I just received an inquiry from a fellow Sage Business Partner who I’d met last year at Sage Insights (the annual partner conference). The request he has mirrors one that another partner asked last week.
In the interest of time — and figuring if two people have the same question then probably more do as well — I will share my answer to the following:
We are a MAS90 partner in _____. I have met you at Insights in the past but I am sure you meet a million partners.
Have a question about what you use to track your time and invoice your customers? We have used TimeKeeper with ______ for a long time but have some problems and so thought maybe if there is a better option we might consider it. We still have not moved to Ed’s value pricing so rely on tracking time and invoicing it. Any thoughts you have on this topic would be great.
As luck would have it — I do have some quick thoughts. Here’s how we roll…
Over the last year we’ve moved entirely to fixed price billing. This is the method where we take the approach that our customer should know the price prior to our starting the work – and that the price should be defined based upon an agreed upon description (scope) of the work.
It’s been a huge learning experience – however the pricing method by far is fairer to customers than anything I’ve seen. No longer does a customer have to look at the clock when our employees enter their offices — or worry that a difficult problem could incur significant surprise cost over-runs.
It’s a struggle and there are lots of lessons that you learn along the way. However I’ve found that overall it’s an easier system than tracking time and arguing about every 1/4 hour that a client wants (not) to be billed for.
The easiest transition to the fixed price is to run with the three options – where the lowest option could be the one where customer does most of the work — and your higher options are where you do more of the work.
Surprisingly clients will often pick the higher priced option. Just don’t price option one as bare bones so that you regret it if they pick it.
Freshbooks = Billing (and it will send out estimates via email for approval) — we no longer send out paper invoices (this was costing us $60 per month). We don’t use the feature but Freshbooks will also allow you to offer online CC payments for clients to click and pay on your invoices.
Basecamp = Every project is setup in Basecamp for tracking of projects and collaboration. We have also started to use Highrise for CRM since it’s all integrated and there’s no comparable Sage offering.
Google Apps = Setup all your quotes in Google Apps as templates. We have a 10 page boilerplate proposal for upgrades that we developed over the course of a few tough upgrades. Since you usually don’t want to take three days to review and quote an upgrade — only to have the client reject it — setup a good upgrade proposal that explains what is and isn’t covered by typical upgrade quotes.
We also use a simple chart that shows us depending upon the version that the customer says they’re moving from, # of users and other factors (custom reports, forms, etc) what the estimated $ would be. We make this proposal via email before going to a formal quote.