How to convert an enquiry into a sale

Freelancer following up the quotes she has sent

No one likes wasting effort, which is why it is particularly irritating to lose business after you have prepared a good quote. Benjamin Dyer of Powered Now explains how to maximise sales when replying to customer enquiries or quoting for new business

Quotes for customers are an essential part of marketing for many small businesses, especially trades such as plumbing, building and landscape gardening. They can also be incredibly frustrating.

You work hard researching materials, getting prices together and estimating the work in order to put together a great quotation. You hope that the customer is eagerly anticipating your email and that they will open it the moment it arrives, recognise all the hard work that has gone into it and respond positively.

Sadly, the world doesn't always work like that. But there are ways to improve the amount of work you get after you quote for jobs.

Make sure quotes reach customers

The first thing is to make sure your prospect has actually received your quote. As well as emailing (or posting) the quote, it's worth texting the customer to let them know the quote has been sent.

It's all too common for emails from new contacts to end up in the spam folder. Meanwhile, your customer may be reading the quote that your competitor sent and has no idea what happened to yours.

When it comes to trade businesses, one of the biggest complaints from homeowners is that they can't get quotes out of them. Unfortunately this doesn't mean they will necessarily read quotes when they are received.

Marcelle Stoughton, director of Fencing Services, puts it this way: "After I send a quote, as well as texting them, the following day I call the prospect by phone to confirm they got it and to see if they have any questions. If they haven't opened it, I try to get them to open it or retrieve it from the spam folder. However, I don't pressurise them."

Marketing follow-up

After the quote has gone, you also need to note a time in your diary when you should follow up. It is best if you pre-arrange this if possible. Marcelle Stoughton says: "I call them back a week later after they have had time to think about it."

Sometimes, unfortunately, you will be the loser. Under these circumstances, it's important to make the most of a bad job. Matthew Stevenson of The Landscape Company says: "If I get an email back with bad news saying I haven't got the job, I always respond saying thank you for the opportunity and thanks for responding and wishing them all the best. I also tell them that if they want anything in the future, to not hesitate to get in touch."

If you respond this way the prospect will really appreciate your attitude. If things don't go to plan, they may come back to you now or in the future. They might even recommend you to others. None of that can happen if you are rude or if you don't reply.

Unfortunately if you are off-hand or rude, you not only guarantee your good work was wasted, you may even cause adverse comment to be posted online. Increasing numbers of homeowners check reputation online.

Improving your marketing

You also miss out on the opportunity to find out why you lost the business, so you can build that into the way you sell in the future. For instance, if you lost on price and it was obvious that was all that mattered, you might choose not to bid for work with that type of customer in the future.

If the prospect decides to delay the work this presents a different issue. You need to contact them on a regular basis. Many customers forget who they had previously contacted. When they decide to get the work done, they often start their search again.

Make sure that you track the work that you won and lost by source of lead. This enables you to learn where the most valuable leads come from and concentrate your efforts accordingly.

It's a lot of work to provide excellent quotes; and it's annoying when you do it for nothing. But by making a few small changes, you can improve your conversion rate and win more business in the long term.

Written by Ben Dyer, former CEO of SellerDeck.

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