Some customers don’t require a proposal or estimate. You have a great relationship with them, and they trust you to do what’s necessary to get the job done. You have no trouble getting them to pay invoices. You maintain the trust level by acting with complete integrity.
Unfortunately, some customers do require proposals. Maybe it’s because of a low trust level, or it could be a matter of corporate policy your customer has no control over. If it’s a trust issue, over time you can build trust with your customers. In the mean time you’ll need to deal with estimates & quotes.
Because preparing a proposal can be extremely time consuming, unless you do it right the process will drag down your efficiency and business profitability. (We designed Latitude to build proposals organically, following your normal workflow. See how we cut the estimate build time down from hours to minutes.)
The Three Levels of Authorization
There are three levels of authorization:
Level 1: Your relationship with the customer is good enough that they trust you’ll only do what is needed. So when you find something extra that needs doing, you just take care of it and send them the invoice. No quotes required.
Level 2: The customer is comfortable with you doing work up to a certain dollar variation without getting their permission. You prepare an estimate to make sure the work is staying under the threshold.
Level 3: For certain reasons (corporate policy, low trust level, cash-strapped customer) the customer requires you to get their permission before doing any extra work. They require estimates on every variation.
If you are at level 1, you don’t really need to prepare estimates; whatever you encounter, you take care of. This speeds the work up tremendously. A high trust level equals faster jobs. Faster jobs equal a more profitable survey and engineering business.
At levels 2 and 3, you’re going to need to prepare an estimate. You will need to price out the project in terms of man-hours and expenses. This can take several hours to do without the right tools (with Latitude it can be done in under a minute), but if the customer requires it, you have to do it if you want the work. The longer preparing an estimate or quote takes, the slower the project goes.
Once your estimate is complete, you need to communicate it to the customer. This is where the right tool for the job can also make things go faster. The longer approving a proposal takes, the slower the project goes.
So how do you move a customer from Level 3 to Level 1? If a customer is hamstrung by corporate policy, it may not be possible. Or they may be cash strapped and watching every penny. But if it’s simply a trust issue, there are ways to build up your credibility with the customer over time and gain their trust. See our guide to building trust with your customers.
Regardless of your survey or engineering businesses size, as you build and maintain high trust with your customers, you can move many of them to levels 1 and 2. High trust speeds up the work and makes your survey and engineering business more efficient and profitable.