Why Your Professional Services Business Needs Estimate and Invoice Software
5 Ways an Estimating and Invoicing Solution Improves Competitiveness and Profitability
Your engineering firm just got a call from a prospective client. They’re wrapping up the procurement process for a new project and are looking for an estimate from your company – and they need it yesterday. You’d love to win this bid, and luckily you have an automated estimate and invoice software solution so you can quickly generate a quote and send it over.
Not only is your response time impressive to the client, but your estimate is competitive, detailed, and accurate, creating confidence that your firm is the best choice.
Doesn’t this sound like an ideal scenario?
Professional services organizations across industries – especially those offering complex and configurable services, are tasked with providing existing and prospective customers with accurate estimates, and subsequently to follow up with corresponding invoices.
With the availability of estimate and invoice software, it’s easier than ever to create estimates on the spot and eliminate many of the inaccuracies and oversights that can accompany manual processes, such as using Excel spreadsheets to record project data and generate new bids.
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Step 1: Automating Your Estimating Process
Before you can send the invoice, you need to provide the estimate. At FinancialForce, we offer Services CPQ software, a cloud-based Configure Price Quote solution that automates price quoting – making it an easier and more accurate process than traditional estimating methodologies.
Read More: CPQ Software Solutions
In today’s competitive landscape, winning the bid is heavily determined by your project cost estimation. Preparing a project quote, especially if it needs to be done quickly or is for a new type of project, can be challenging, as you need to aggregate information from different parts of your business. Your top considerations likely include:
- Providing a bid that is competitive
- Providing a big that will drive profitability
- Being compliant with company policies
- Staying true to business goals
- Meeting financial targets
Each of those considerations present a lot to balance – and yet, many companies continue to create estimates using spreadsheets or legacy systems that lend themselves to oversights and inaccuracies in the estimating process.
Let’s revisit the engineering firm from the top of this article that is pulling together a bid for their prospective client. If this firm did not have an estimation and invoicing software solution, their response process would have looked a bit less ideal.
No Project-to-Project Visibility.
The estimator would have had to create a custom spreadsheet for the project at hand. Even if your firm has created templates in Excel, there is still no standardized database of rates that you can reference and reuse for similar projects.
No Clear Calculation Methodology.
When you use spreadsheets, the specific approach calculations used to arrive at a particular estimate essentially come from your estimator – not the spreadsheet. Imagine that person just left your company the day before the RFQ came in. You now have a knowledge gap you need to fill – and fast.
No Guaranteed Accuracy.
We’ll reiterate this point because it’s important. Manual processes like spreadsheet-driven calculations leave enormous room for error. In fact, IBM reported that 88% of all spreadsheets contain at least one error. A rogue decimal point or an untracked change to a cell’s formula can have major impacts on your final estimate, and estimates made with errors can cost you the job.
No Version Control.
With Excel spreadsheets, there is no way to avoid having to create multiple versions of the spreadsheet if more than one team member needs to work together on the estimate. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyways) – the more versions, the more room for error.
No In-Depth Reporting.
Make that no reporting at all. Spreadsheets don’t allow for your company to gather historical data about each project to empower better decision-making moving forward. Perhaps the last project you did went over budget because equipment wasn’t available when it was needed. If you don’t have insight into each aspect of a project to help you determine the reason for going over budget, your next project estimate may be too high when you could have simply adjusted how your company schedules equipment.
There are quite a few compelling arguments against using spreadsheets for your estimating process, and because the estimate is directly tied to the invoice, it should be clear that the benefits translate nicely.
However, there are other benefits of using an automated software solution that are specific to invoicing. If you’re currently using a manual process for invoices, you’ll likely appreciate what estimating and invoicing software can do for you.
Step 2: Automating Your Invoicing Process
Arguably one of the most important benefits of automated invoicing software is the ability to instantly turn an accepted estimate into an invoice. Manual processes require you to re-enter all of the information from the estimate to create the invoice, and, again, human error can cause discrepancies between the estimate and the invoice, which can lead to an unfavorable customer experience.
Additionally, automated invoicing software allows you to get invoices to your clients faster, creating a more favorable customer experience. Plus, your company saves time when it comes to billing, and is able to pocket profits more quickly as well.
Other invoicing benefits of automation software include:
- Being able to invoice in a specific currency
- Easily accounting for discounts or preferred pricing
- Ability to do it all online, leading to faster and more accurate results
- Maintaining a consistent look and feel on each document that showcases your brand
Estimating Using Configure Price Quote Software
Our engineering firm from earlier in this article is a good example of a company that has many different services that could come into play when calculating a project estimate. The more services you offer, the more time-consuming and challenging price quoting can be.
Beyond the estimator, sales teams and customer service teams also play important roles in the project estimate process, and may feel frustration when it’s difficult to communicate a quote to a client due to its complexity or lack of validation of each line item. With customer satisfaction at stake, many services companies are rightly looking to automation to streamline the process.
Here are 5 unarguable reasons why you should switch to estimating and invoicing software.
1. Competitive Edge
Your estimate needs to be commercially attractive and competitive for customers, and it needs to accurately reflect the actual cost of undertaking the work. If your bids are too low, it might devalue your expertise and leave prospects wondering if you can truly deliver on their needs. Conversely, if your bid is too high, they may choose to work with a more reasonably-priced company. Only by understanding past project data and the work required for the proposed project can you make an accurate estimate that demonstrates your value and capability.
2. Speed and Accuracy
Because estimates are produced automatically from a library of templates, you can quickly generate and send your estimate while still accounting for any customizations due to location, market, or need. Using previous templates also ensures accuracy as you can leverage past project data and industry knowledge to eliminate the potential for errors and oversights.
3. Resource Availability
Estimates also must take into consideration the availability of resources. Just like in our engineering firm example, the availability of equipment had impacted a previous project’s budget. Estimating and invoicing software aggregates knowledge across your organization so you have visibility into the demand for resources (whether it’s personnel or assets) and can proactively plan and schedule your resources to satisfy the project.
4. Staying Within Compliance
Most professional services organizations have compliance regulations to follow that come into play with each new project. Compliance comes into play both at an industry level and within your own corporate structure. In particular, estimates must be compliant with the business rules and targets defined within your corporate structure, and these may vary among different markets. By automating the estimation process, you gain visibility and traceability of each step in the process so you’ll know if compliance isn’t being met before it’s too late.
5. Seamless Integrations
FinancialForce Services CPQ, specifically, integrates seamlessly into your existing Salesforce estate. It’s built on the same platform so there aren’t any interfaces to maintain or handoffs to make between one function and another. You can simply enjoy automated, error-free, on-time estimating and invoicing.
Read More: The CPQ Process Flow
From estimating to invoicing, an automated solution performs the work you need to deliver an exceptional customer experience throughout any project. You can win more bids and increase profitability in ways that manual, spreadsheet-based processes simply can’t deliver on.
Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn more about how you can leverage Services CPQ on the Salesforce cloud platform to streamline your sales process and put your customers at the center of everything you do.