Streamlining proposals

Welcome to “The Better Way: A podcast by Buildertrend.” Here you’ll learn to simplify and establish processes that will make meaningful changes to your company and help you achieve your goals. Because there’s a better way. The Buildertrend way. Tune in this season as host Zach Wojtowicz, a corporate development strategist at Buildertrend, and our experts and consultants to teach best practices for sales and lead management.

This season’s second episode showcases ways Buildertrend users can turbocharge their sales process with the Proposals feature.

Listen to the full episode to hear John Wisnieski, manager of automation strategy, shares the key components of a proposal and other tips on how builders can safeguard their time and boost their business through proposals.

WHY ARE PROPOSALS SO VALUABLE IN THE SALES PROCESS?

“What I would say the best thing for builders to understand is that proposals can really be just the entry point to your sales process, where you convert them, if you will, and I think a lot of people assume that the proposal has to be the full-blown estimate. That you’ve got to complete that entire estimate within the proposal. That’s really not what it’s necessarily intended for. You could do it that way, but you certainly have other options.”

WHAT’S VALUE CAN BUILDERS SEE THROUGH PRELIMINARY PROPOSALS?

“Sales velocity. If you spend a ton of time with each individual estimate, by rule of numbers, you’re not going to be able to get that many out. The more you can get out and quickly follow up with them using Buildertrend, you’re going to have a much better chance of landing more deals more frequently.”

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John Wisnieski | Buildertrend

Zach Wojtowicz:

Welcome to “The Better Way,” a podcast by Buildertrend. Here, you’ll learn to simplify and establish processes that will make meaningful changes to your company and help achieve your goals. There’s a better way to run your construction business, the Buildertrend way. Tune in this season as our experts and consultants join me to teach best practices for sales and lead management. On this episode, get best practices that will help you streamline your proposals from John Wisniewski, manager of automation strategy here at Buildertrend.

Zach Wojtowicz:

It’s The Better Way. Wojtowicz here. We have an exciting guest, a first time podcaster at a Buildertrend production podcast, John Wisnieski is here. We’ve got Wisnieski and Wojtowicz. We’re actually talking about having a side collab as far as our podcast goes. John, welcome to “The Better Way.”

John Wisnieski:

Thank you. I appreciate you having me on.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You excited to be here?

John Wisnieski:

A hundred percent.

Zach Wojtowicz:

First time. Are you a podcast guy? You listen to podcasts?

John Wisnieski:

I try not to. No, I’m just kidding. I don’t have any special podcasts that I listened to.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well they better be this one moving forward.

John Wisnieski:

Well of course this one.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We need to bump these numbers.

John Wisnieski:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

John, tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been at Buildertrend? You’ve had a lot of different roles here, so let’s get into about you.

John Wisnieski:

Yeah, for sure. So I’ve been at Buildertrend, it’ll be 6 years in December. I started out in Customer Success like a lot of folks do and then worked towards setting up our help center, and then from there I did a couple of years in marketing and then moved on to our biz ops team where I’m now working as the automation manager under that team.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Awesome. So with your time in marketing and your time in CS, you’ve got a unique perspective, and so we thought you’d get to come in here and talk a little bit about a piece of Buildertrend that we’ve had a few different guests talk about, which is our sales proposals. So we’re going to dive a little deeper on the value there and get into how customers are using it, better ways to improve it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m really excited to dive into this granular level, because this is where both you and I, we live a little bit. We were both CS reps. We’ve talked about this a hundred times. Thousands of times, a hundred times is not even enough. What are some ways that you’ve seen people use the proposal feature in Buildertrend that maybe other people are missing at a face value?

John Wisnieski:

Well, a little background. I really fell in love with proposals during our first session of BTU, and that’s where I created a class that really focused in on proposals specifically and improving your sales process. A lot of folks that are in Buildertrend, they’re trying to get as much value as they can from our product, and they always seem to misunderstand some of the options and things you can do with proposals. I think that’s really where we can make some improvements for our builders when we talk about proposals. What I would say the best thing for builders to understand is that proposals can really be just the entry point to your sales process, where you convert them, if you will, and I think a lot of people assume that the proposal has to be the full-blown estimate.

