How to give an estimate can be a struggle for many trades businesses. Whether you perform monthly maintenance, install new appliances, or repair broken assets, aligning expectations with your customers is imperative. After all, giving prospective customers high-quality and detailed estimates significantly increases of converting them into paid jobs.
And you’re in the business of making money, right?
Great quotes start with great software. Quotes and estimates software streamlines your sales process with easy-to-use templates. You can further improve sales by allowing customers to pay deposits online straightaway. No need to wait for a phone call or email.
Here’s a practical approach for how to write and give an estimate using online job management software!
Giving an estimate starts with diagnosing the problem and offering a custom solution. Personalization sets service companies like yours apart; and it’s vital to remain memorable when prospective customers are weighing different options.
Talk to the customer. The more your team understands the issue, the better you can help. Whether you visit their property, speak over the phone, or have a video conference, use these opportunities to build lasting connections.
This initial conversation is a great time for your technician to show off expertise and educate the customer on their appliances.
Your technician should use this time to briefly outline the process of how they can solve your customer’s problem. This is a good time to bring up any licenses or other relevant designations.
During their conversation, your technician should also use this as an opportunity to professionally present your business. They can share some information about your company and what makes you unique from competitors.
The tech has the option to quickly and professionally give the estimate right then and there. We will go over this in more detail in step eight.
No matter what, at the end of this conversation, your technician should show confidence in their ability to do the job and thank the customer for their time.
Remember this tip: the more relevant information your technician can gather here, the easier it’ll be to build the estimate.
2. Design An Appealing Estimate
Designing an amazing estimate should be a top priority when you’re learning how to give an estimate. All your competitors use estimates. More likely than not, certain aspects of the document look very similar from company to company. After all, you offer many of the same services. We have some tips that can help your estimate design stand out.
In short, your estimate should be:
Distinctive from competitors
Something people actually want to look at
Branding plays a significant role in selling services. A strong brand identity keeps you memorable while helping you be more visible than competitors.
A professionally designed logo can be a game-changer. You certainly want to provide a way for your customers to remember you and your unique logo is a great start. Further, a recognizable logo can help your company stay top of mind when prospects are sifting through different options.
Next, let’s talk about color.
The difference between a color document and black and white is more significant than you may think. In fact, people’s desire to read content increases by 80% when there are colored visuals. After all, color is more interesting to look at!
The best quoting software should give you a spot to add photos at the footer of your document. This is helpful if you want to show the faces of the business, or any relevant past jobs. Beyond that, this is another opportunity to add a pop of color!
One final warning: if your estimate isn’t visually appealing, there’s a high chance it will get rejected.
If there’s resistance to even looking at it, it’s unlikely prospects will spend much time reviewing your document. Unfortunately, that means you just lost a job.
3. Add Your Contact Information And An Intro Message
When learning how to give an estimate, you’ll get the most bang for your buck using reusable templates. These are great because you can type in certain information once, and then never have to type it in again.
Once your template is set, it can be applied to as many estimates as you need. You can take templates even further and create them for each service, or job type your business offers.
Here’s some key information you’ll want to include in your estimate templates:
Company contact information
Customer name and contact information
Prominent contact information makes it easy for prospects to get in touch with your team!
What information should you include? We recommend details like your company name, phone number, address, and email address. Make sure these are neatly arranged either at the top or bottom of your document.
Here’s a tip: adding a touch of personalization makes prospective customers feel valued. Try adding their name and contact information toward the top of the estimate.
According to Forbes, “the majority of consumers (80%) are more likely to purchase from a company that offers personalized experiences.”
Have a hard time remembering names? And even worse, spellings of names? Us too.
Many estimating software offer tags to customize information – this includes contact name, customer email, estimate job type, estimate portal URL, customer email, and more. This saves your admin team valuable seconds, all while ensuring the information you provide is accurate.
Then, your estimates software automatically fills these tags with the respective information.
Another best practice includes adding an introduction message to your estimate template. Adding welcome text to the top of your template helps you express your gratitude for their consideration. This is your chance to be friendly and personable.
In your message, thank the customer for their interest and invite them to contact you should they have any questions about your services.
Here’s a basic introduction you can use in your quotes:
Thank you for booking an appointment with us. Below is an estimate so you can understand the expected cost of the service. Please let me know if there are any questions.
[your business name]
Following these guidelines, here’s an example of what the top of your estimate could look like:
No one likes using their time and energy to do the same thing over and over. Estimate software helps you minimize automatable tasks. Of course, you can personalize the intro text from job to job, or from customer to customer. The best quotes software leaves this entirely up to your team.
There’s no one size fits all solution with personalizing vs. standardizing introductory messages— this is where experimentation pays off!
4. Outline Your Job Description
The job description is where you share details such as who is going to complete the work, what the service involves, and approximately how long it will take. The writing will feel more technical than your introduction. This section is typically right below your introduction.
The main thing your customer wants to know is how you will solve their problem.
Include these components in your job description:
The diagnosis of the current issue
The proposed solution
Who will complete the work
The date and time the tech is coming
Where the work will take place
Any relevant procedures that the tech plans to carry out
Aim to provide a concise description of the works! You want to be descriptive enough so prospects understand your proposal. But you should avoid lengthy text with unnecessary technical details.
Be clear and direct. Keep in mind that you’re writing to someone who probably does not have nearly as much industry knowledge as you do.
