As business owners and executives, we are often busy juggling so many balls, thinking we’ll catch each just before it hits the ground, that we put off addressing issues that drain our business resources and profit every day.

A prime example – sales estimating software! I’ve heard it from company leaders over and over again. They’ve known for long time that they have to make a change and yet, they put it off. Afraid it’s going to take too much time, or they’ll have to listen to people complain (like they’re not hearing complaints already today?!), or they’ll spend a lot of money yet, they’re willing to waste time and money now daily.

Is it really OK” to continue losing hours of time and money from your best resources every month? How quickly would you move on this single initiative if each of your sales people gained back a day a week to produce more sales? Pretty fast, right?

Figuring out your current loss is straight forward. Take a look at your current sales estimating process and jot down the steps of the process, the resources required, the hours per resource and apply the dollars per hour for one week. Then simply multiply that times 4 to get your monthly lost productivity and what it’s costing you and your organization.

The question is, will you take 1 – 2 hours of your time to do it? The smart money says yes! Here’s a list of a few places in the Sales Arena to look for lost time, money and resources you pay for each and every month:

1) Weekly Sales Reports

Sales activity per sale person, per office, per region, for the company. The number of quotes on the street due to close in 30 days, by market, by customer, with Recurring Monthly Revenue, by margin, by dollar value. Is this a manual process in your organization that requires multiple people at lease a few hours a week? Write that down.

2) Monthly Sales Reports

Repeat #1 (or start from scratch the last two weeks of every month to try to get the data by the first week of the next month). There is no way to make proactive decisions because the results are always after the term.

3) Estimating Process

How many “systems” are your sales people using to create a single proposal? Do they record sales contacts on their laptops, then use one of those super-duper sales estimating Excel workbooks someone has honed for years (you have no idea where the mistakes are in that thing do you?). They may even have to type the names of each product needed, find the updated price, type that in and then figure out the costs of the project before they can add labor and all of the miscellaneous costs. How much time is this taking? Why not use sales estimating software and automate your process?

4) Parts Database Management

Often described as “the bane of our existence”! Maintaining the parts and pricing database is one of those thankless jobs that is often neglected simply because it’s such a pain in the neck. If it is tackled, it’s typically once or twice a year. Sales people spend much of their time calling suppliers, getting quotes, entering parts and pricing (you may not even want to sell and support) on their quotes and you’re stuck with it. What would it save you if your parts database could be updated on the fly, or you connect directly to your financial system for “real time” parts searches?

5) Creating a Proposal Document

After going through the exercise of #3, the sales team then has to open up Word to create a new proposal, or open some prior proposal, find all the places they had a different prospect’s name, change all of those, enter in all the new parts, the new labor, the new miscellaneous costs and of course, the new price. Then save some version of it somewhere on their laptop. Wow, that gives me a lot of confidence that I’ll know which proposal was given the prospect.

6) Prospecting

Most people, if they record prospecting inforamtion, then go back after they’ve created the quote and enter the prospect’s information into another Excel. You know the one that everyone is supposed to enter their prospecting information into? Sorry to insert sarcasm so readily but, that is the truth, isn’t it? It’s kind of silly when your sales prospecting stats reveal that your sales team has never lost a deal! How does that help you or them?

7) Estimating Approval

Before a sales person sends a proposal out, they have to get an approval by the Owner, a Sales Manager, an Engineer or an Executive. Maybe all three. So, they start sending emails, walking around the office, making phone calls, pushing for all the required parties to review their quote. Ugh!! It takes time, not everyone is “in” when needed, the sales person always needs it yesterday and it’s never right and, and, and… How much time (and aggravation) does this process take from each person? What else could they do with that time?

8) I won! Wow, great news!

Let’s get that winning quote to Accounting and Operations so that we can actually make some money. First retype the entire order into Accounting. Simultaneously a sales person usually retyping it again, along with an “internal” scope of work, manually completing a bunch of other forms with customer information, contact information, hours, special parts, special instructions, credit card and billing information, the PO, emergency contacts, and all kinds of other stuff. How many hours, how many people, how much money is tied up in all of this process? Wouldn’t it be nice to have automated integration with your ERP or accounting system for job management?

9) Commissions

We want sales people to win jobs and earn commissions. Administering commission plans is an entirely different story. Many organizations have simply given up on any creative sales commission plans because they’re too hard to administer. Others have some poor soul who’s entire worklife is dedicated to spreadsheets and playing “commission detective” – digging through the accounting system, looking at the winning jobs speadsheet, comparing it to what’s been paid, verifying dates, recording dates, verifying amounts, recording amounts, invoice numbers, etc. I get a rash just thinking about this! In the end, when something is wrong, people don’t trust the system and lose more time. What’s it worth to you to automate your commission program and reporting?

I think you’re getting the picture. This so called sales estimating process is costing you and your team time, money and a heck of a lot of frustration. Isn’t it time to do something that provides your business a solid foundation, a scaleable solution that grows with your team and one that provides automation and efficiencies? Isn’t it time to turn off the free flow of wasted time and money?

If you want to profitably grow your business. This is a decision to make today.