“Luke, I am your father.”
“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
“Greed is good.”
Ah, yes, memorable quotes from celebrated films. Millions of people have heard these classic lines uttered on screen.
Except they haven’t. No one has. Those lines above aren’t what’s said or what’s written in the script.
Darth Vader actually says, “No, I am your father.” Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men never asks if the courtroom wants the truth; he asks them if they want answers. And the real line from Wall Street—“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”— is not quite as pithy as the more popular condensed version.
What does this have to do with your business? Well, you might think you’re creating great pricing quotes for your clients, but if what you’re quoting and what your audience is understanding are two different things, you could be losing out on a ton of deals.
When the value you’re offering and the details of your quote get lost in translation, you’ve got a blockbuster-sized quotation problem.
Here’s how to fix it: learn how to quickly put together pricing and project quotes that communicate it right every time and get clients to say yes. We’ve even included our free quotation template to get you started.
Your guide to creating quotes for clients that close
What is a quote?
Is it the quick-and-dirty estimate or total cost number that you fire off in an email? Or is it the multi-page document that outlines the project and everything that goes into it?
Yes. It can be either of those things, as well as dozens of other permutations in between.
Depending on the product or service, client needs and expectations, and the quoting process, exceedingly simple and straightforward quotes might work well.
On the other hand, your clients may expect a bit more than an unexplained total cost sent in a brief email. So for the purposes of this guide, we’ll be talking about those more robust quote documents.
What should you include in a quote?
Quotes protect buyers and allow you to outline a statement of work (what you’ll deliver, when, how, and at what cost) that protects you as well. Everything that the project or purchase includes is laid out there for both sides to see.
Quotes might seem like a formality. The prospect asked for a quote so they must be ready to buy! Right? I’ll just jot something down and fire it off and we’ll be in business, literally.
That might be true in some cases. In others, you’ll need to really showcase the value you provide in order to win the business.
Here are the components of a comprehensive quote:
- A cover letter
- Your business information
- Your prospective client’s business information
- Identifying and reference details, like the customer and/or quote number
- Pricing and fee table or summary
- Project schedule
- Terms and conditions
- ‘Valid until’ date
- Thoughtful presentation and on-brand design
Quote cover letters
A quote cover letter is very similar to a cover letter you’d send with your resume when applying for a job. (Psst—because you are applying for a job!) It’s your introduction letter to clients.
In your cover letter you want to show that you can deliver on the promises your quote will be making. Explaining how you can offer extra value will help you stay out of a pricing faceoff. You don’t want to discount your prices, so what other things can you point to that would be beneficial?
For example, do you have specific expertise that the competition just can’t offer? Your cover letter is the place to not-so-humble-brag about your awesome team.
Quote pricing tables and fee summaries
Before creating your pricing, you need to know the outcomes your customer expects, what their requirements are and what would be nice to have, and how long the project will take. You should do some research to make sure your prices aren’t out of whack with your industry (higher OR lower) and that you have built in your profit margin and some wiggle room for negotiation.
For product pricing, you’ll have more fixed costs but you’ll want to also consider turnaround time, shipping costs, any customization, brokerage, etc. and make sure these are accounted for.
Interactive pricing tables give your clients options and make them feel like they’re in control of the quote and the associated costs. They can also help you break down recurring fees, like monthly retainer costs or per-hour pricing. Learn more about how to price a proposal or quote here.
This is the timeline for when things included in the project will happen or when key deliverables are due. You could outline this chronologically or by the person or entity responsible.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions are the regulations that protect your business and your clients by outlining who is responsible for what, when, how, the costs involved, and the length of the contract or project.
They can detail what is or isn’t within the scope of the project and the consequences of adding things outside the scope, clients changing their minds on existing aspects of the project, or if the project is cancelled.
Sometimes, a quote will contain partial terms and conditions until the quote or contract is signed and then a full-project terms and conditions document is delivered. Learn more about creating your terms and conditions here.
‘Valid until’ date
The ‘valid until’ date is the date at which the quoted prices are no longer enforceable. The client would need to accept and sign the quote or place their order before that deadline in order to receive the pricing as quoted.
Generally, a ‘valid until’ date is set at 30 days from the issuance of the quote, but this time period could be longer or shorter depending on your company and industry.
Some quotes forgo a set ‘valid until’ date and instead include a warning that prices are subject to change without notice.
The sign-off section is where the client says yes, so making it as easy as possible for them is the key here. Using interactive pricing tables is one way to get them to say yes and electronic signatures make it simple for them to e-sign on the digital dotted line.
Create urgency by including your ‘valid until’ date or another deadline so the quoting process doesn’t drag on forever.
Thoughtful presentation and on-brand design
Your quote won’t just be judged on its content. Your prospective clients will also be evaluating your presentation.
Because of this, your quote needs to be professional and attractive. Good design is part of how you communicate your company’s value proposition. This means no outdated, boring Word docs or ugly, convoluted Excel sheets that scream, “I don’t care about your business”.
Include your company logo, brand colours, and lots of white space to let your quote details breathe. Make sure your tables, charts, photos, and any other image-based content is clear and easy to understand.
How to troubleshoot common problems when you’re generating and sending quotes to clients
It takes you too long to get your quotes out
Good quotation management helps you get your quotes out quickly and accurately.
