Sales Step #4 – Quote/propose…
The next step is to ask for the order! This is also known in the sales world as closing.
This is where many consultants fall down, due to fear of rejection. You are not alone – even full time sales people don’t like rejection. But they face it and deal with it – one reason why sales people are paid so well.
For simple projects, just ask if they would like a quote or proposal. If they agree, quickly review the tasks and schedule for consensus, and then provide a quote. A purchase order will often be issued based on the quote.
For more complex projects, you may need additional meetings for further clarification. This can happens when approval from a committee or higher management is needed.
In our practice, simple quotations worked most of the time, but we did have occasional contracts for larger scale projects.
As a small specialty (boutique) consulting firm, we generally used quotes. Most of our projects were between a week and a month long.
As such, the budget was usually well within a manager’s signing authority. Seldom did our projects need to go to the CEO or a board.
Our typical project schedules were either immediate (troubleshooting or design reviews) or longer term (training.) The former led to a purchase order, and the latter often led to being put in a future budget. Neither required detailed contracts.
So keep it simple! We used a two page format. The first page contained a short description of the objectives, responsibilities, schedule, and cost. The second page contained the “fine print” that did not change from project to project.
With this simple format, we could prepare a quote in minutes. Clients appreciated the quick response, and our quote was often attached to the client purchase order. No need to get the lawyers involved in simple projects.
Here is a sample quote for a short consultation. The second page includes the “fine print.” We used a similar quote for training projects with minor changes.
****** Quotation ******
Client: XYZ Corp.
1234 Main Street
Somewhere, AZ XXXXX
ATTN: John Smith
Purpose: The client designs and manufacturers military doodads, and is failing MIL-STD-461 radiated emissions tests.
Tasks: The consultant, an electrical engineer specializing in EMI/EMC design and troubleshooting, will assist XYZ as follows:
— On site troubleshooting and reviews at XYZ facility in Somewhere, AZ
— Optional summary report (4-8 pages typical)
Schedule: By mutual agreement (or actual date if scheduled)
Budget: $XXXXX, based on 5 days (4 days on site + 1 day travel) plus estimated travel expenses of $2500. Add $2000 for optional report .
Please note this is a budgetary estimate. Actual time and expenses will be invoiced. Quotation will not be exceeded without client approval.
Terms: Net 30 upon invoice. Purchase order and advance travel retainer of $2500 prior to travel. Quotation valid for 60 days.
Daryl Gerke, PE
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
NARTE Certified EMC Engineers
December 13, 2016
Policy Statement & Business Practices
(Consulting & Troubleshooting)
Our clients often have questions about our business practices and policies. This document addresses the most common questions.
Our intent is to help you understand our practices, so that we can better serve your needs as professional consulting engineers.
Thank you for considering us to help you.
Rates -Our rates are $XXX per hour ($xxxx per eight hour per day), plus expenses. We have a four hour minimum for local work, and an eight hour minimum outside for non-local work.
Our rates are subject to change, but purchase orders received within the quotation validity date will be honored as quoted.
Expenses – All expenses will be billed at actual cost, with no markup. These expenses include all travel costs and other expenses incurred for the client.
Travel – Travel time is charged at our regular rates, as follows:
-Local – No travel charge for full day consultations. For less than a full day, time will be billed portal-to-portal with a 4 hour minimum.
-Out of town (Air Travel) – One full day labor is added to consultation fee for travel within the contiguous 48 states.
-Outside Contiguous United States – To be determined.
Travel estimates will be provided in quotations, but all expenses will be invoiced at actual costs. We normally make our own travel arrangements, but if made by client, they are subject to our approval.
We normally purchase “no-penalty” coach airline tickets. Overseas travel is “business” class.
Quotations – Quotations are valid for 60 days, unless otherwise stated. All quotations are budgetary – not fixed price – actual time and expenses will be billed. The quotation will not be exceeded, however, without client authorization.
Terms – Our efforts can proceed upon receipt of a purchase order or letter of authorization., plus an advance travel retainer of $2500. Payment terms are net 30 upon invoice for clients with established credit.
Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure – All client information and communications are held in strict confidence. Client Non-Disclosure Agreements to this effect are normally acceptable, provided they do not contain clauses restricting our right to do business with others.
In addition, client names are not released without prior approval , nor do we use client names in our marketing materials.
Certifications and Insurance – If information disclosure, certifications, or insurance are required by the client, these must be forwarded to us for evaluation prior to issuing a quotation.
Conditions transmitted subsequent to the start of work will invalidate the quotation, and subject the client to any incurred expenses.
Specifically, the following conditions apply – (1) we do not disclose names or information (technical or financial) about any client without express consent of that client, (2) we do not submit to financial audit to any agency, public or private.
Performance and Cost Guarantees – Due to the highly uncertain nature of most EMI problems, we are unable to provide guarantees of success, nor are we able to provide precise pass/fail guidelines.
Often, the extent of the problem is not known until an initial evaluation has been made. As such, all cost estimates are based on a level of effort, but estimates will not be exceeded without your prior approval.
You will always, however, receive our best professional efforts and advice in any consultation.
For larger projects, a contract may be appropriate. On average, we did several contracts a year. In the simplest form, the contract could be an expansion of the two page quotation.
It might include milestones, deliverables, progress payments, and contingencies. Even so, try to keep it simple and clear.
You may need legal advice, but rather than ask your lawyer to prepare a contract, do a rough draft yourself. Include all the details discussed above. Then have your lawyer review it for proper legalese. You will save money, and your lawyer will appreciate it too.
As an alternate, your client may send you a multi-page contract with all kinds of stipulations and restrictions. This is more likely with large companies with a legal department that needs to justify its existence.
If offered a contract, review it before signing. If complex, run it by your own lawyer first. As my lawyer told me may years ago, “If you have a questions, ask me before you sign anything.” He continued with a grin , “I’d rather keep you out of jail, than get you out of jail.”
Either way, don’t be afraid to remove or change things you don’t like.
One stipulation we always removed was a non-compete clause. Our projects were short and generic – if we agreed to serve only one computer company or one military contractor, we’d be out of business in a year.
A non-compete clause, however, may be appropriate for a long term project. If the client is paying you for unique results, they want to protect that. The same is true for nondisclosure, designed to protect proprietary information.
Don’t be afraid to question the need for a contract. A client once send me a twenty page contract for a five day troubleshooting consultation. When I questioned it, he apologized and sent me a simple non-disclosure agreement. Seems his office administrator sent me the wrong paperwork.
Finally, if you are doing business with the government, expect detailed contracts. Accept it as part of the business. Bureaucracies thrive on paperwork – the reason many of us left corporate or government jobs to become consultants in the first place 🙂
This sales step isn’t complete until you receive a purchase order or contract!
So be prepared to follow up. Ask for an anticipated date, and if you don’t have the requisite paper work by then, call and find out the status.
You MUST do this. Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you. Yes, maybe the project has been sidetracked or dropped, but you need to know.
But don’t be a pest. Our policy was two phone calls. If no answers after two calls, we decided it was time to move on.
Finally, if rejected, be polite. Over the years, many “lost” clients came back for future help After all, the client was interested in us in the first place.
Next up – Sales Step #5 – Deliver. Unlike product sales, the sales process for consultants does not stop with a purchase order or contract. Done well, you can turn a project into a long term client, and in some cases, even a long term friend.
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