There comes a point in the sales process where you have to document to the client what is going to happen and what they are expected to pay for it. Quotes tend to be the kind of document used when products are sold and Proposals the kind of document when services are being offered.

A quote is a list of items, part numbers, descriptions, quantities and prices. And at the bottom is the total the customer is going to pay. It rarely – if ever – describes the benefits of having these items. What the customer will be able to do or feel differently after the purchase. It’s just a list of things. Now that’s OK, there is no problem with a list of things, as long as the customer understands the items on the list.

A while ago I wanted a quote for a PC and what I basically got was a list of things. After each item was a technical description of the features. Not a mention of whether I could do music recording and editing – which is what I wanted the PC to be able to do. The salesman said it would be fine for such an application but my quote didn’t state that. Maybe I am being picky but I think it should. If I am buying a list of things with a particular application or end-use in mind I think my quotation should confirm that capability (by the way I bought a Mac instead).

Likewise with Proposals. I don’t want a list of the services provided. Or how long each will take. Or what methodology is going to be used. Unless it is accompanied with some level of guarantee of solving the particular problem that I may have. A client of mine recently received a proposal for a new website. The proposal stated how many web pages there would be, what software language they would be written in, what the process would be to create the website, how it would be tested etc. But no mention that it would deliver an extra 50% of traffic to their site, or that they would obtain better enquiries from interested customers. But that’s what my client had asked for initially.

So, when someone asks to have a gorgeous carrot cake to eat – why give them a list of the ingredients and how much each of them will individually cost?  Or, why give them a description of how the carrot cake will be made, what oven will be used, how long it will be cooked for and at what temperature. Does the customer really need to know that? Perhaps, and maybe it could be in the appendix if they are particularly interested.

What they really want to know is that the cake is guaranteed to taste gorgeous.

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