A challenge faced by every business is turning enquiries into customers. The better you get at converting leads into sales, the faster you can grow revenue.
For many businesses, quoting is an essential part of this conversion. A business that can send an accurate and persuasive quote quickly will set a great impression and be more likely to win the deal over competitors whose quotes arrive the following day (or later).
Advisory firms often take a long time to produce a quote, many of which are created from Microsoft Word templates. But a raft of cloud-based proposal tools can help accountants and advisers dramatically cut the time taken to send a quote.
QuoteRoller, SocketApp and Quotient are generic, multi-industry tools. They allow you to set up flexible templates that can be used to create quick, custom proposals. You can also embed videos into your documents for extra ‘wow factor’.
Video is a powerful tool for accelerating the building of trust if you speak to camera so that people can see ‘the whites of your eyes’ in the video, so to speak.
Recipients can type in questions directly in the document, which you are then notified of and can reply to; and they can also accept or reject the proposal with a click of their mouse. Electronic signature tools such as RightSignature integrate with these apps.
If that all sounds too high tech for you, you can simply export the proposal as a nicely branded PDF to print or email to your client or prospective client.
I know of a number of accounting firms that are using SocketApp. Having a highly systemised and efficient proposal process is essential when you are getting a steady stream of new clients.
Recently a client, Adele Wardley of A Squared Advisers, said she was picking up a new client virtually every week using SocketApp. Many of these are large clients requiring comprehensive engagement documentation. Without a fast and efficient proposal process, a growing firm like Adele’s would end up with a proposal backlog and would lose momentum and prospective clients as a result.
And there are other plusses. “The biggest benefit for us is the temptation to discount the price is reduced – everyone pays the same for the same service,” Adele says. “We all know it, our clients know it and the more people that buy our service at the desired price, the higher our confidence that the next desired customer will pay that too.
“Feedback from clients is fabulous. The best feedback I’ve had recently is ‘they won the job because they know how to quote’.”
Practice Ignition has taken the concept of SocketApp one step further and created a proposal tool specifically for accountants. Practice Ignition founder Guy Pearson, also an accountant, was frustrated by SocketApp and other tools because they couldn’t sign clients mid-term and then bill them pro-rata.
Guy added extra functionality that many accounting firms need such as bulk sending of engagements and group engagements.
Practice Ignition helps you define your fixed price service plans and then streamlines the entire engagement process. The app links to cloud accounting program Xero for invoicing and job management tool WorkflowMax for creation of clients and jobs linked to acceptance of engagement proposals. Very efficient.
It is also a collaboration tool for communicating with clients; they can see their jobs, upload documents and update their contact details.
Firms using the document management system HowNow by Business Fitness should use the Merge Letter function. This wizard-based process lets you tick the relevant services and options to include in the proposal.
HowNow instantly creates a Word document that leaves out all the irrelevant standard paragraphs from the template, inserts the recipient’s details throughout the document and automatically files and correctly names it. Very neat.
Crucial note: Each of these tools requires you to first define, price, package and modularise your service offering. Unless you first understand how to package and sell your services, then proposal apps are far less effective.
Once you have a steady flow of enquiries flowing from your marketing machine, then a fast and efficient proposal creation tool will ensure to maximise conversion and ROI from those leads.
A version of this post first appeared on the Practice Paradox blog.