Video Series Part 2: 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Implementing CPQ – Simplify Before You Implement

 

 

 

 

Make sure you watch the second part of our new series which shares tips to help you avoid making common mistakes when choosing and implementing a Configure, Price and Quote (CPQ) system. In this video Andy Pieroux, our MD, covers why it’s important to simplify your processes before building a new system.

CPQ Software Trends for 2018 – Published by Oracle’s Website, SmarterCX.com

The article Andy Pieroux penned for Oracle’s website, SmarterCX.com, at the end of last year was so well received that they asked him to write another! In this post Andy sets out his CPQ predictions for 2018 and manages to quote some Harry Potter whilst doing so…
 

What’s so Special About Being in Sales?

One of my Christmas presents from my wife was tickets to see the latest stage production of Glengarry Glen Ross. For those of you who have never seen the play or the film, it’s set in a New York sales office for a real estate company, and is a pretty scathing attack on modern business practices, showing how decisions that are morally questionable can become tempting when you’re under pressure and failing.

Although Glengarry Glen Ross seems like it’s set in a past time, it contains many uncomfortable scenes that modern day sales people will recognise with a shiver – the feeling of a deal slipping away or a lack of great leads being the root cause of all problems.

Watching the play got me thinking, if it’s all so tough, why is being in a sales team so good?

We work with many different kinds of organisations. In some there is a good balance and mutual respect between the sales function and the other departments they interact with like finance, marketing, admin, service etc. However, in many companies we observe a level of antipathy towards sales people. Often this isn’t aimed at a specific person, but generally takes the form of ‘tutting’ at the demands and lack of care taken by sales people in general.

So if it’s such a hard place to be, and stirs negative feelings in others, why on earth would anyone want to join a sales team?

The obvious answer is the earnings potential of a career in sales, and there’s definitely a case for it being the ‘right’ place for highly competitive people, but are these individual drivers enough?

From my experience, all sales people whether good or average (the poor ones tend not to last) punch above their weight in a great sales team.

A dedicated high performing sales team has been the main mechanism for a company to drive revenue for many years now. These teams are usually well compensated for their success, so that it almost always covers the basic sales requirement of a decent payslip. I think it goes much further than that though.

A great sales team often has a vision of a greater goal or an impact it is making. I remember reading about the history of my old company, Xerox, and learning that once they’d started development of the first photocopier, they recruited the best sales people in the country to create a high performing sales team even before there was anything tangible to sell. In some ways this isn’t so different to the behaviour of some well-funded start-ups these days. That feeling of being part of a pioneering team taking a cutting edge technology to market must have been truly exhilarating and it formed a great foundation for the company’s sales academy for years to come.

In the organisations where the sales culture is not so well celebrated, and almost frowned upon, there can also be a sense of ‘splendid isolation’ in the sales team. Some great sales teams succeed because their managers generate a feeling of purpose from the difference in the team to the rest of the organisation.

I’ve regularly seen this in large organisations where a smaller team carves out its own identity – for example an Inside Sales team in a predominantly field-based company, or a New Business ‘hunter’ team in a company where most of the business is farmed from a user-base.

In both cases the key is to find an identity and a purpose that can make the team members feel valued and driven, even when the deals are going against them.

There’s definitely a certain ‘sexiness’ too, in being part of a successful sales team. If the product or environment you’re selling for or into is glamorous, it’s even more pronounced. At this point, my mind switches from real-estate sales to the pitches of the TV show ’Mad Men’, beautifully set in the heady world of advertising in the 60s on Madison Avenue, New York. Watching the camaraderie of the account teams as they win business and build up agencies makes it seem like a wonderful place to be.

Of course not all sales environments will be so well placed, or timed. Even if you’re selling industrial goods on a trading estate in Slough, when you return to your team with a large deal you’ll be the hero – even if only for that month or quarter and a great sales team has a wonderful self reinforcing culture of success with victories celebrated.

In my opinion, a great team spirit and culture almost always enhances the performance of everyone in the team. It will be interesting to see whether this changes, and if so, how, as more millennials (and the generations beyond) enter the sales force and become sales managers themselves, but that’s a topic for another day.

Do you agree? And what great experiences of being in a sales team do you have? Please share….

‘What’s so Special About Being in Sales?’ was written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux

Video Series Part 1: 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Implementing CPQ – Buy or Build?

 

 

 

 

Watch the first part of our new series which shares tips to help you avoid making common mistakes when choosing and implementing a Configure, Price and Quote (CPQ) system. In this video our MD, Andy Pieroux, explores why it’s best not to build your own.

