Quoting is a very important part of any business as it is most commonly the first step in securing a sale. The way in which people quote will vary from business to business, and so being able to adapt a quoting system to suit your quoting processes is key. The ability to make quoting consistent, efficient and traceable will help you streamline your business along with giving you the ammunition to make informed business decisions. With so many systems to choose from, it is hard to distinguish the difference between them. We have put together the three main outcomes you should expect to see from using quoting software.
Consistency is the key. Making quoting consistent is every sales manager’s dream. It would be ideal if every employee that works within estimating had years upon years of experience when it comes to quoting in the industry you trade in. Unfortunately, this is not very often the case, and so giving the ‘less experienced’ members the ability to produce a quote to that high standard is essential. This can be accomplished in many ways through a quoting system. First off, having a quoting system as a central hub gives users the ability to look at past quotes in order to help them produce new ones. A word of advice, try and find a system that has the ability to input search criteria other than a fancy internal number. There is nothing worse than trying to find that bracket you quoted and realising that you have to go through pages and pages of item codes in order to find it. The point I’m trying to make is that if it’s called a ‘bracket’, make sure you can search the term ‘bracket’ in order to find it. Another thing that should be considered is the ability to use customised formulas in order to produce quotes. These could be as simple as a minute per part formula, or more advanced such as one that takes the feed rate of a machine and the material thickness into account when quoting a sheet metal job, for example. Using this theory, it doesn’t matter who inputs the sizes and quantities as everyone will get the exact same result.
Being efficiency = being effective. Speeding up the quoting process is only going to improve a business as a whole. At the same time, improving efficiency should have no affect on the quality of quotations produced. Simple things such as being able to copy quotes that have already been produced, and to then give them a ‘nip and a tuck’ should be a standard expectation. As touched on with the consistency side of things, having the ability to use customised formulas will only speed up the process as less manual calculations are required. Following on from that point, having something such as a DXF analyser in place will eradicate manual entry and also eliminate any data entry mistakes. Long gone are the days of exporting a quotation letter to then have to manually attach it to an email. The sending of quotation letters can be done at the click of a button and can be sent directly to a particular person within a customer’s organisation. It’s always a sigh of relief and a sense of achievement when your customer turns around and tells you they would like to place the order, but what do you do when they ask you for an expected delivery date? This is where being able to forecast the quote immediately becomes very helpful. This must one of the most frequently asked questions within the manufacturing industry and you’d be surprised as to how many quoting systems do not have this feature! Reporting back on quotations can help you make informed business decisions. With the traceability factor in use, you can report back on things such as quotation capture rates and also how long it takes to produce quotes. You may find that your estimators are taking longer than they should be to produce quotes, or even that your prices for a certain customer are too expensive due to a lack of converted quotes.
The traceability tree. The ability to trace quotes is something you should expect to see in any old system. The thing you do have to consider though is the detail of that traceability as it will vary from system to system. The advantage of computer systems in this day and age is that the traceability factor is more commonly an automated process that requires very little human intervention. Many companies will have a workflow process whereby the RFQ (request for quote) is received by the receptionist who then merely logs the request and assigns the production of the quote to an estimator. This request should then appear on that estimators start screen and warn them once the required date is fast approaching. Once produced and sent, it is of huge benefit to be able to associate tasks to the quote. An example may be to follow the quote up to see if the customer wishes to go ahead. Throughout this entire process, the system should be automatically creating a log of who has done what, and when. The ability to associate multiple quotes to one quote letter is also something that is very useful, especially when dealing with customers you often quote for. There may be cases where you are involved in quoting sections of large projects, and so the functionality of project ID and budget allocation can come into play. The traceability element of quoting can also be used further down the line. If materials from certain suppliers have been used or if jobs have been quoted on specific machines, the system will purchase and schedule accordingly.
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