John Wisnieski:

You’ve got to complete that entire estimate within the proposal. That’s really not what it’s necessarily intended for. You could do it that way, but you certainly have other options. Sometimes once the builder sees that these options are available, it starts to make sense. So specifically stating when you get a new client in your sales funnel, do you immediately send them that free estimate? What does that really look like? Can you do things like a design agreement, or can you do things if you’re not doing design agreements, can you do that as your kind of money down, money and earnest, things like that to make sure that that customer just doesn’t walk away with the full-blown free estimate that you spend a ton of time on? When you think about proposal templating, that’s where you can really accelerate your sales process.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Let’s touch on that a little bit. When you say proposal template, what does that mean?

John Wisnieski:

I guess it depends on your business. If you’re a specialty contractor or if you’re working maybe in a small remodel-type business, you’re going to have a lot of folks coming through your funnel, they’re going to be looking for numbers, and a lot of times they’re just trying to get comparative numbers, and they’ll run away with your estimate that you spent 2, 3, 4 hours on and you never hear from again. We’re all saying in the building world free estimate. but really what do you need to prepare for that to be valuable to them and not slow you down? When you think about templates, you can get together three, four, maybe five different templates that fit the mold for the type of work that you do, and the faster you can get those out to your potential clients, your lead opportunities, that accelerates your sales velocity.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Sales velocity. I like that.

John Wisnieski:

That’s right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I don’t know if I’ve heard that term before.

John Wisnieski:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re out here just keying words, making phrases.

John Wisnieski:

No it’s a real thing. If you spend a ton of time with each individual estimate, by rule of numbers, you’re not going to be able to get that many out. The more you can get out and quickly follow up with them using Buildertrend, you’re going to have a much better chance of landing more deals more frequently, if that makes sense.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, for sure, it does. It’s a bit of a volume game, right?

John Wisnieski:

Exactly.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Now a lot of customers we talk to, they don’t have a sales process. We’re talking about proposals and I like how you said, “This can be the beginning of that process,” like you can get in there and start setting it up. What are some of the fundamentals that you would need on a sales proposal that maybe some people are maybe doing, but could do better or they don’t know where to start.

John Wisnieski:

Sure. Yeah. I think there’s a couple of things you can do. So within Buildertrend, you have your ability to create templates, but you can also create your standard text that you would have on every proposal at the beginning and end of that contract. A lot of people think they’ve got to go real heavy into the verbiage of that contract, when really, you can get to that point later in your sales process, when they sign off on the final estimate. So you can provide language in there that’s going to help you move people through faster and explaining to them this is preliminary number. And if you explain the process and treat this as an opportunity, or maybe consider it your point of sale, so if you’re just asking for a hundred dollars down, that’s going to be a good opportunity for that customer to realize, hey, they’re doing things electronically. We can work with this builder faster than we would the contractor that’s still sending over emails of estimates and things like that.

John Wisnieski:

So, yeah, I think there’s tons of opportunity to get started with your basic language, whether it’s a design agreement, maybe it’s a money down agreement just saying, hey, for me to build out a full-blown exact estimate on estimated price, I need a hundred dollars down, but this is the proposal of what you’re going to get potentially based on the way they walk the job.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. I like how you also brought out this can work for a lot of different segments of construction. I think people tend to, when they talk to us at Buildertrend, they say, “Well, my process is unique,” or, “This is how I do things, so it’s just different.” But I think there are still best practices when it comes to it. Like Wiz pointed out, having your standard language, having those things kind of set up ahead of time, but also organizing it into the different jobs that you’re doing.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So let’s say you’re a remodeler, you’re going to be doing kitchen, you’re going to be doing bathrooms, you’re going to be doing basements, you might be doing additions, whatever. You’re going to have larger scope proposal templates, and what I like to do when I’m getting started with a client is I actually build the more complex one first. So I’ll put it in the program as the biggest project that I would possibly do, and then it’s so easy in Buildertrend to copy it and pair it back down to those little more simple projects over time. I don’t know. How do you like to approach it Wiz?