Walpole Partnership’s Guest Author Series – Post No. 4

One of the things we love about working with sales people is the wide variety of backgrounds and skillsets that they bring to the party. So much of selling is about communication, and actors are experts in managing the message they communicate. On that basis, we’re very proud to have a Hollywood actor contributing to our blog – read on to hear Dominic Colenso’s thoughts on how to improve your conversion rates.

The Act Of Selling

When I started my career as an actor I would never have called myself a sales person. I was an artist, a creative, a classically trained performer. It wasn’t long however until I realised that the reality was very different. Not only was I a sales person, I was actually Director of Sales and my task was to sell one of the most intangible products on the market…my own talent.

Initially I felt completely out of my depth. I hadn’t had any sales training. I’d never even worked in a shop. The closest I’d ever got to selling something was manning the cake stand at the school fete. And yet, as I started to audition for jobs, I quickly realised that my training as an actor had given me the fundamental tools I needed for success. These skills weren’t clever language patterns or complicated formulas for effective negotiation, instead they were approaches for creating powerful impact and increasing my influence. Simple tools that quickly led to me landing jobs on the London stage and in a Hollywood film.

At In Flow my team and I now share these skills with clients from all over the world and I love how quickly people are able to implement them. They fall into three distinct areas of focus that we challenge all sales teams to pay attention to. If you want to increase your own conversion rate I suggest you evaluate your effectiveness in each.

Confidence

As an actor I was always very aware that the product was me but no matter what you are selling you need to remember that your customers are always buying a little piece of who you are. They’re buying into your values, how you show up and what you stand for. As human beings we are very quick to judge. We very rarely buy from people we don’t like and we are continually evaluating the performance of the person selling to us. We are looking for someone who comes across as confident but not cocky, someone who is authentic and trust worthy. I have been known to walk out of a shop without making a purchase because I didn’t like the sales person’s approach, only to return a few hours later to purchase the same product from a different member of staff. Whether you sell face to face or on the phone, start to calibrate the impression you make. What does your body language say about you? How does your tone of voice come across? Does what you say sound credible and make people feel like you are a safe pair of hands? Simple tweaks to the way you use your body, your voice and your words can have a massive impact on other people’s perception of your confidence and subsequently their likelihood to buy. It’s worth investing time in the basics if you want to set the stage for success.

Connection 

The next thing you need to ask yourself is whether or not you speak your customer’s language. I don’t mean Japanese or German, I mean have you truly listened to their needs and attempted to step into their shoes. We don’t create a connection with people by forcing them to see the world from our perspective, we connect by showing a willingness to flex and see things from other people’s points of view. As human beings we want to feel heard. We want other people to understand and value us. It is therefore essential that we listen deeply to our customers and prospects. We need to ask them questions, not just to find out about their buying strategy but to connect with them on a human level so that we can discover what we have in common and how our products or services can meet their needs. Pay attention to the language they use and play it back to them. If someone emails you using a short direct style, don’t respond with a floral and longwinded reply. Match your communication style to theirs and you instantly start to build rapport and trust. It’s also important to remember that connection is a two-way process. Just like an actor, to be successful in sales you must be vulnerable in front of your audience. People won’t open up to you if you don’t open up to them. You can’t be too polished or prepared. The more present and “in the moment” you are, the deeper the connection you will make.

Content

The final piece of the jigsaw when thinking about sales is the content. What you actually say. Many of us obsess over this piece first but without the building blocks of confidence and connection being firmly in place, it doesn’t matter how good your content is, it simply won’t resonate with your audience. Just like actors, great sales people are master storytellers. They transport their audience into the world of imagination and help people to create a new reality, to envisage how engaging with a product or service will change their lives for the better. Are you able to clearly articulate that journey for your prospect or customer? Are you able to paint pictures with words and interact with people on both an imaginative and an emotional level? When what we start to say has an emotional impact we start to dramatically increase our influence. When our words move past the realm of information and start to move our audience to action then we have momentum. Think of every sales conversation as a piece of elegant storytelling. It should have a beginning, a middle, an end and a clear call to action. And they all lived happily ever after…

When confidence, connection and content start to overlap you find your “flow”. Barriers to communication break down and the act of selling becomes much easier. You’re not putting on a show or becoming someone else. Instead, just like a great actor, you’re allowing different aspects of yourself to be visible to your audience, increasing your choice and flexibility, whilst authentically delivering a message that will make a difference to other people lives. Selling is a craft that you can constantly refine and by placing your focus in these three areas you’ll see both your performance and your results continue to grow.

