The current era of remote work and social distancing has accelerated the trend towards digital self-service in B2B sales. More than ever, customers want an intuitive sales process to get quotes that are “Amazon-like” even for the most complex, custom purchases.
At the same time, companies struggle to handle complex sales in a time when field sales calls are often off-limits and buyers can’t visit showrooms. To quickly and easily produce quotes, they need a solution that takes the most important parts of the sales cycle out of spreadsheets and puts them into an automated sales tool that delivers error-free quotes.
There is where a Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) solution comes in.
CPQ solution: The what, why, and how
CPQ is a sales tool that helps companies produce sophisticated quotes by making all product, pricing and business rules easily accessible, automatic and centralized.
CPQ solutions are a perfect fit for industries offering intricate, customized product options, such as:
- life sciences
- high-tech manufacturing
- health care
For example, today’s auto manufacturers typically provide a dizzying array of options and add-ons, with choices of models, colors, trims and wheels that can be configured on their websites.
Even a seemingly simple product, such as a coat for a firefighter, may require a manufacturer to manage an intricate order process that includes a host of choices, from materials to pocket configurations. And high-tech industries such as telecommunications oversee a plethora of configuration rules around power, circuits, and components.
In the past, it would have been impossible to offer online and self-service ordering for such complicated orders. But an advanced Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solution is, at its core, a big opportunity for companies to realize gains: By converting complex quotes more quickly through a CPQ solution, they can ultimately get to revenue faster.
This can’t come too soon, as B2B buyers continue to become more fickle in their supplier loyalties. A recent Google/Ipsos study found that 30% of B2B buyers have begun to purchase or have added a new supplier in the past 30 days, while 59% said they are likely or extremely likely to switch providers in the next 30 days.
There are five ways to harness the potential power of a CPQ solution.
1. Define the ideal sales process tailored to your business
To succeed with CPQ, you need to deeply understand how your sales process works, from multiple perspectives.
What is the foundation you need to successfully operate and grow the business, and how does that apply to your sales process? What type of sales experience do you want to give and what do your customers want? Do they want to configure a quote themselves? Do they want white-glove service with a salesperson engaged throughout the process?
Also, think about your future goals. Do you plan to leverage machine learning to drive suggested configurations, cross-sells, and upsells?
2. Identify current problems with your sales process
Once you begin to understand your current sales process, you can determine how problems can be resolved. Then you can figure out how to leverage the full potential of out-of-the-box features in the CPQ to tackle those problems.
Moreover, you can extend or customize your investment to address your particular sales organization’s needs.
3. Classify the data that needs to be migrated
A CPQ solution generally requires a single, accurate view of customers, products, pricing, and availability. The entire picture needs to come together through fully-integrated data flows, from the lead and opportunity tracking system, to the CPQ and ultimately to the ERP or product lifecycle management (PLM) system.
This is what enables the seamless configuration and quoting experiences a CPQ system can provide. In addition, it’s important to plan upfront for how much historical data you need to seed machine learning algorithms, so you can fully leverage these powerful options down the line.
4. Ensure integration with other technologies
A smooth, accurate, fail-safe flow of data is critical for B2B e-commerce success, which requires that technologies play well together.
Ideally, the ERP is the organization’s source of truth, with the CPQ engine plugged into that, as well as a sales opportunity tracking system. As a result, you’ll be able to produce a complex quote that connects to a customer e-commerce platform, either through self-service or through email and other communication options.
5. Look ahead to support customer needs
When you invest in a CPQ solution, it’s important to think about the customer experience you want to support down the road.
Will your B2B customers want a self-service option three years from now? Even if you don’t implement that element today, are you making the right decisions to easily enable self-service in the future?
Also, if you are considering AI or machine learning, make sure you consider the data you’ll need as part of your future planning.
The evolving B2B buyer and CPQ
It’s been a long time coming: B2B customers want their buying journey streamlined and personalized to their exact needs. The organizations that move towards offering self-service capabilities will be well-positioned to leap ahead of the competition.
The right CPQ solution empowers organizations to provide intuitive self-service options, drive sales organizational efficiencies, save time, and deliver significant value in a quickly-changing landscape.