John Wisnieski:

Yeah, I think that’s a great process, to be able to build out your most, I don’t want to say extensive estimate or most extensive proposal, but get the bare bones essentials in there that you know you’re going to need, have those available, and that really kind of opens up the door for some of the catalog options that you have as well.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I haven’t talked about the catalog on “The Better Way” in a couple seasons. I’m glad we’re bringing it back up.

John Wisnieski:

Yeah. I mean, that’s a whole another aspect to it that we haven’t touched on, but I do think that when you put your pen to paper and write down the three, four different jobs that you do consistently and say, well, I’m going to need a template for each one of those and maybe a variant of some of those depending on size and scope. I’ll give a real world example where I had a contractor come on to my place and do a quick quote for me on the refinishing of my deck. He didn’t get back to me for three weeks. Okay? At that point, I’ve lost touch with that relationship. And I think when you’re out there trying to give the customer the most accurate estimate, it’s better to say, “Hey, I’m going to sell you on the value of who I am, what services I can provide, and for me to come back with a full estimate for you, we just need to get $50 down, $100 down.” And that’s worth your time as a builder if you think about the hours spent doing free estimates.

John Wisnieski:

I think that’s the message that I really want to convey that, your time is valuable, and if you can get that volume of proposals out at a faster rate, and you include that concept of payment processing in there where you can say, “Hey, look, we need to get a contract signed. I want to give you the best estimate.” This is going to be our prelim first point of sale, where you can ask for that money down so you can get to work on a full-blown estimate that you’re going to provide to that customer. That’s a great way to provide value.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I love that. What about the long-term benefits? Let’s say you get really good at proposals. What are you really working towards? What are you unlocking?

John Wisnieski:

Well, I think you’re unlocking at minimum your ability to bring more customers into your funnel faster, and you’re also opening the door for more salespeople. If you can get more of these out, more salespeople can use those templates and really accelerate and grow your business from that side. As well as opening the door, like I said earlier, for catalog usage. And that’s another great tool that’s really expanding with The Home Depot integration. So I feel like if you’re spending too much time on the proposal side, think about scaling it back and just creating that as a one step towards the full picture, because I’ve seen the design agreement templates in some other builders’ accounts that maybe you don’t do a design agreement, but you need some upfront agreement if you’re doing a larger project or even a deck job.

John Wisnieski:

They’re going to walk away with that price and go compare it to the other builder that they’re working with to try to get some price consideration. So I think that’s a big takeaway, is that you got to be able to be agile, get these out fast, because you’re going to lose track with that customer and they’re going to forget about all the work you did for that free estimate when you finally get it to them. If you can get that proposal to them sooner with a rough number, I think that’s a better bet.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I think getting it all in one place plays such a big part in that. I mean, in my experience with customers, you’re doing this in Excel, they’re doing this on multiple files on a desktop. You save it one place, another place, it’s lost in the file system. It’s just easy to lose track of things. You bring it onto an online environment, it’s digital, you’ll be able to see what proposals you’ve created and which ones you haven’t, or which leads have a proposal or which ones don’t. It’s just a matter of getting started.

