How to Create a Smooth Workflow for Your Estimates
Creating A Consistent Workflow Around Home Contracting Estimates Can Be A Game Changer.
Having The Right Software To Support The Process Is Key.
Sometimes what can have the most impact on a home contracting business are the very things most easily overlooked because of how simple and fundamental they are.
For example, there are not many things more vital to your sales than the process your company uses for estimates, but few contractors ever sit down and map out a workflow for how they should be handled from start to finish.
Of course, all home improvement companies do have some kind of process for estimates; you couldn’t be in business without a way of delivering estimates. It is just that many times the estimating method and workflow has simply happened, evolving over time with very little conscious thought or organization.
When the estimating process is disorganized, you will close less sales than you otherwise would because of a lack of follow-up. Prospects will also sense the difference between a company that has its act together in this area and those that do not, which will definitely impact your close rate.
Estimating is an area that you can improve rapidly with a small investment of time. It is mostly a matter of thinking through your workflow surrounding the estimate process, and then having the right software to create, deliver, and track those estimates.
Creating A Workflow To Make Your Estimating Process Better
The estimating process for different home improvement businesses will of course vary greatly. The process for creating an estimate for a major kitchen remodel that will last months will be different from what is needed for an estimate for a half-day job to install gutter guards.
So it is impossible to give definitive advice that applies to every home contractor. However, there are general categories of estimate workflow that apply universally. No matter what kind of contracting business you run, there are things you need to think through to create a workflow. Here they are:
Step 1: Recognize That You Need A Workflow For Estimates
The first step is for both you and your team to acknowledge that committing to a workflow is a leap forward. Perhaps up to now, it’s been an unconscious process that has mostly worked, and you may be tempted to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The problem with that is you may not recognize that it is broken until you start putting more thought into creating an estimate workflow. It is likely that once you institute improved processes and tracking, you will discover that sales have been slipping through your net.
Step 2: Revisit How Estimates Are Calculated
Your team may already be on the same page about how estimates are calculated. But how sure are you of that? At your next sales meeting, get together and discuss best practices for estimates and get into the granular details of how they are calculated.
Even if everyone is doing it the same, are there ways to do it better? As time has gone on, have the ways you are calculating materials or labor fallen behind your current costs in those areas? It can be easy to slip into a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset. Look at the calculation process with fresh eyes.
Finding the right estimating tool can help standardize and automate the calculation of the job cost and the pricing you give prospective customers. Salespeople may be tempted to sell below your target profit margins or go below a price floor that they shouldn’t. An estimating tool can put in guardrails that prevent this from happening.
With manually calculated estimates, there is also the chance of a simple math mistake that costs you money. The right tool can also eliminate these kinds of costly mistakes.
Step 3: Look At How Estimates Are Delivered
The professionalism and presentation of your estimates will impact your overall closing rates. Consider how much detail you put on each estimate. If you have too little detail, the prospect may begin to question, “how do I really know what I am getting and is this a fair price for it?”
On the other hand, too much detail may lead to different problems. It may confuse your potential customer or make them begin questioning every line item.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every kind of contractor. A good idea is to experiment and test what works best. The key point is that you should be putting thought into this, and then collecting data on how it is impacting overall closing rates.
Step 4: Follow-Up
There’s an old saying in sales that “the fortune is in the follow-up.” Despite the undeniable truth of this, this is probably the most overlooked area when it comes to designing an estimate workflow.
The reasons for that are many. Follow-up is tedious. We also know that many times follow-up goes unheeded by the prospect and that a good percentage of the time it will not lead to a closed sale. Your sales team would rather chase the next lead which might look more promising.
This kind of thinking means that leads that could have been closed with follow-up are left on the table. The good news is that there are ways to automate follow-up that make it much less tedious and also make it easier to hold your team accountable to a workflow process. More on that in a minute.
Step 5: Analyze How Easy You Make It To Say “Yes”
In our electronic world, are you giving your customers the option to say yes to an estimate with an e-signature? With the right software choice for delivering estimates, this becomes very simple. The less friction you can put between a homeowner and accepting your proposal, the better.
Step 6: Know Your Data
It also can get tedious to consistently analyze your estimate workflow, maintain that workflow, and also hold individual team members accountable to meeting the standards. However, you will lose most of the benefits of having a consistent method and workflow for estimates if you don’t collect and analyze meaningful data.
The reason many home improvement business owners fail in this area is because the tools they are using to collect and analyze data make it too hard. Using spreadsheets or mediocre software will only lead to frustration. And that frustration means that over time, you will likely stop tracking this in any kind of detailed and helpful way.
The Indispensable Tool For Supporting An Estimate Workflow
If you see how improving your estimating workflow can improve your sales, you might be tempted to immediately search for and buy a good contractor estimate software and get started with it right away. That’s actually a mistake.
Here’s a good article explaining why, but the short version is this:
when you get a software that ONLY creates and delivers estimates, it is not integrated with the rest of your lead and customer tracking. In other words, purchasing standalone contractor estimate software means you are separating your estimate workflow from all your other data, workflows, and metrics.
A smarter way is to choose a CRM designed specifically for contractors, and one with robust estimating tools that allows you to seamlessly create and deliver professional estimates to your prospects.
Look for a CRM that allows all of the following:
- Create estimates that shout, “We’re professional.”
- Allows the estimates to be generated efficiently in the field.
- Completely integrates all tracking of leads, from entry into the system, to estimates, all the way through to completion of the project.
- Has excellent automated follow-up that allows for text messages and emails to be sent after an estimate has been given.
- Allows for easy aggregation of both overall company stats and also individual salesperson stats. This is great for accountability and improving performance.
What To Do Next
If you create an estimate workflow without the right tool to support that process, your results will be less than they could be. You may even fail at it because of the amount of work it takes to track everything.
The right contractor CRM can make a huge difference by supporting and tracking your estimate workflow with ease. But how easy it can be is hard to wrap your head around without actually seeing it. That’s why a demo is a great next step. The demo costs you zero dollars and just a little time. You may be surprised to see how much easier it can make your work life.