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  1. #1
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    How do you prepare quotes for customers?

    I am interested in seeing how others prepare quotes for their customers.


    When I first started out I would just send clients some text with the amount in it. Now I make a little html table with the quote and the services to make it look a little nicer.


    What do you guys do, what do high end companies do?

  2. #2
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    I send them a PDF with the total amount, a fairly high-level breakdown of the individual services and some accompanying text that tells them how long the quote is valid for and circumstances under which the price would change (e.g. major changes to the spec).

  3. #3
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    Depends on the project. If it's a run-of-the-mill type of thing that's I've done a thousand times before, I usually have the following on 1 page A4 :
    • a quick executive summary, basically an overview of their problem showing them that I understand it, just 1 paragraph
    • a table of costs (I don't break stuff down too much, I just have design & development as one cost, then hosting, then support etc)
    • A paragraph quickly explaining my procedures and the next step
    • Relevant references and a pointer to relevant case studies
    • Reminder that the quote is valid for 30 days
    Detailed spec comes after I've got a signed contract & deposit.

    If it's a complex bespoke project, then they get the executive summary, an estimated price, references & case study links, and an indication of the next step - this being that if they want a quote I expect to be given a detailed specification to quote on otherwise they can pay me to write it for them. Either that or they can hire me based on the estimate and we'll create the spec at the start of the project (ideal).

    Whatever the siutation, I never write more than 1 page for anyone until we've signed contracts.

  4. #4
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    Whatever the siutation, I never write more than 1 page for anyone until we've signed contracts.
    Same here. My breakdowns are probably a lot simpler than Shadows (a perk of supplying just one piece of the puzzle, rather than the whole thing), but I don't go over one page, either.

    In my case, most of the time I can provide a simple quote over email. Not complicated. When a formal quote is required, the prospect gets a one-page PDF letter detailing my estimate and the assumptions/understandings that the quote is predicated upon. I make it clear that this is an estimate and not a flat charge - if those understandings turn out not to be accurate (the client's responsibility), the numbers could change down the road.

    I should also point out that this isn't a bid letter, but just a simple quote sheet. When it's time to sign, they're signing the contract, which is where the more detailed negotiations usually start.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy bluedreamer's Avatar
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    I prefer to put a lot of detail into quotes because people have a tendancy to come up with "oh I wanted it to do this as well" just before you've completed the site. If the quote has a detailed list of what the customer has asked for it makes it easier to get them to cough up the extra cost, because it was up to them to specify everything before agreeing to the quote.

    Of course, some things don't need many details, if a customer asks for a specific application like VBulletin, then I just add an entry for the total fee.

    One other trick is to note what the customer doesn't want (you can get ideas when talking to them). Put these in the quote as "items discussed but not required" and state that if these are required at a later date a charge will apply.

    Example for a shopping cart web site:

    Software, licence, installation, configuration - £xxxx

    - what do we mean with configuration? The client may interpret this as setting up the whole shop for them.

    I'd split the main points up to define what configuration is:

    Includes setting up shipping options
    Includes seting up payment gateway
    Adding categories is not included
    Adding your products is not included

  6. #6
    SitePoint Addict Jamieharrop's Avatar
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    For me, a lot depends on the project and/or client. Some clients who I do work for on a regular basis get quotes over the phone as and when they ask for them. Others will get a simple amount in an email, others will get an A4 page with the quote broken down. Most customers get a 15-20 page proposal from me (Which doesn't take long, because most of it is templated) which includes a quote, broken down in to sections. The quote also includes a timeline. These proposals are usually developed only for clients whom are presenting us with the chance to quote on medium-large sized projects. Any lower and spending the time on the proposal (Even if it is just a few hours) isn't worth it.
    Regards,
    Jamie Harrop

  7. #7
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    Our proposal is an 9 to 11 page document. But, I don't type it from scratch each time. Each proposal that I do is an opportunity to make a slight improvment. There are key areas I change for each client.

    The process that I've found that works best is to submit a site outline and a bullet list of general website goals that spans two pages. I will usually email it and get their feedback. After changes are made and they agree that their site will likely include X pages, and Y pages to be written by a copywriter I will create the 11 page proposal.

