Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
I love this article because it articulates the place we landed at a few years ago. The author is right on and I think it's valuable for anyone who currently is, or could in the future be a client of, a web development firm.
Understand that when you ask for a quote in the most general of terms, it's tantamount to asking someone to provide you with the costs to build you a vehicle without them knowing whether they are building a Ford Fiesta or a Toyota Sequoia.
Furthermore, any firm that gives you a hard quote isn't ready for your business because they are showing a significant lack of experience and foresight in not asking the right questions.
That said, the author was also correct in saying that by enforcing a good process in the sales cycle will undoubtedly cost you clients.
So what we've done to deal with the issue is to develop a hybrid approach in which we provide a ballpark quote at the beginning that is based on some rudimentary fact-finding. We then go on to consult the client to work together and develop a full-fledged requirements definition for the project. Once completed, that definition becomes the basis for a hard quote and the client at that point has the opportunity to continue on, or walk away from the project with the documentation in hand so that they can go and get competitive quotes and be able to do and apples-to-apples comparison.
This solution has gotten a lot of miles on it and we've tweaked it along the way and continue to be thankful for clients who understand it to be the way that we believe best serves them at the end of the day.