John Wisnieski:

Absolutely. I think when you get into the point where you’ve got your templates, you feel confident in being able to send those out quickly, you can send them out using checked actions, you’ve touched base with three, four customers, you make slight adjustments to those templates for those customers and send them out. I think once you get past that, then you can start to sort and filter your lead opportunities to see, okay, where are these proposals at? Have they opened it? Have they clicked? All those things are available to you to be able to sort and filter to, hey, these are my high value clients. This is showing their intent to move forward with me. And if they’re not, well then it’s probably good you didn’t spend three, four, five hours drawing up a full estimate when you knew they were just going to walk anyway. So I think that’s a big part of it as well.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s a great point. I love that you’re bringing up the tracking features and something that I think gets slept on a little bit is the fact that you have the ability to get a signature and intention behind it and see if they even opened the email. We always get a lot of questions about the legitimacy of the signatures on proposals, and back in season one, we actually had our attorney here at Buildertrend come in and talk about this, that signatures signed through Buildertrend were 100% legitimate. They comply with all digital licensing laws.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So anybody who is kind of unsure about the use of online signatures, time and time again, the courts have upheld digital signatures are as valid as if I wrote it with a pen. And once you kind of embrace, I’ve seen the moment where you set someone up on the proposal, they’re using templates, they get it, but they’re still nervous to hit that release button. But the return on it, the tracking, the speed at which you can get these things pumped out, there’s so much value that comes as a result of just taking the leap of faith a little bit to kind of hit the release and see how it goes.

John Wisnieski:

Well, yeah. I think if you think about what you can control the customer seeing, you have full control over… Maybe you have a lot of notes in there, or maybe you’re using cost codes to outline your costs. You don’t have to show all that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Great point.

John Wisnieski:

You can build out templates and I’ve got several here that I’ve used at BTU classes where you’re just using this information, everything else you’re suppressing so the customer’s not seeing it, and less information in front of the customer’s eyes when you’re making that first impression can sometimes be a better bet. Instead of giving them a dozen line items with value beside each one of them, maybe start small, put in what you think that price is going to come out to, and get it out faster. I think proposals are the key for that. So yeah, your formatting is key in making sure that you’re not overdoing it with too much information, keeping the language simple and straightforward.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Great point. It’s customizable on the actual proposal itself. They don’t all have to look the same, and sometimes when you log in to Buildertrend and you’re not training with a rep at the time and you’re learning a new feature, you always hit a point where you’re like, “I don’t know about this.” Reach out to us. We can give you examples of what it looks like, how to format it to make it really meet your standards, how to attach pictures to it, how to embed pictures in the text if you want to get that fancy. There are a lot of things that you can do that it might take a little bit of advice and guidance to get there, but for most of our customers, we can improve what they’re currently doing, which is an Excel file and going through and just printing it out and handing it to the customer. That’s just an old way of doing business.

John Wisnieski:

Yeah. I think as we continue to move forward, you’re going to see more and more people just simply adopting that method for business, and it’s just a convenience factor. So I think getting your ducks in a row for a good chunk of proposals that are just templated out, that fit your business needs and think about it as just that’s the point of sale that, if you can get them past that, you don’t have to ask for all the money, you have the ability to go in there using Payment Processing and just ask for 10%, 5% or just a flat dollar amount to know like, hey, I’m going to come back for that estimate, give that to you in two weeks, one week, so I can give you the best number possible.

John Wisnieski:

The other thing I was going to mention with proposals is the ability for you to, like you said, control the formatting, but also think about where do you want these customers to take that next action? And you have the ability through your Buildertrend account to follow up with them quickly if you see that they opened that proposal, so you’d have a sorted view for anybody that’s opened that proposal, but hasn’t signed yet. It’s still outstanding. That’s a quick way to get a quick message out to them saying, “Hey, following up, saw you had a chance to look at it.” That’s pretty smart. Being able to know and timely follow up, because you’re not going to know when they open that email or what they’re thinking as you deliver that estimate the old school way.

John Wisnieski:

I think back on some of the trainings I did on the sales side of Buildertrend over the years, and it’s not that complex. Thinking about some of the larger CRMs that are out there, the amount of labor and time that you would need to set some of those up like Salesforce or something like that, that’s a lot. I think if you can dial in this tool and get it to work for that part of your job process or sales process, it’s going to be a big win.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I want to pivot a little bit to focus in on a specific feature that we’ve talked about a couple of times now, but I think it’s worth diving in, which is this cost catalog piece. If you’re cool with it, Wiz?

