What do you do when a customer rings in about a bigger job?
Let’s say it’s refitting a bathroom, or re-doing their electrics. Most companies would send in a surveyor to take stock, then offer a price and hope for the best. Most companies also miss out on a big chunk of business like this.
Why? Because they’re sending an estimate, not a service proposal.
How is a service proposal different from a quote? Or an estimate?
The latter two are pretty easy: an estimate is different from a quote in the sense that it’s not a formal document, but rather a ballpark figure, whereas a quote is a price breakdown that your company has to respect once agreed upon with the customer.
Both quotes and estimates are easy to put together and quick to send over, but they don’t do much except tell the customer a number.
Service proposals are a different game altogether.
While people tend to use them interchangeably, the reality is that once you get to a certain level as a business (or, if you want to get there), you can’t send every prospect a table of prices and call it a day.
Every interaction you have with a customer is a representation of who you are as a company, so you want to make a good impression. What’s more, if you send out 50 quotes/week and spend 10 – 15h working on them, but only 1 gets accepted, then you’ve wasted 98% of the work you put into it.
Many blame it on customers being cheap, but the fact of the matter is that someone simply did a better job communicating the value they would provide.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at the examples below:
Prices have no context
Doesn’t stand out among the competition
The customer doesn’t have any options beyond “accept/reject”
Looks and feels premium
Lets the customer decide between premium & budget
Includes images and context for the price
Has a time-sensitive offer to speed up decision
Now, which company would you trust with your expensive home renovation project?
2. What to include in a service proposal
The most important thing to keep in mind when working on your proposal is that you’re not the customer. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many service companies forget that most customers have no idea what a retro-fit costs, or whether £299 is a good deal on a new basin.
They also don’t know that it took years for your technicians to be able to get a job done in 45 minutes, so they scoff at the idea of paying £100+ for labour.
The easy thing would be to walk away from these (frankly) normal objections and move on. but this means missing out on potentially thousands of £’s in business! A good service proposal, however, does a great deal of the work to convince a prospect that you’re worth the price tag – whatever you decide that may be!
Basic things to include in your service proposal:
Company name, address, contact
Proposal number and send date
Customer name and address
Item images and details (name, serial number, quantity, price)
Total before and after VAT
That will get you closer to a good proposal, but if you really want to take it to the next level and ensure you get the jobs you want, consider adding some of the following:
Pricing options or tiers
Options are the staple of a good installation proposal. They make the customer feel in control of their experience and give them a good idea of what things generally cost.
However, two to three items at a similar price point won’t be that helpful.
Try to structure them in tiers: standard, advanced, premium or budget and luxury.
Most of us choose services according to this pricing structure daily, even if we aren’t aware of it. Think of your Netflix subscription. Are you on the Basic plan? Probably not.
With tiered pricing, you can also compete with other companies without sacrificing your profits. According to Harvard Business Review, most customers will go either for the middle option or the premium one.
Add-ons are smaller value items that can catch a customer’s eye in the proposal and that you can buy fairly cheap at wholesale, then offer them at a high margin.
Wayne Bettess, host of the Off the Tools podcast has a great example: he noticed a company offering carbon monoxide alarms as add-ons, so he had a look at a wholesaler and realised the company was making a massive profit on each device. He placed an order and started offering them to his customers as well. With a little bit of capital and little effort, he managed to create an easy additional revenue stream.
The idea is to make these items small and fairly cheap compared to the job cost, so that customers can feel like it’s not making that big of a difference in the end. Things like digital thermostats, exclusive colours, or personalised items can be a good way to increase the value of your deals.
Financing solutions are becoming more common these days, especially if you’re a heating company, as not everyone can afford a big install (especially when their boiler breaks down unexpectedly).
If you’re not familiar, these are third-party vendors who will pay for the job and negotiate their terms of repayment with the customer, so you’re not liable to incur any debt.
Finding the right partners can be challenging, but once you’ve locked them in, it’s a great way to help customers get the work they want, even if they might not be able to afford the full cost all at once.
This way, you can reach and support both budget-conscious customers, as well as the ones who might be keen on efficient but more expensive instals.
Make it time-sensitive!
The more expensive the job, the longer the buying journey.
That makes sense, right?
The customer wants to know what’s out there, which companies can do the work, and whether their budget covers it. However, your goal is to get proposals accepted and people booked in, so a time-sensitive offer can be a great help.
Your proposal can include specific terms and conditions such as:
This proposal is only available for the next 10 days.
Accept this proposal within 10 working days for a 10% discount.
If you accept this proposal in the next 10 days, you’ll be entitled to a free carbon monoxide alarm
Feel free to get creative – these time-sensitive offers will help customers differentiate between you and the competition and speed up the decision-making process.
A service subscription
Depending on the installation you’re working on, a service subscription can also be a good option for you to establish a long-term relationship with the client.
Most appliances will require regular maintenance in order to work well and remain efficient.
Customers will be open to the idea, as they’re getting ready to make an investment, and they want that investment to be as profitable as possible in the long term.
Adding a maintenance subscription to the proposal is fairly easy, either as a monthly/yearly fee or a one-off payment. Again, tiered, good-better-best subscription options should also be considered, but the installation proposal is not the best place for these, especially if you’re trying to keep it simple.
Consider also removing the add-ons if you want to promote a subscription. Options are great, but clutter is not.
The best practice, in this case, is to list the option and use it as a conversation starter when discussing the job with the customer.
The takeaway on writing a good service proposal
Writing a good service proposal is a lengthy process that will require you to try out different things, see what customers respond to, and improve as you go.
Tracking your prospects, conversion rate, as well as your average deal value is essential when figuring out the best proposal strategy for your business.
If you’re ready to streamline this and sell with greater confidence, check out our guide: Stop Quoting, Start Selling. It has everything you need to level up your home service sales and win more business!
Hi! I'm Cristina Maria
And I want to bring next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for a sci-fi novel to beat The Foundation.