Here are some excellent resources for your business

A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Winning business after you've sent the quote

No one likes wasting effort, which is why it is particularly irritating to lose business after you have prepared a good quote. Benjamin Dyer of Powered Now explains how to maximise sales when you're quoting for new business

Quotes for customers are the lifeblood of many small businesses, especially trades such as plumbing, building and landscape gardening. They can also be incredibly frustrating.

You work hard researching materials, getting prices together and estimating the work in order to put together a great quotation. You hope that the customer is eagerly anticipating your email and that they will open it the moment it arrives, recognise all the hard work that has gone into it and respond positively.

Sadly, the world doesn't always work like that.

And yet, when it comes to trade businesses, one of the biggest complaints from homeowners is that they can't get quotes out of them. Unfortunately this doesn't mean they will necessarily read them when they are received.

Make sure the quote is in the right hands

But there are ways to improve the amount of work you get after you quote for jobs. The first thing is to make sure your prospect has actually received your quote. As well as emailing (or posting) the quote, it's also worth texting the customer to let them know the quote has been sent.

It's all too common for emails from new contacts to end up in the spam folder. Meanwhile, your customer may be reading the quote that your competitor sent and has no idea what happened to yours.

Marcelle Stoughton, director of Fencing Services, puts it this way: "After I send a quote, as well as texting them, the following day I call the prospect by phone to confirm they got it and to see if they have any questions. If they haven't opened it I try to get them to open it or retrieve it from the spam folder. However, I don't pressurise them."

Don't let sleeping dogs lie

After the quote has gone, you also need to note a time in your diary when you should follow up. It is best if you pre-arrange this if possible. Marcelle Stoughton says: "I call them back a week later after they have had time to think about it."

Lose with grace

Sometimes, unfortunately, you will be the loser. Under these circumstances, it's important to make the most of a bad job. Matthew Stevenson of The Landscape Company says: "If I get an email back with bad news saying I haven't got the job, I always respond saying thank you for the opportunity and thanks for responding and wishing them all the best. I also tell them that if they want anything in the future, to not hesitate to get in touch."

If you respond this way the prospect will really appreciate your attitude. If things don't go to plan, they may come back to you now or in the future. They might even recommend you to others. None of that can happen if you are rude or if you don't reply.

Unfortunately if you are off-hand or rude, you not only guarantee your good work was wasted, you may even cause adverse comment to be posted online. A recent survey of homeowner attitudes found that increasing numbers were checking reputation online.

You also miss out on the opportunity to find out why you lost the business, so you can build that into the way you sell in the future. For instance, if you lost on price and it was obvious that was all that mattered, you might choose not to bid for work with that type of customer in the future.

If the prospect decides to delay the work this presents a different issue. You need to contact them on a regular basis; many customers actually forget who they had previously contacted and when they decide to get the work done, they often start their search again.

Always look to improve

If you make sure that you track the work that you won and lost by source of lead, this enables you learn where the most valuable leads come from, and concentrate your efforts accordingly.

Avoid being on the losing team

It's a lot of work to provide excellent quotes; and it's annoying when you do it for nothing. But by making a few small changes, you can improve your conversion rate and win more business in the long term.

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