John Wisnieski:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

On the cost catalog, for people who maybe aren’t using it, could you explain what is it?

John Wisnieski:

Sure.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And what’s the value on the sales side? And you mentioned the Home Depot integration so, if you don’t mind, part three, what’s that? And how does that work with the template in the sales process and all those good things?

John Wisnieski:

I guess it depends on the type of construction business you’re running, but our catalog is set up to be able to pull in some of those default costs, default items that you’re going to need, not just the line item cost code that’s going to help you with your job costing, but really getting into the fine details of the materials that you’re going to be using, the finishes, the appliances, all that really can be harnessed within the catalog, and those are nested underneath your cost code. So thinking about how you want to set that up is step No. 1, and that can be a little overwhelming, but knowing now that you have the ability to use the Home Depot integration, you’re going to be able to pull in these items faster.

John Wisnieski:

You’re not going to spend a ton of time working on the data entry side, and of course Buildertrend will help you with that, but The Home Depot integration is going to basically expand and build your catalog for you to then be able to pull those into your proposal templates and get those sent back out at a faster rate. So really it just accelerates you even further.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. We’ve done a lot of work with that Home Depot integration. The idea behind it is to help give you a version of live pricing and really be able to capture that information without you having to go out and find it yourself, and that’s a huge time-saving piece as well, and I think it will drive a lot more people to try our cost catalog. I mean, it’s something that if you’ve trained a lot and you’ve gotten to a certain point, we bring it up, but it’s hard to find the right place to insert the catalog. If you’re listening, I’d highly recommend you go explore it because there is so much value in having a master pricing sheet that can build into so many other things if you just kind of paint the vision. For example, I have a cost catalog set up and I have proposal templates. I can use my catalog on the templates and then when I update my catalog pricing, my templates date with it.

John Wisnieski:

That’s huge. Yeah. I can’t stress that enough that your catalog is going to end up being the place that you go to when you’re trying to build something out quickly and really being able to tell your customer that you have the ability to pull in the items that they are potentially looking for, the finishes they’re looking for, through The Home Depot and get that visual to them with the pictures and everything included, that really shows well. And I think if you’re trying to make a great impression at the first interaction with your customer in the sales process, you can speak to that. “Hey, we’ve got the ability to pull in these items. I’m going to get this over to you electronically, and hopefully we can make a quick decision and move forward to the next steps.”

John Wisnieski:

And that’s something else that you can put into your proposal, is how you do business. You can outline, hey, this is step one of three. We’re going to do a money down in earnest or design agreement first, I’ll come back with the next steps later. So definitely think the catalog is a huge hit for either proposals and/or estimates, really anywhere you want to bring in items to your Buildertrend account.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, John. We’re about up out of time here, so I just want to give you the opportunity, any closing thoughts when it comes to proposals that you want to embed our audience there?

John Wisnieski:

Sure. Reach out to us, I think would be the biggest call-out. I think once builders, especially during the BTU classes that I taught on this specific topic, accelerating your sales process, once you see how other builders are doing it, you get a little more confidence. Not to say you’re going to copy everything word for word, but you get the idea, you run with it, and once you see how other builders are doing it, you’ll definitely feel confident moving forward. So reach out to us. We’d be happy to help.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Love it. John Wisnieski, thanks for joining me on “The Better Way.”

John Wisnieski:

Thanks Zach.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Join us next time. Zach Wojtowicz heading out.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Thanks for listening to “The Better Way.” If you’re a Buildertrend customer, schedule training to learn more. All listeners, be sure to rate, review and subscribe to “The Better Way” wherever you get your podcasts. Visit buildertrend.com/podcast to sign up for the email notifications when the next season drops and explore our original podcast, “The Building Code.” Don’t miss our next episode, highlighting tools to attract more customers.


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