CPQ tools have gained traction in recent years as companies try to improve the B2B sales experience for sellers and customers alike. As the pandemic rages on, businesses are leaning on CPQ tools even more heavily to help sales reps get customers what they need.
Configure, Price, and Quote is proving to be an essential tool as organizations adjust to the massive changes forced on them by COVID-19, including a shift to remote sales and an explosion of e-commerce.
More than ever, sales reps need to be trusted advisors for customers who have become accustomed to getting what they need quickly through digital channels. CPQ tools help them do that.
As Nicole France, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, sees it, CPQ can be a catalyst to help companies achieve not only digital transformation, but a broad business transformation that improves customer experience.
“By implementing CPQ intelligently and using that to prompt wider digital transformation, companies have the opportunity to close the gap between the buying experience for customers and the selling experience for sellers,” she said in a recent CPQ webcast hosted by SAP.
That gap can lead to friction and slower sales, something that no company can afford, especially now.
CPQ tools: Helping sellers help customers
According to France, the pandemic has accelerated several buyer trends, especially on the B2B side. Buyers today want:
- Quicker time to purchase
- Reduced complexity
COVID-19 has significantly changed customer expectations for speed and simplicity, she said: “There’s no going back.”
CPQ helps organizations meet these heightened expectations by providing salespeople with optimized product configurations and pricing. Sellers don’t have to pore through product catalogs and pricing spreadsheets to figure out what best fits the customer’s needs; they can offer up fast, accurate quotes.
Pre-approved discounts protect corporate margins while speeding the sales process, avoiding the lengthy negotiations that are common in B2B sales. When connected to a commerce system, a CPQ can use the pre-negotiated pricing to enable customer self-service.
“The seller can focus more on identifying customer needs and helping meet those needs rather than the transactional and administrative elements,” France said. “It’s about shifting the focus of the effort towards the high-value aspects of customer relationships.”
Bottom line: Customers get exactly what they need, when they need it, at the right price.
Empowering sellers and fueling growth
On the seller side, COVID-19 has also intensified several trends that were well under way at the beginning of the year, France said.
- Driving growth
- Managing or improving margins
- Increasing consistency
- Meeting customer expectations
By speeding the sales process and enabling sales reps to meet customer needs, CPQ helps organizations accelerate top-line growth as well as address issues affecting bottom-line revenue, even amid so much uncertainty, France said.
Empowering sales reps means organizations can do more with the same sales staff, which helps improve margins, she noted. And by guiding sellers with ideal configurations, pre-approved discounts and other data, CPQ gives companies much-needed consistency in their sales processes while making it easier for customers to buy.
CPQ’s hidden benefits: Sales training, pipeline visibility
In companies with large and complex product portfolios, it’s hard for a seller to know all the potential combinations and configurations, France said. Sales training is a byproduct of CPQ.
“No one wants to be in a position of selling something they don’t know anything about,” she said.
Moreover, CPQ can provide cross-sell and upsell guidance, which be very effective at the point of sale and beyond, France said.
The accuracy CPQ tools provide is another big benefit, she said. By offering accurate quotes, companies avoid having to rework deals because they didn’t get it right the first time.
Another benefit that organizations may not expect with CPQ: Better pipeline visibility for improved sales forecasting. CPQ provides clear, real-time visibility into individual deals, France said.
“That visibility has helped businesses improve their decision making,” she said.
Rolling out CPQ tools: Baby steps
According to France, CPQ gives organizations the ability to take an iterative approach to implementation. They can start with core capabilities then expand to meet broader goals.
“You don’t have to start big to get results,” she said.
It helps to have a focused starting point. Initial rollout should aim to drive adoption with key constituents, France said.
To win over sales reps, the CPQ system should offer clear benefits. Accurate quotes with the right language that conforms to company policy eliminates a big headache for salespeople.
Organizations that put a lot of effort into their pricing policies and product descriptions beforehand can speed implementation, France added.
One company even credited CPQ for helping it survive rocky times due to the pandemic, she said. The company, which sells custom sheds, was able by the end of April to hire back the sellers it had laid off in early March. CPQ gave its salespeople the ability to work easily with customers over the phone and via the website configurator.
In a time when business challenges seem unrelenting, that kind of positive story is most certainly welcome.