    This proposal includes

    Cover Letter
    Website outline
    Investment summary
    payment schedule
    itemized description of each of the line items in teh summary
    testimonials
    terms and conditions (the proposal doubles as a contract, saves time)
    signature page.

    I usually only have to change the outline and investment. I may do some alterations of the services summary. It's taken 3 years to develop the proposal I have now, but I'm very proud of it because it works.

    Clients are used to getting incomplete proposals from our competition. Proposals that create more questions than answers. We dazzle them by listening and creating a custom proposal that fits their needs and answers their questions.

    If you are unsure about your proposals, the best person to get advice from is your prospects. You don't need to ask them what they think of the proposal - just LISTEN. Every 2-3 clients that I submit a proposal to... they will TELL ME where my proposal can be improved. I don't ask, it becomes obvious by what questions they are asking and how they respond to my explanation of what we are providing for them.

    Hope that helps.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I think it's important to distinguish between a 'proposal' and a 'quotation'. They are, IMO two very different beasts and it's been my experience that most prospects have absolutely no interest in receiving a 20 page sprawling document when in most cases all they wanted was something that just cut to the chase.

    It is unfortunately a trait of most web developers that rather than close the deal at the earliest opportunity, they feel obliged to create these OTT proposals - most of the time, prospects don't ask for them, there are offered to them by the over-eager developer who feels this is the way to close a sale. Well, if you do that, of course they'll say 'A proposal? Oh, yes please'.

    Personally, I feel that if I have spent time personally meeting with relevent decision makers, going through their problems, their goals and objectives and showing them relevant case studies and basically showing them I understand their problems and am uniquely positioned and qualified to help them, there's no point to creating a multi-page proposal just so you can clinch the deal. If you haven't been able to sell yourself at the meeting, do you think you'll do a better job by spending the next 2 days writing up everything you should have said at the meeting, in a proposal?

    Web developers should be aiming for at least 80% success rates in their sales (I'm currently at 85%). You're unlikely to get that going via the sales proposal method (I beleive the average success rate for proposal selling is around 20%). Instead you should hone your pre-qualification techniques to avoid projects you were never going to get in the first place, and develop more effective sales skills so that the majority of meetings you attend result in a closed deal with the minimum time spent in the sales process.

    These days, most meetings I attend end with an agreement to do business together simply because I prepared the ground correctly before getting there - no proposal required, just a handshake and a date and time to meet up again to sign contracts and collect deposit. And this works whether it's a small, medium or large job - obviously the larger jobs will require a proposal/project spec eventually, but the point is that by the time we are required to get to that stage, I'm getting paid for my time to do this.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Addict Jamieharrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    most of the time, prospects don't ask for them
    That all depends on what type of client you work with, shadowbox. 9 times out of 10 our customers ask us for a proposal, either by mouth or by using our RFP (Request For Proposal) form on our Web site. Unfortunately, companies looking for work in the 30k range don't tend to sign on the dotted line until you have outlined to them in a proposal how you are going to increase their profits by X percent by doing X task.

    do you think you'll do a better job by spending the next 2 days writing up everything you should have said at the meeting, in a proposal?
    I spend three hours, maximum, on writing my 20 page proposals. Most of it is template driven and never changes. The specifics of development, the companies goals, the quote and time line, and how we are going to get to the end product and return our customers investment is what I change in the proposal. It doesn't take long, and the customer is always very impressed, and almost always concludes we answered most or all of their questions in the proposal. As good as having a meeting or three with the client is (And we do this too), it is always nice to have it there in writing for the client (and the development company) so they can look back at their goals to make sure they are being met, and look at the timeline to make sure we are on schedule etc.

    Web developers should be aiming for at least 80% success rates in their sales (I'm currently at 85%).
    I can't argue with that. I believe we are up there at 85-90% too.

    You're unlikely to get that going via the sales proposal method (I beleive the average success rate for proposal selling is around 20%).
    Certainly not in our case, as seen above. Like I say, a lot depends on who your customers are. If they are sole traders, they won't want to read through a 20 page proposal, but if they are a national company with four nationwide offices and hundreds of employees, a 20 page proposal is the bare minimum needed, imo.