Here’s an example of a plumbing job description:
“On 3/14/2023 in the early afternoon (1:30-2:30 pm), Kevin will complete plumbing work at your home address. The job involves unclogging a bathtub drain on the second floor. Kevin will use hydro jetting to clear the clog. The process will take about 3 hours and includes the installation of drain cleaning equipment.”
This section shows prospective customers you know what you’re doing, and lets them know who they should expect, should they accept your proposal.
5. Set Up Terms & Conditions
Most trades business don’t usually think about terms and conditions when building estimates. These matter. They help you establish expectations around your services. These are also helpful for protecting your team and business in case of disputes.
Quotes software should allow you to create any terms and conditions which are attached along with the estimate you send. Create as many estimate terms and conditions templates as you like.
When creating an estimate, your software should give you the option to choose which terms and conditions template you wish you use.
6. Determine Job Pricing
We wouldn’t be talking about how to write an estimate or quote without mentioning something of utmost importance: the cost.
A beautiful thing about estimating software is its ability to create multiple quotes segmented by budget. For example, you could provide three different options with different levels of service/price points, giving the customer the freedom to select their preference.
7. Include Relevant Job Costs
Now, you go to your customer account and create an estimate! You want the document to be neat and organized, and thankfully the software does all this for you once you put the data in.
It’s best to provide a table showing the breakdown of costs to keep the information organized and easy to understand.
Here’s an example of how the data entry may look from your end:
As shown, it’s helpful to break down the costs into labor and parts. This is enough information to satisfy your customers without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.
You don’t want to give too much information, such as the details of parts markup. Your customer can easily look up parts prices and may feel uncomfortable with your markup.
However, your customer wants a general idea of where the number came from so it doesn’t look like it was pulled out of thin air.
Lastly, decide if you want to take a deposit. This helps cover any initial costs while guaranteeing their commitment and reducing the chance of cancellation. Estimates software can help you team factor a deposit in, giving you the ability to choose what percent you will take. Then, the software can automatically deduct this amount from the job’s final invoice.
Some of the best solutions offer a self-service estimate portal. This can be sent to customers via email. This convenient solution empowers customers with the ability to view their proposal, accept your services, and pay a deposit, any time of day.
Many customers like having estimates available in PDF form. This makes it easier for them to reference. Here’s an example PDF screenshot of a job costing breakdown!
8. Give An Estimate On-Site
Your team has the option of creating an estimate wherever you want. Most choose to create their estimates back at the office or on-site, both using job management software.
Many estimating software offer mobile app experiences. These estimates are usually prepared at the end of a site survey appointment, when your team gathers details about the site and necessary work.
Let’s walk through how to give a professional estimate on-site.
The process begins with the technician creating the quote on their iOS or Android device. The best mobile software has the same functionality as the desktop software. This means techs can add important details such as job description, price, etc.
Next, the customer reviews the deposit price, signs the digital document, and clicks the accept button.
Finally, they use their credit card to securely pay with the software’s mobile payment integration.
Once the deal is won, your technician should thank them for choosing your services and let them know they look forward to helping them out. If they have a business card, it’s always a nice touch to give the client one on their way out.
9. Let Customers Accept Online
Another option using a self-service estimates portal, which we introduced in section seven.
This solution saves your admins the time and energy it takes to print and mail estimates. Whether your team is handling or other issues, or your business is closed for the day, your customers can move forward with your services when it’s convenient for them. With the click of a button, estimate portals are created automatically as soon as the estimate has been created, and can be sent instantaneously right from your software.
Waiting around for customers to accept estimates is not ideal.
Estimate portals ensure that the wait time is significantly decreased because customers accept and pay their deposit as soon as they receive the email. From start to finish, they can handle the acceptance process without needing a member of your team!
When sending the estimate portal, be sure to thoughtful subject lines and email text. To write standard messages that send along with your estimate portal, write your text in your estimate settings.
Here is an example of an email you could send to your customers, using personalized tagging:
[estimate_contact_name], your estimate for a [estimate_description] at [estimate_address_line_1] is available
Please see attached estimate [estimate_no] for a [estimate_description] at [estimate_address_line_1] [estimate_address_line_2].
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. [estimate_portal_url]
Here’s how a quotes software will interpret this email:
As soon as your customer receives this email, they have the information they need to confidently accept your estimate. Check it out in the screenshot below!
10. Email the Customer a PDF Version
Once your customer accepts the estimate through their self-service portal, or with your team, email them a PDF version. The best quoting software clearly marks the estimate as accepted, so there’s no second-guessing.
You’ve won a deal! Now it’s time to make sure your team provides the best possible service and customer experience! Learn more about how your technician can exceed expectations and improve the customer journey.
Thriving With Powerful Estimates
Mastering the process of how to give an estimate is extremely important. When you outshine your competitors and prove to prospective customers you can fulfill their needs, your team will win the jobs that matter most.
Using online software for your estimates increases your chances of success while saving you time and money.
Learning how to give an estimate is an ongoing journey. Going paperless reduces costs, minimizes errors, and enhances your professional image. All of this improves customer relationships, which is likely to earn you more business.
There’s more to sales than knowing how to give an estimate! Check out our Ultimate Sales Strategy Guide! Built for trades businesses just like yours, we’ll walk you through how to align your team with a sales mindset, pipeline management, tips for building winning proposals, and more!
When I'm not writing about the best digital solutions for trades businesses, I'm either playing with my three dogs, or baking sweet treats!