What Estimating Software Should Integrators Use?

I am interested to know if there is preferred estimating software used by integrators? does this make it easier to provide breakdown of pricing?

NOTICE: This comment was moved from an existing discussion: Should Quotes Include Line Item Price Breakdowns?


Jeremy I was contemplating posting a topic on this as well. I have always used Quickbooks, simply because it is available. I would like to try another proposal software there are just so many out there where does a person start? I am amazed at how many business operational topics are being discussed lately, I like it.

At my last job we used the Project System. It worked fairly well for getting pricing done, but it didn't generate proposals very well. We did that manually.

They now use Quosal, which I have little experience with, but maybe I can wrangle someone in here to comment.

Ethan Quosal looks interesting. I like the mobile platform they offer and would be able to utilize that frequently. I would be curious to hear any input on that product or others.

We have been using Quosal (now Connectwise Sell) for about 6 months and overall I am happy though it does take some time to setup templets, order portal and PDF quotes. This is a very powerful tool that is a good fit if you are targeting larger projects. If your customer base is 16 camera and under this would be overkill.

Once you have your price list imported and your templates you can create very detailed quotes very fast. If I sent a quote to a customer for the whole job and they want it broken out by floor I can do this very fast.

Once you have a quote finished the system generates a website which you send to your customer. You can make parts optional and quantities end user selectable so basically, you can send your customer a menu which they can pick what they want. This has cut down on the manual quote revisions and help us close deals much faster than having to adjust the quotes manually to customers request.

When the customer wants to move forward they can sign and approve the quote from any computer or mobile device. The customer and us then get a copy of the signed quote emailed to both of us and then in our system this kicks off our SOP. My next goal is to integrate our credit card processing so the customer can pay for the job right when the sign the quote!

Another really nice feature is I can attach PDF cut sheets and system designs to the quotes along with any marketing videos we have for the product on the job. We the customer gets the link he can watch the video and download the PDFs to review.

Overall Quosal is a very powerful product that if you spend the time to setup allows you to deliver impressively detailed quotes fast while being profitable

Thanks for the Info Ethan I checked out Quosal and Project system and both look exactly what I might be looking for.

I will mention that doing proposals in Quickbooks makes invoicing out jobs easier because you can convert a proposal to an invoice. The templates are customizable so you don't have to use a generic form. The one thing I don't like is the look of a proposal that includesa price breakdown in Quickbooks it looks messy and confusing. A software called Sage caught my eye a while back I may look into that.

I have spoken to these companies in the past, but have never written any updates on their offerings:

I have the strong impression that many integrators never move beyond excel spreadsheets.

That would be a very good impression.

We've used and tested a few, but always revert back to Excel. As long as we keep our templates and document management processes in check, we have no issues and operate very efficiently with spreadsheets. We can also modify spreadsheets easily to fit the many, many ways that customers want to see pricing. We think it's cheaper, too. We have Office on every machine, so don't need to maintain a separate software package. We also find that most everyone these days is comfortable with Excel basics. We can get someone familiarized and operating with our templates in a couple of hours.

We’re using a program called QuotaMaker to create proposals. Using a utility vs. the spreadsheet enables the process to be somewhat automated. I can create and catalog custom generic scope letters and documents. Customize all of my formats. I can manipulate individual margins and blend everything seamlessly. It uses a database backend so all quotes company-wide are archived. It forces a sync every couple of weeks to ensure I have the most up to date pricing and parts. I can run metric reports on what I have quoted and apply granularity down to vertical or manufacture reports. Before using QuotaMaker, I was using Salesforce. That was a kick in the groin. The company I worked for at the time locked parts into MSRP pricing and had an extremely limited database of parts. I was unable to manually enter my own parts. My current setup has 30,000 parts not including my personal user defined database. I can build custom kits such as enclosures with power supplies and panduit and all of the peripheral parts that are typically the same across all access control projects - defined by the number of doors 2, 4, 6 8 etc...

We typically use Excel but have also been using QuoteRoller recently.

Is anyone out there using WeSuite? This seems to be becoming a popular estimating software for the low voltage industry. It offeres an element of CRM, estimating and proposal presentations.

Im currently trying out Bid Magic. I just finished my first propsal with it today. It turned out awesome. It takes a while to get the software setup but afterwards I think its very easy to use.

Resurrecting a Dinosaur anyone have any updates as to what the best bang for the buck is? Looking for something that has a visable edge on Excel and speeds the process. Paperwork automation is a plus too.

Hey #2,

We've been using Zoho for quite some time now and we like it!

Not very expensive and you can add inventory,Projects and many more for less than 400$ a year (It includes Cloud Hosting) for saving all your important data.

Highly recommended!

We use the following programs:

JVSG
PowerPoint
Concept Draw
Quickbooks
Publisher
Adobe Acrobat

Insightly

ConceptDraw has replaced PowerPoint for us for a few reasons. We can lock objects to the board, so no accidental clicking and dragging of the wrong object. There are image libraries so we can quickly insert pre-made objects, and it has layers that we can quickly unview items on that layer.

We only use JVSG when we think the client really needs to see exact views, etc.

Once we have our design, we go to QuickBooks and line item everything. We have a checklist that helps us ensure we include everything.

Then we go to Publisher, and using a template we create the written proposal. Then save as PDF and insert any items such as the design from the design program or the estimate from QuickBooks.

We use Insightly for CRM.

We are starting to consider a service program, and looking for one that integrates with QuickBooks desktop. Any suggestions?

I am currently using niftyquoter.com, you have to put the time in and build templates. But it provides a great web based proposal at the end that your customer can choose options, see pictures and accept or reject.

Pro's

  • pictures
  • many template options
  • graphs of monthly accepted, rejected, sent, viewed proposals

Con's

  • no integration to crm, google, QB
From their site:
Looks like it might be worth a good look.
All plans include
Automatic PDF generation
Online e-signatures
Comments
Translatable client side texts
Text templates
Pricing templates
Import/export products to CSV
Sending proposals by email
Customizable client messages
Discounts
Optional items
Quote groups
Editable quantities
Clone proposals

I see they recently added QB integration too. Well my 1 con is now a pro.. I looked into Quosal and it seems pretty expensive compared to niftyquoter.com

Talking with Quosal as well, they are releasing a new 21hr training program for DIY setup at a discount. If you figure your value of 21 hrs at mid-morning it's not such a good deal.

Still, have not pulled the trigger.

Quosal is a monster but very powerful once you have your template set up and product added. Unless you're going to use Connectwise along with Quosal, Niftyquote would properly be a better fit.

I will say this though having a quoting tool like these is a huge help when you do large projects.

Some of our biggest challenges are...

1. Making and keeping track of change orders.

2. Printing a final list of all parts after additions and deductions from change orders.

3. Outputting as CSV, Excel or text, item lists for import into other paperwork.

4. Being able to generate reports based on how many items are on outstanding quotes, so both us and our suppliers can forecast quantities needed.

So a lot of what we need is carrying through post sale to end of installation, except for the one report we'd like about quantities spec'd on pre-sale.

Quosal + Connectwise can do all of that and more.