    Of course, the end product for us, as developers, should be to get the client to sign. If you can get the nationwide company to sign on the dotted line without providing them with a lengthy proposal, then that's great. Whatever the process, if we are getting an 85%-90% success rate, we must be doing something right.
    Regards,
    Jamie Harrop

  10. #10
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    @shadowbox,

    Do you usually go straight for the solution in the first meeting, or do you meet a second time to make a face-to-face presentation of the solution?

    If so, do you appoint the followup right then and there at the first meeting, or do you do it by phone after a few days?

    Thanks!
    George Skee
    Follow me at GeorgeSkee.com

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pacifer
    @shadowbox,

    Do you usually go straight for the solution in the first meeting, or do you meet a second time to make a face-to-face presentation of the solution?

    If so, do you appoint the followup right then and there at the first meeting, or do you do it by phone after a few days?

    Thanks!
    I don't provide any form of solution at all until I've been officially hired as their consultant/developer. Providing a solution is what I get paid for, so I'm not about to go into any great detail about what I'm going to until I get that contract signed. I sell based on my experience, my case studies, my portfolio and my testimonials - i.e. proof of how good I am. I also sell by letting the prospect know that I understand their goals/needs/problems. The aim is to give them the confidence to feel I am the man for the job, without having to create a detailed proposal of what I'll do and how I'll do it - that's time consuming and also means they can take my proposed solution to someone else and cut me out completely.

    Yes, I'll give them an indication of the kind of thing I'll do (and usually relate it to a previous project and show them the results I helped achieve), but not in any detail, not at this early stage. The previous poster sounds like his business is based mainly on the RFP process, so I can understand that my outlook may seem somewhat alien and perplexing.

    Unfortunately, companies looking for work in the 30k range don't tend to sign on the dotted line until you have outlined to them in a proposal how you are going to increase their profits by X percent by doing X task.
    I agree - they certainly will not commit to a 30K project without a detailed spec, but I can tell you that the last three 30K+ projects I worked on, I was paid to create that spec for them before they committed to the main project with me. For the last 40K project, the process worked like this:

    1. company contacted me for an intitial meeting to discuss their requirements
    2. I met with key decision makers and performed my usual sales process.
    3. I impressed and it was agreed I would send an executive summary for them to look over (1 page)
    4. We met again and at the end of the meeting agreed that I would be initially hired to create a suitable project specification for the project. Company signed a preliminary agreement to cover the terms for this spec creation.
    5. Three technical consultations later, a project spec was created. It was approved and I was asked to develop the site. Main contract was signed and the company finally committed to the full project .

    End result is that I got paid for the entire process. I would also point out that I also got paid for the initial sales meetings as the company was based 150 miles away, so my travelling time and expenses were given back to me.

    Not all 30K projects go through the standard RFP process, there's plenty of work out there that doesn't require developers to spend many hours or days freely giving up their time and expertise 'on spec'. If I get approached with an RFP I usually decline, or I contact the company to ask if they would allow me to bypass the RFP and sell my services face-to-face (this has worked several times).

    Jaimie - if you are getting 85% success rate on RFP responses, that's fantastic stuff and it's good to see a fellow Yorkshire man making this work, but highly out of the ordinary and certainly no where near the average for this type of sales method.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Addict clearweb's Avatar
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    I give a small breakdown of the items included in the quote, along with the cost for each thing: hosting, domain, shopping cart, etc. And then, the total of all costs.

    I also put an expiration date on the quote. I think this is very important because you don't want them coming back a year later, after you have raised your prices.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Addict Jamieharrop's Avatar
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    You make some good points shadowbox. We all have our own methods of selling, and if the end result for all those methods is we get an 85% success rate then as long as the sales process isn't too long (I don't rate three hours working on a proposal as long when it's a five figure sum project) then it's all good.
    Regards,
    Jamie Harrop

  14. #14
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    I don't provide any form of solution at all until I've been officially hired as their consultant/developer.
    Thanks for an informative answer.
    George Skee
    Follow me at GeorgeSkee.com


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