Dominic Colenso helps businesses and individuals to communicate better and improve their performance. The founder of In Flow Training, he and his team use their unique Communication Skills Accelerator framework to help leaders and sales teams increase their impact and influence. Dominic also provides keynote speeches to organisations on the topics of communication and performance.

What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You – No. 6: IMPROVING THE DEAL APPROVAL PROCESS

Our series of deep dives into the benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) systems has already let us see things from the perspective of salespeople, order management, and pricing management. One of the most compelling things about CPQ is that it often brings benefits to many departments or functions at the same time.

In our latest article in this series we’ll look at one such benefit of CPQ, and we’ll find out how a great CPQ solution can improve the deal approval process for many people in an organisation.

In many organisations, getting a deal approved can be a long and complex process. At the same time in the B2C world, we’re becoming ever more accustomed to instant decisions and a fast turn around. I was recently able to upgrade my iPhone to the latest model because I’m on the Apple upgrade plan. If you haven’t seen it, you basically get a credit agreement for your phone, pay in instalments and then a year later can trade in the old phone for the latest and greatest.

In the course of the upgrade I had to be credit-checked for the new phone. Ronnie, the awesome Apple Business Team consultant who was assisting me, sent my contract through for authorisation. I had to wait for what felt like a lifetime. While time was passing sloooowly I wondered what would happen if I was rejected for some reason? I started thinking whether I could afford to buy the phone outright? Should I switch to a different manufacturer? Maybe I’d just keep my old handset?

Finally the screen on the credit terminal lit up and came to life. After an agonising pause during which I think I saw some continental drift occur, a beautiful green tick appeared. Great news. I was approved and could upgrade my phone. I checked my watch to see how late it was. Six whole seconds had elapsed.

While I do get excited about getting a new gadget, it made me realise just how much doubt and uncertainty the delay before approvals can cause. In a B2B sales environment, a delay in approvals can open the door for competition to get in, or can be just the excuse a customer needs to put off a buying decision. Often with these deals, the delay isn’t six seconds, it could be hours, days or even weeks, which can turn into a real nightmare – check out our Halloween post on how bad this can be for business if you haven’t already read it!

The good news is that one of the benefits of CPQ is that these kind of delays can be reduced or even eliminated. Let’s look at how…

In CPQ, approvals generally mean one or more triggers (sometimes called ‘Reasons’), which are conditions under which authorisation must be sought by the salesperson to proceed. This could be approval for discount, for expedited shipping or any other element of the deal that is non-standard.

Approvals in CPQ can simply be faster than using manual approaches. With one system containing the quote or deal, and the set of integrated triggers, the people who give their authorisation to a deal can be notified electronically, and can sign it off very simply – either by following a link into the CPQ system or simply replying to an email notification which can put the decision back into the system. Cutting down the lag on paper based systems, or non-integrated email approval is a big step forward for many organisations.

Secondly, in order to make a decision, an approver generally needs information about the specific item they are being asked to give their consent to, as well as contextual information from the deal itself. For example a pricing manager may be asked to agree to an extra discount, but may not wish to do this for public-sector clients. It’s clear they need to know the client sector to make a decision on price. CPQ approval systems can help provide this information by presenting a user/role-specific view of critical information on screen, or including key data elements in an email notification. Good CPQ implementation design will identify exactly what information approvers will need so they can find the facts out quickly and efficiently.

A third advantage applies to clients who have complex approval processes. With a manual system for handling approvals, a salesperson can feel like their deal has gone into a ‘black hole’ when it has been sent off for authorisation. They can also spend valuable hours chasing approvers to sign a deal off.

A good CPQ system can handle parallel and serial approval chains, giving both visibility of the deal’s progress to everyone involved, and updates when a deal is approved or rejected at any step to avoid time wasting.

The beauty of a systemised approach to approvals extends to audit and compliance. A CPQ system gives a robust audit trail of who made what decision, when, and why. Having these records in a watertight system can be the difference between passing or failing an audit. If your organisation is subject to more stringent requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley or recent accounting changes like IFRS15 for bundled contract revenue recognition, a rock-solid audit trail can be invaluable.

Finally, although organisations can create complex approval chains in CPQ, it doesn’t always mean that they should! It can be tempting when gathering requirements for a new system for everyone to want a say in a deal. People can get nervous that they won’t know what’s going on, and a degree of control-freakery can take hold. We’ve seen systems where this complexity wasn’t managed out of the design, and the result was a tangled web of approvals that slows the business down. At least in CPQ this complexity is visible, and with the right techniques it is possible to track and manage the bottlenecks in the process. Our own ‘Future-Proof CPQ’ approach covers improvements in this area, and it can really help ‘un-stick’ the business when approvals are still taking too long.