You need to have a process in place to produce your quotes while making sure that they are comprehensive and precise. Many clients today will expect a 24-hour turnaround time on quotes, so you need to be ready to roll.
Quoting software, like Proposify, can solve a lot of your process problems. You can save the boilerplate information that you use in all of your quotes in the content library and also loop in other software you use, like your CRM, to auto-populate client details.
A pricing quote template you can plug all these details into will save you even more time. Our free quote template can kick-start your quoting process—plus it’s completely customizable.
Integrating your accounting software with your quotation software makes pricing and invoicing easy, fast, and consistent, without the time-consuming manual data entry or duplication that can slow you down.
A certain client always wants a quote but never buys
There will always be those people who ask for quote after quote but never buy from you. Understanding their motivation will help you decide how much time and effort you want to dedicate to these repeated requests—or if you want to respond at all.
Before you shoot off another quote, find out more about their purchasing timeline and what they have in place to make a decision. Are they just gathering information for a project that they’re in the process of budgeting for now? Have they decided to make a purchase and are seeking out the lowest price? Do they already have a vendor like you and are simply shopping around a bit?
Sometimes the client is asking you to be part of their discovery process to justify going with a preferred vendor or to make sure that their existing contract is still the best deal for them. A lot of organizations are required to do an RFQ process for certain products or services on a regular schedule as part of their budgeting.
In this case, know what you’re up against. Try to find out what they like or don’t like about their current provider and use that as a jumping-off point for your own quote.
No follow-up once the quote is sent.
Any delay in the quoting process takes you further from a closed deal. Stay on top of all your pending quotes with quoting software. It allows you to see when clients open and view your quotes so you know exactly when to reach out with a timely follow-up email or call.
Automating your follow-up emails and tasks makes for even better efficiency in this area and makes sure you don’t forget. You could set it to send after a certain amount of time has elapsed or trigger an email send when the client performs a certain activity, like viewing the quote.
Quote software can also provide you with in-quote chat so your clients can ask questions right as they review the document, cutting down on the time spent going back and forth.
The client thinks your quote is too high.
A classic quoting issue. Again, find out what’s behind this feedback.
First, make sure the client understands the difference between a quote and an estimate. The quote you’ve provided is an educated pricing outline, based on your experience, fixed and projected costs, required deliverables, and so on. It’s not a rough idea. It’s based on facts and realities and isn’t just a number you pulled out of the air.
Next, find out what the client means by “too high”. Are you coming in much higher than other quotes they’ve received?
This is where you need to demonstrate the value you provide. Say you do landscaping and lawn care services. Your competitor quoted a project as “Spring lawn management package, $300” while your quote for a similar package came in at $500.
But what if you listed out the line items—soil aeration, liming, fertilizer, weed control, and so on?—or added a green-lawn guarantee? Think about how can you differentiate, other than solely on price.
Here are three other things they might tell you about why they think it’s too high and how you can respond:
1. Is it outside the amount the client budgeted? Sorry, friends, this one is on you. Confirming a budget amount or range for the project is something that should have happened prior to your sending a quote or proposal. Learn more about qualifying leads before putting things in writing here.
2. Did you include more deliverables or bigger results than they were envisioning for the project, which drove the price up? Again, this is a conversation that should have occurred before preparing and delivering a quote. Reconfirm with the client the scope of the project as you understand it and explain how the included deliverables and services will get them the result they want.
Be careful about removing line items and deliverables, as once the project is in progress the client may try to slip them or others back in. Learn more about preventing scope creep here.
You could also see if there are any items that could be made the client’s responsibility. For example, on a construction project, the client might take care of demolition so that your team can dive into the job right away.
3. Do they think it’s too high based on nothing but their incorrect assumption of what the project should cost? Maybe they’ve been watching too many HGTV shows that don’t factor labour costs into the total prices of their home renovations… and expected you to do the same. Break the news to them gently.
How much are you willing to negotiate? Have you given your best price or is there room to go back and forth on it? In some rare cases, it might be worthwhile to reduce your profit margins on the quoted project, like if it’s a high-profile dream client or you think the project will lead to more work in the future.
In this type of case, it might be harder to find common ground. You could try changing the payment terms, like offering a discount for invoices paid upfront or within a shorter time period than you usually allow.
And, there’s always the option to walk away from projects and clients who don’t fully understand the value your business offers. Saying no to clients like this frees you up to take on others who can fully appreciate your work and are willing to pay what it’s worth.
Quote template and cover letter sample
A quote cover letter isn’t just a hasty, “Here is the quote you requested for ABC project.” This might work if you’re sending a new quote to an existing customer, as they already know about you and your products or the work that you do, or if it’s a quick, straightforward quote that you can dash off instantly.
For more complex or big-ticket quotes and new customers, you’ll want to introduce yourself and your company. Thank the client for the chance to quote them, and include a specific reason why you should get their business, how you will commit to the success of the project and relationship, and any next steps.
We’ve created the free sample quote cover letter and quote template below to help you get started.
Using a template helps you:
- Look more professional;
- Get more quotes out more quickly;
- Track what’s happening with them;
- And receive faster sign-off with esignatures.
Put your days of quoting issues behind you, and get ready to shoot for the moon. Go from “Houston, we have a problem.” to “Ah, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” with this 100% customizable quote template.
Click the image below to start quoting!