Winning more work series part III: Closing more deals

In our first article in this series, we looked at how to set yourself up to win work before you’ve even submitted a quote. In our second, we looked at how to put forward a winning quote. In this article, we want to look at how to turn your quotes into cash by tracking and learning from your quotes, while being effective – and efficient – in closing deals.

What does team Qwilr know about this?

Qwilr’s business is about helping people win more work and we now spend every day thinking about just that. Before that we worked in a range of roles that touched proposals and sales Dylan worked as freelance web designer for clients including Saatchi & Saatchi and the Victorian Government. Mark worked in business development at Google, working on partnerships with education publishers in the US. Steve worked on proposing for – and the execution of – multi-million dollar consulting projects at The Boston Consulting Group.

The quote is in: but make sure they’ve actually read it

So you’ve gone to the effort of pouring your heart and soul into making a great quote but now your baby is out there in the world. The most important thing you can do is make sure that your customer has actually engaged with the quote. A good first step is if you use Google Apps email (you should) is to install Banantag which, for a small fee, lets you track whether people have opened your emails. Knowing this is really valuable. Being able to time a follow up call for 15 minutes after your customer has read your quote is priceless. However open tracking on emails is not a complete solution. Plenty of people will quickly open an email, without really reading it, as a way of triaging their inbox. What you really need is an understanding of whether people are actually clicking through to your quote (whether that means opening an attachment or a Qwilr project), and once they’re there, what they’re engaging with.

Measure your impact and work to improve it

This is an area where we think Qwilr adds real value over traditional alternatives. Now, we’re not just here for a sales pitch – so let us say that while we think Qwilr is the best option, if you have a system that achieves what we’re talking about here, and you like it, go ahead and use it. Qwilr’s quote tracking and analytics lets you do three things:

  1. See whether your quote has been opened
  2. Using custom links, see which individuals or group of individuals have opened the quote
  3. See the amount of time that all viewers, or any one viewer spent on each section of your quote. (Note: This feature is in pre-release beta as of early August 2014 and will be publicly available soon).

These analytical tools give you an insight into your sales process. Now you have the ability to:

  • Know who in your customer’s organisation opened and viewed your quote; i.e. did the MD ever read it?
  • See how much time people spend reading your proposal, what parts they’ve read, and who spent the time. Was it a thorough engagement, or a cursory glance?
  • Time your follow up communication to coincide with your customers’ engagement with your quote. Send a follow up email once you know they’ve read your quote.
  • See which parts of your proposal are engaging your customers’ attention. See whether they spend time reading the “about us” section or the “testimonials” section. See how long they spend looking at your price versus looking at your proposed scope of works.

All of this helps with the quote you just sent. But more importantly it offers you the chance to learn about and improve on your sales process. Now that you can see what copy, images and styles achieve what levels of engagement, you can make data-driven decisions that improve your sales process. In that way, Qwilr’s great looking proposals help you close more deals today. But Qwilr’s analytics let you close even more deals over time by learning about and improving your sales process.

Go in to the price negotiation knowing what price you can afford

If we turn back to the quote you’ve just sent, we need to talk about actually closing the deal. You’ve sent the quote. You know your customer has read it. Maybe they’ve come back to you with questions or clarifications. Now is the time to close the deal. We don’t presume in this post to give you a rundown on negotiating strategy – a topic so dense and complex that entire books are written about it. Instead what we want to suggest are a few ‘guardrails’ that will help you frame how you want to negotiate. It’s important to have some kind of strategy when negotiating price. Not all strategies are equal, but some plan of attack will at least help you to know what to say. When thinking of this plan of attack, it’s worth being aware that different strategies will serve different goals. Some businesses, as we’ve said before, will refuse to discount as a way of filtering the type of work they do. Others will start high and settle on any price the customer is willing to pay. Others still will start with bargain-basement prices and refuse to budge. Think about the pricing strategy you want to adopt, and the business reason behind it. For instance, if yours is a business facing cashflow constraints, it might make sense to take the occasional job below cost in order to maintain cashflow (though don’t do that too often or you’ll have big problems!). Similarly, it can make a lot of sense to discount your first job for a customer if you think it will help you to win more work. Equally, if your cost structure makes it cheaper to service an existing customer than a new one (this is the case for almost any business), loyalty discounts may be a good strategy. The generalised point is this: understand the business reason behind your pricing negotiations, so that you can measure whether the outcomes you negotiate match the business strategy you’re trying to further. If they don’t, it’s a clear sign you either need to negotiate price differently, or adopt a different strategy.

Avoid the sunk cost fallacy: know when to walk away

But no matter what, you’re not going to close every deal. However: knowing which deals you’re just not going to get, and which deals just need another email, call or meeting can save you a significant amount of time and money. No matter what happens on a deal you can’t close, there are two thins you can do that will increase the chance you’ll get another crack at closing that customer:

  • Stay cool and professional. If the customer pushes hard on price, be firm but polite. Remember that you’re playing a long game: you may lose this deal, but the customer might refer you to a friend if you stay on good terms.
  • Be a clear, compelling and consistent champion for your brand and value proposition. No matter what, stay true to what your company offers to its customers. Use the negotiation as a chance to refine how you articulate your value proposition. Know that while it might not be right for this deal, be clear about when it is that you are right will make it easier to close the next deal with this customer, or another.

Perhaps most importantly, you need to avoid the sunk cost fallacy. If you’ve invested two weeks in negotiating with a customer and the deal doesn’t look like it’s going to close, don’t keep negotiating just because you’ve already dropped two weeks. Those two weeks are a sunk cost – you’re never getting them back. The better question to ask is where can you most productively put the time you’d spend continuing the negotiation. If the answer is “closing this deal”, do it. But most likely, you’d be better off working on pitches for new customers, or working on negotiations that are more fresh. The sunk cost fallacy isn’t easy to fight. Time spent on a deal creates emotional investment. And walking away can feel like failing. But you have to acknowledge that you goal is to win as much quality work as possible – not to close every deal. And you have to acknowledge that you have limited time and resources to achieve that goal.

Recap – Close more deals by:

  • Tracking customer engagement with your quotes.
  • Learn how customers engage with what you’ve sent and constantly improve based on what you learn.
  • Understand what you want to get out of a price negotiation and why you want to get it.
  • Remember that sometimes you have to walk away from a deal in order to close more deals overall.

 

Previously in this series:

 

steve-hind
Steve Hind is a Strategist at Qwilr

Steve Hind is a strategist. He blogs (sometimes) at The Hindsite Blog and has economics and law degrees from the University of Sydney. He has won the World Universities Debating Championship, and the World Schools Debating Championship, as both a student and as coach of the Australian team.