So, in conclusion, approvals form a vital part of the CPQ benefits story that we’ve been telling. If you want to get a big ‘green tick’ on your deals in the fastest and most compliant way possible, you probably need CPQ.

The series ‘What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You’ is written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux. Don’t miss out on further parts in this series which can be found on the news section of Walpole Partnership’s website.

New Year’s Resolutions

We’re back after a lovely break and are ready to start the new year! But before we do, we’re going to take a moment to look forward and contemplate what we hope 2018 will hold and share this with you.

The new year is a great time to recalibrate plans, and just as we did last year, we’ve made some new year’s resolutions for our business (and if you want to see how we did last year, then check back to our retrospective of 2017 that we posted just before Christmas).

So what are we aiming to achieve in 2018?

Well we certainly won’t deviate too far from our core focus of CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote). We believe that specialisation gives our customers and partners the best results, and it allows us to be the best at what we do.

Our main business goal for 2018 is to spread our influence and grow our business. We aim to deliver the benefits of CPQ into new geographies, and our recent appointment of Antoine Jansen to cover the ECE and MEA regions should allow us to do just that. New verticals are opening up for CPQ too, so we plan to help customers outside of the traditional CPQ heartlands of Hi-Tech, Manufacturing and Telecoms to understand how they too can benefit.

We’ll need to expand our team further to cope with demand, so expect to hear of new appointments throughout the year. As ever, we’ll only recruit the best and most experienced CPQ people to maintain our reputation and results.

Our client-focused goal is simple. We love to solve problems for others. This year we’ll be focusing on making this crystal clear with new demonstrations and new packaged vertical solutions. We also aim to spread our knowledge further, through formal client training as well as open forums where we can help the CPQ community and solve problems with them.

A key deliverable in the way we can help clients in new ways is the launch of CPQ as a ‘service’ early in 2018. We aim to provide a fully managed service for select clients. This should involve no upfront implementation costs and a partnership approach that will let them focus on their core business, knowing their sales quoting process and pricing is taken care of.

Finally, we are renewing our commitment to supporting charities that have meaning to our teams. We plan to continue to support Cancer Research and Kids In Sport and this year we are pledging 1% of our turnover to support these and other great causes.

It’s another exciting year of growth ahead for us which we know will mean great results for our clients. We can’t wait to get going!

2017 at Walpole Partnership

As the year draws to a close, it’s a wonderful time to look back on what we’ve achieved in 2017. The best yardstick to measure ourselves against is the goals we set ourselves at the start of year.

If you were following our blog nearly 12 months ago, you might recall that we challenged ourselves to progress in six areas:

 

1) A Complete Focus on Configure Price Quote (CPQ)
2) Mid-size Organisation Packages
3) New Website
4) Global Reach (US, Far East, RoE)
5) Grow Our Team
6) Support Charities

Let’s take each of these in turn and see how we did.

A Complete Focus on CPQ
This year we doubled down on our CPQ focus. We worked hard to obtain resale rights for CPQ licenses from Oracle to complement our implementation services and our maintenance offerings too. We launched our ‘Future-Proof CPQ’ solution for existing Oracle CPQ users to help them get the best from their system. We also partnered with another CPQ vendor – KBMax – who integrate wonderfully with Oracle CPQ and who also have their own standalone offering.

Mid-size Organisation Packages
This goal was slower to develop for us. We’ve shown we can provide cost-effective implementations for smaller organisations, but I’d struggle to say it was packaged. However, in the latter months of the year, we’ve formed a great partnership with BPI On Demand. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Fred and Mike must be blushing because we’re following in their footsteps and plan to launch a managed service offering for CPQ early in 2018. This will allow smaller organisations to reap the benefits of CPQ with no upfront costs.

New Website
We launched our new website in July, beautifully designed by InnerVisions ID  and we’re really happy with the result. We’re continuing to evolve our brand and the resources we make publicly available through our web presence.

Global Reach
It’s been an exciting year for us outside of the UK. We’ve been busy delivering projects and implementations of CPQ in Israel, France, Qatar, Sweden and the Netherlands and have prospects in many more countries (and of course in addition to our clients in the UK). We’ve also expanded our sales and pre-sales coverage to give our customers, and the Oracle sales teams, the best support in Central & Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Look out for an even stronger presence in those countries from Walpole Partnership in 2018.

