In my experience service businesses tend to spend 20-30% of their revenue on the cost of selling, with a wide degree of variance either side of that. Parts of that cost are relatively identifiable – time spent on lead gen, prospecting, pitches – but, with some degree of obsession, I’ve come to the conclusion that we give much less consideration to other significant elements. Most importantly, constructing proposals that enable a subsequently closed opportunity to be kicked off and managed effectively.

Gathering Requirements to Producing Proposals

Let’s take a ‘hypothetical’ example. Sam works for an research consultancy agency. She’s worked there for a while, she’s experienced. A lead from an existing client asks for a proposal for a project. Sam reads the brief, asks some insightful questions, considers what’s required, searches through her computer for a previous relevant proposal and starts editing. Where there are elements of the scope that require input from other colleagues, she might share the proposal on the company’s collaboration tool and wait for feedback. This eats into the time that should be spent considering scoping and price accuracy, and how to best deliver the project after closing. This reactive technique also regularly excludes those colleagues most responsible for delivering it and, with the best will in the world, means tweaks are right up until the last minute, or the proposal even gets sent late. Meanwhile, the client is waiting… wondering what is going on and why things are taking so long. The client doesn’t care that their requirement needs crafting, considering or bespoking; they just want to get things moving… and, let’s face it, so do you. Time to kick off is a margin killer.

Enabling Junior Colleagues

Sam is experienced but what if she’s busy and her less experienced colleague, Ben, gets the buck passed to him. Ben’s task has all the steps above but is full of additional risks. There may be some hurdles for Ben to access Sam’s past proposals, he might need to search around for the correct rate card and, worst still, won’t have the body of organisational or domain knowledge that enables Sam to be so effective. All in all it adds up to a lot of extra faff, pricing risk and cost.

Now, you might say the above scenarios never happen in your organisation, but I’d challenge you on that. In my experience it’s more common, and the associated costs are more hidden than you might assume. Think of all that compounding time and how it adds up. Think of the cost of errors slipping into the process, the lack of client trust generated by the wrong templates or rate card being used, typos creeping in and rogue text from old proposals. The knock-on cost of domain experts being dragged into scoping items they feel should be part of the organisation’s body of knowledge and then, due to time crushes, not being involved in the things that matter.

Sound familiar? If not, lucky you.

Introducing Estimo

Years of obsessing with the above issues has led us to create; a software service that we now use extensively within our agency business, and other like-minded clients that we have been rolling it out to. Estimo is specifically designed to:

  • Reduce the cost of producing estimates and proposals by creating a single point of access for all proposals.
  • Improve the transfer of organisational knowledge by ensuring that knowledge is visible to all, rather than being lost in a random document on an employee’s drive, who may or may not still be with the organisation.
  • Increase the speed of response by allowing colleagues to ‘clone’ relevant proposals created by other colleagues.
  • Promote excellence by surfacing product ideas, correct pricing and showcasing particularly good proposals.
    Improve the value of and reduce the cost of domain expert input by allowing real-time collaboration and comments.
  • Engineer out self-inflicted embarrassment, by ensuring rate cards and client details are consistent and a proposal approval workflow is adhered to.
  • Ensure that the priced project scope is closer to what is actually required to deliver the project by providing component labour and material cost visibility by deliverable and, critically, being able to reconcile that to the hours actually utilised in the delivery so that future proposals can be improved.

In short; improving collaboration, accountability, time to close and knowledge transfer.

Estimo has taken us a few years to develop, and longer to mull and improve. We are really proud of the product that we have created and, without sounding too twee, want to share it with the world. To give you a sense of how embedded it becomes; in one client, of around 100 colleagues, we have about 90 user sessions p/day. Estimo does require a bit of setup (aided handsomely by the onboarding process) but it quickly becomes integral to organisations by making a material impact on reducing proposal and estimate creation faff, and stopping the margin leakage in sales and project initiation.

Getting Started is Easy, and for Everyone

So, thanks for reading – if you are a consultant, agency, builder, lawyer, custom manufacturer or anyone who has to create estimates or proposals I’d love to hear how we can make Estimo better. Give it a go for free at