Are Quote Templates slowing down your sales?

Quite a few clients coming to me worried or complaining about their Quote Templates.

These have been built in Excel, they are relatively easy to use and they are transportable.

Meaning your sales rep does not need to have access to your SAP, Oracle or JDE database. She can simply use her laptop and the data in her Excel sheet.

And here is where the problem starts. Let’s look at the major pitfalls my clients are experiencing:

  • It takes too long to build a quote
  • The prices are not accurate
  • The discounts given are too high

In fact these scenarios are so frustrating for the sales person trying to build a quote. And equally if not more frustrating for my clients. They are bleeding because they are missing out on opportunities when the quoting process takes too long. They are bleeding in lost margin and inaccurate pricing, which can be very dangerous…

Why does it take so long to build a quote?
It all depends on how you set up the Excel spreadsheet and the user interface. What I’ve seen time and time again is a simple drop down list of all items their customers could buy. And because the width of the drop-down field is limited in size you are not showing a long text description but a form of abbreviation that your sales-rep should be able to interpret. On the final quote the long text would appear via a lookup.

So now your sales rep starts to look for the right item-number in a list of maybe 503 products – and many of my clients have way more SKUs in their database than 503.

In some instances I’ve seen that the sales person is looking into their company’s or supplier’s website to locate the right product. That was a quicker way to find it accurately than in their quoting system.

No wonder that it takes too long to build a quote.

When I’m building a quoting system for my clients I make sure that there is a search field allowing a full text search on their item descriptions. In other words if you type in “50mm” the list shown is reduced to only those items with a measurement of 50mm in your database. Now the sales person only sees a handful of items in the list and can easily pick the right one.

You can make the user interface so responsive that the user experience within Excel is like searching within Google.

Why are the prices not accurate?
This is to a lesser extent an Excel problem and more an organisational problem.

I’ve seen sales reps using their laptop with last year’s price list loaded and using it.

In a decentralised system, where every sales-person has a copy of the pricing matrix on their laptop it can easily happen that people forget to download the latest price list or similar.

Why not place the price-list into the cloud? Then you make sure that your local quoting system in Excel is either accessing that file directly or at least is forced to download the latest pricelist in certain intervals.

Why are the discounts given too high?
And this is another flaw I see in the many Excel spreadsheets built for quoting.

There is a field – right next to the total amount – where people can give a discount. Of course, a discount makes perfect sense.

What doesn’t make sense is to allow the discount to be set freely without restrictions or limitations.

Here again a clever Excel tool can help you to put checks and boundaries in place. And if the sales person wants to give a higher discount the system can cope. All they need to do is to send that quote to their manager. They then have the authority to increase the discount on a case by case basis.

In summary: If you can avoid these three major pitfalls you are way ahead. Because a smooth and clever quoting system is at the centre of a good sales process.

“The changes Jürgen made have resulted in a substantial time saving and improved the reliability of our process allowing us to focus on the analysis rather than the collation and manipulation of data. Jürgen isn't just an Excel guy but really understand process flows and the business outcomes. Thanks again.”
David Barton – Club Plus Super

Whenever you are ready, here are three ways I could help you right now…

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