make mistakes. Silly, stupid, obvious mistakes. Mistakes we can learn from.
One of their biggest is their automated emails. That is a classic mistake. You go onto Amazon, you search on Widgets (whatever your particular form of widget may be), you buy one, you don’t buy one – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that 48 hours later, you get an email from Amazon telling you about the Widgets they stock. Which is great, but in my view, it’s most likely you have purchased that widget – either from Amazon, Widgets.com or Widgets-Are-Us.Net. I don’t need to purchase another Widget.
So where is the email from Amazon telling me about the products that compliment my Widget. Where is my widget duster, my widget carry case, my widget extended warranty or my widget club membership. In short, well is the add-on sell?
Are you following up your sales with widgets, widget add-ons, or nothing at all?