Don’t Bother With Contractor Estimate Software
Why Buying Contractor Estimate Software IS A MISTAKE
Instead Of Purchasing Separate Estimate Software, Choose The Right CRM
With all the technology now available, it is amazing that some contractors still do estimates in manual ways. Some are still relying on handwritten forms, or Word documents, or any number of other “start from scratch every time” methods.
Maybe you are tempted to think, “What’s the big deal?” After all, isn’t the homeowner more concerned with the price on the bottom of the estimate than how it is delivered or what it looks like?
That may have a grain of truth in some cases. But most homeowners are wary of hiring a contractor, and that caution goes much deeper than the bottom line price on an estimate. There are unfortunately still too many contractors that do mediocre work, hire unqualified workers who they do not train properly, and have unprofessional habits.
In this environment, homeowners are searching for clues that your contracting business is a safe choice. They want to feel that you are competent, organized, and that they are going to get what they pay for with a minimum of hassle. Your estimate is a written promise to do a specified amount of work at a promised price. How it looks and how smooth the process is to deliver it DOES matter.
If your current estimating process and presentation is a bit “loosey-goosey,” it is time to huddle with your entire sales team and create a set of best practices.
You want to create a process and an estimate that sends the following signals to the homeowner: “We give you a detailed, professional estimate and we do it efficiently. The estimate is clear, without ambiguity or games. Everything is in writing and delivered professionally.” Handwritten or manual estimate processes don’t send this message. Neither do inconsistent processes and workflows around estimating. (For more on creating a great workflow for estimates, see this article).
If you are convinced it is time to improve your estimate presentation and delivery, you will want software to support it. But first you need to know what NOT to buy.
Buying Separate Contractor Estimate Software Is A Mistake
One of the most common blunders when choosing contractor estimate software is purchasing a software that ONLY does estimates.
It’s a completely understandable mistake. Many estimating software choices are easy to use, create crisp and professional documents, and allow for generating estimates remotely on a tablet or laptop.
If you are a contractor that up to now has had an inconsistent estimating presentation and process, all this sounds pretty great. You and your team can say goodbye to the days of starting each new estimate from scratch in a Word document or whatever other process you may have cobbled together over time.
There’s a problem, though. It is not so much what contractor estimate software does, but what it doesn’t do.
The truth is you can do better than simply choosing a software that can ONLY create estimates. No matter how good your estimates look and how easy the software is to use, if it is not integrated into your overall lead and customer tracking software, it will cost you time and money.
What happens is this:
You will have one software you use for estimates, and then a separate way of tracking your leads and workflow. That means spending a lot of time flipping back and forth between the two systems. You will also have to enter customer information multiple times. Inevitably, human error will come into play as you enter information from one system to the other. It will also be more challenging to track down the status of any specific lead.
All of this is totally unnecessary, because there are lead management software solutions (CRMs) that have excellent estimating tools built right in. Once the lead is in the system, every single customer can be tracked from the very beginning until project completion, and the estimating process is fully integrated into the overall workflow.
With the right software, you can instantly see the status of any specific lead. When it comes to estimates, you can see who has received one, if it was accepted, and even build in automatic follow-up messages and reminders to your sales team on when to reach out again. Setting up a rehash program that pretty much runs itself is another benefit of a good contractor CRM.
Stop for a moment and consider how much smoother and easier it would be to have your estimates integrated with the rest of your workflow. No cumbersome pulling together of the data to figure out the status of estimates. No getting the run around from your salespeople on whether they followed-up with a particular lead. It is all instantly available in one place, and all at your fingertips.
The Power Of Metrics
There is something else to consider here, and that’s the powerful insights you get from having real-time, accurate metrics about your estimates. Without up-to-date, comprehensive, and accurate data about your estimates, you cannot make smart decisions in this critical area.
The argument could be made that the data is still all out there without having everything in one system. That may be true, but you’ll need to cobble it together from different systems to get the whole picture. And even if you manage to do that without introducing errors, the information will always be a step behind.
And anyway, why would you put yourself through that? It is much better to have one source of truth: your CRM. If your source for truth is missing the critical data around one of your most important processes, this dilutes the value of both the CRM and the separate estimating tool.
One other overlooked benefit of having estimates as part of your CRM workflow is that you can seamlessly transition a prospect into a customer. Upon acceptance of the estimate, wouldn’t you want it to be super simple to schedule the scope of work you just sold?
If you have separate estimating software, you’ll be stuck entering information about the production phase into another tool. With the right contractor CRM, you can schedule the work for the estimate you just closed with one click.
So a CRM is clearly the way to go. However, there is a catch. Not every CRM has good estimating tools, and many are not created specifically for contractors. If you are choosing a CRM (or are switching from another), here are some things to look for:
- Is the estimating part of the software robust enough to meet your needs? Will it allow you to include everything you want to have in an estimate? The simplest way to answer this is to ask for a demo and specifically test out the estimate functions.
- What do the estimates look like? Don’t worry about whether it appears super fancy. Too complex can work against you. But it should look clean, sharp, and professional.
- How user friendly is it for your sales consultants? Is it easy to complete an estimate remotely at the customer’s home? Also beware of high add-on fees to license field users. If you have a large sales team, that can add up.
- Does the software allow for automated follow-up? Will the sales manager or owner be able to easily see which sales team members are consistently following up on estimates that were not closed the first time?
- How simple is the process for getting an e-signature from your customers to accept the estimate and close the deal?
Want To See How This All Fits Together?
How much easier could managing leads and estimates be with a robust CRM built specifically for contractors? How much more efficient could you be with a consistent estimate process built into the rest of your workflow? Find out with a free demo of the best CRM for contractors: Builder Prime.