If you have been in the AV Integration business for a while then you undoubtedly have experienced its cyclical nature. We all cycle through those times when it feels as though business is at a standstill, but we recognize that those doldrums can shift to tidal waves in no time at all.
When we are riding the wave, and work is really busy, there is a certain amount of excitement that comes with it, but there is almost always a feeling of impending dread as well. “Too much business is never a bad thing” is something only said by people that have never worked in the tech integration space. Those of us who have experienced these cycles again and again realize that we are all essentially one project away from a tidal wave. And the risks that coincide with having too much to do can’t be ignored.
Integrators face different problems with workflow, and gladly there are project management companies and contractors who can step in and assist with deliveries, and increased workload when necessary. Our experience has shown that the problem doesn’t always rest with getting the work done, it is in getting the potential jobs quoted. This bottle neck can certainly impact your daily workflow and leave you scrambling during your busiest times.
Proposal Overload is a Real Phenomenon
In my experience, it never seems to matter how many people we have hired. The inevitability of an employee vacation, a swarm of work, or a unique job situation will always cause a back-up in the “to be quoted” bin.
In the flurry of busy-time work, this back-up can create a nightmare. The last thing you want to do is lose a project (or more than one) because it took too long to get a quote back to the clients. In a super connected world, response times are reduced to minutes and seconds, even though we know that isn’t reasonable. We have to figure out a way to give the client what they want, when they want it, while considering the strain on our resources.
If you are trying to figure out the best approach to deal with proposal overload, here are a few tips to help you embrace opportunity, even as it barrels through your door.
Set Expectations. The first problem that takes place in the sales process is often expectation setting. I can’t tell you how many times I hear about a situation requiring a “quick turnaround” that is either undefined, or much quicker than humanly possible. Sales professionals want to turn proposals quickly, and that is a good thing, but if they provide a timeframe that is too fast, a deadline will be missed. There isn’t a worse way to begin a project. Wouldn’t you agree?
Detailed Scope of Work. The more detail collected prior to pricing the project, the better chance of creating a timely and accurate proposal. If there are a too many unanswered questions or holes in the information gathered, then it is extremely hard to estimate. Inaccuracies at the start will lead to additional time spent on information gathering or turning over an inexact proposal. One is a time waster, while the other is a profit killer. Either way, not good!
Clear Internal Communications. Is estimation clearly keeping sales up to date with their proposal backlog time? Sometimes expectations aren’t met because sales doesn’t know that the estimates are going to take longer than originally planned. It’s silly to risk upsetting a customer or losing business because of this, however, it happens more often than you think.
Strategic Partnerships. Scaling a business can be tough, but partners can make things better. Labor partnerships have been working well in our industry for quite some time, but partnerships in engineering and programming have followed closely. The right labor, engineering or programming partner can help with the estimation process and may be able to speed up time to quote. Have you considered talking with your strategic integration partners to see how they can help?
Busy season is an exciting time in the integration space. When project opportunities start flowing in, it is the perfect time to build a line-up of additional projects that will ensure more profitable months. However, slow response or lack of response can be an absolute killer for sales and customer relations. Consider the tips above to better manage the busy times and you may just find yourself with happier customers, and a healthier bottom line.
Are you interested in learning about outsource labor, programming or engineering partnerships? Let’s Talk now!