Business proposals

Speed of Response: 2 Considerations When Providing a Quote

Speed of Response: 2 Considerations When Providing a Quote

I was part of a discussion on “The Wealthy Freelancer” yesterday in which several salespeople were discussing how quickly you should turn around a quote for a new prospect.

Several people felt that if you rush your proposal, it demonstrates to the prospect that you’re desperate.

Others felt that you should get a quote off to the prospect immediately; that by responding quickly, perhaps even the same day, you demonstrate that you not only care about your business, but you’ll also be fast and responsive in managing the prospect’s business.  The buyer is in a buying mood, so why slow the momentum?

In my mind, the first position is manipulative.  In today’s Brave New World, transparency and authenticity rule.  There may be reasons to slow the buyer down, but pretending to be too busy is just plain “old world.”  Today’s buyer is too smart, too pressured and has access to too much information for you to be playing silly games with disingenuous appearances.

Having said that, the second position, of responding the same day, is great… for a simple solution or a transactional sale.

What was missing in the debate, I felt was, what kind of sale is it?  Or an even better perspective, what kind of purchase is it?  What is the buyer really going through?

If you are providing a commodity that needs a few, simple tweaks and you can punch the request in to a spreadsheet of sorts, by all means, get that quote out immediately!  The client needs 20 hotel rooms and airport pick-ups and one dinner off-site, and you know the region and have the perfect solution?  Make them an initial quote now.

If you’re a consultant or entrepreneur in the Brave New World and…

… the prospect says, “We know you often provide complex solutions, but we’ve already defined our needs on this; we’d really like you to come in for two days and help us sort out some issues on the spot,” then quote them an initial price.

Note, in both cases above, I say “initial.”

The client will appreciate this speed of response and will be able to start running the numbers, or start “selling you” internally.  By using the word “inital,” you’ve left yourself room for “scope creep.”  If the scope/deliverables change, so can the price.  In the above case of the consultant, you have every right to tell the prospect, “This is for those two days.  Should you need additional preparation or follow-up, I’ll have to adjust the quote accordingly.”

But even the above relates to “quotes” in which the buyer has apparently defined his needs.  Here are two key questions to consider.

  1. Is the prospect in an early stage of the buying process, in which case she might need expert insight in diagnosing the situation or in developing a solution?
  2. Do you genuinely believe that the prospect’s defined needs won’t really help them solve their problem or capitalize on an opportunity?

If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then you have to sit down with the client and do some real exploring, some real tactical questioning in a consultative/solutions tone.

Providing “a fast quote” might actually encumber exploration and an ideal solution.

By arranging to sit down and digging deep — even if it’s tomorrow morning or this afternoon — not only might you land a bigger deal, you’ll address the client’s needs more thoroughly.  If you do that, you’ll be preceived as a resource even before the sale is made.  You’ll have a better chance of getting repeat business and building your own brand value.

So act as expeditiously as you can, indeed.  But in the Brave New World, don’t just rush off a quote, either.  Assess the situation and do what’s best for the buyer.  Sometimes that means providing a fast return on a quote.  Sometimes it doesn’t.