Grow Our Team
Our key appointment was Antoine Jansen who joined our team to give us sales coverage in many of the countries and regions mentioned above. Antoine brings a wealth of experience in CPQ, as well as a real burst of enthusiasm and professionalism. We’re very excited to have him on board. Our offshore team has grown in line with the projects we’re delivering and we expect to announce some further exciting additions to the team in 2018. In truth though, our success in 2017 has been down to the extra miles (and kilometres) our amazing team have gone for the business, and my thanks go to them all.

Support Charities
Our key charity, Kids In Sport, has continued to receive our financial support in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018. The work that Roger and his team are doing to give children a chance to take part in sport when they otherwise wouldn’t be able is truly amazing and makes our hearts melt a little every time we hear about their good work. We were also very proud to support our COO Lisa Zevi, as she terrified herself doing a sky-dive in aid of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

So overall, we can consider 2017 a successful year. As we take stock over the holidays we’ll be renewing some commitments, increasing others and perhaps adding some new ones into the mix for 2018, but until then, we’ll sit back with a large glass of something and consider 2017 a job well done.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays) to you and yours and all the very best for 2018.

 

Walpole Partnership’s Guest Author Series – Post No. 3

One of the secrets of our success in growing a business from nothing (apart from having the most excellent Configure, Price, Quote people in the world!) is that we follow the advice of our COO, Lisa Zevi. Because she must have about three times the number of hours in her day than the rest of us, Lisa advises and guides other high growth businesses in addition to us. We’re very proud to share some of her wisdom in the form of a guest post on our blog.

10 Mistakes New Business Owners Make

Most people start out in business with a great idea or a particular skill – they don’t think about running a company or managing a team. Nobody ever tells you that the way you manage your business will make it or break it.

Here are 10 Mistakes New Business Owners Make that I come across all the time. How many of these sound familiar to you?

  1. Not having a plan– You have a great idea, you know what you’re doing, you’re prepared to take a risk – just get on with it. No actually, wait a moment! Without a plan, how will you know that you are on track? Without a plan, how will you be able to communicate progress? Without a plan, how will you know if you are veering off track?
  2. Believing your own hype– When you start a new business it is very common to believe that no one can do things as well as you – after all it’s your idea, your product or service, and no one else will ever understand or care as much as you. If you’re smart, you will hire people who will make decisions and challenge your ideas rather than simply do a job.

  3. Hiring too quickly and firing too slowly– Your team is the most important element of your new business ‘jigsaw’. Many business owners avoid hiring or getting help until they are completely overwhelmed, and then panic and hire the first person who crosses their path. One bad hire can seriously de-rail you, especially in the early days, so focus on finding people with the right attitude and values. Someone who is not right for the team will end up draining you and your business. If you get it wrong, end it quickly, professionally and humanely.

  4. Blurring the lines– If you do decide to go into business with a friend or a family member, make sure that roles and responsibilities, goals and financials are clear. Even though you are sure it will never happen, discuss how either of you would exit the partnership. Even the best of friends can fall out over an informal handshake where each person has a different memory of what was agreed.

  5. Selfish vision– Many owner-managers are so focussed on their goals that they fail to realise that their people are not with them. In order to buy into the future you can see, your team will need to understand you and why you do what you do. With all your passion and enthusiasm, customers will not immediately flock to your door, and even when they do find you, they may not immediately ‘get’ the uniqueness of your idea or product. Remember that this is not about you – it is about your customers and how you solve their problems.

  6. Lack of trust– You started off with such a great team – what happened? Effective communication is key to establishing and maintaining trust, but too often this is put into the ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘essential’ category. Your team need to understand what is happening in the business, they need to feel that they can contribute, challenge and collaborate. Make it part of your company’s culture to recognise and celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities.

  7. Poor cash management– It’s amazing how often new businesses run out of cash, even when they have revenues and profit. Especially in the early days, cash is very definitely king – you need to maintain a rolling 10-12 week forecast. By all means have an accountant to do your tax returns but keep a tight grip on expenses, especially in the early days. Cash is just as important as profit. Do not be too slow to go out to the market and seek funding. If you cannot find anyone else to invest in your idea then maybe it’s not such a good one…

  8. Failing to systemise– Many owner-managers are consumed by the daily crisis and never find enough time to focus on what’s important in their business. Their business is likely to be freewheeling with no direction or focus, at the mercy of every crisis and drama. It takes practise and discipline to change this behaviour. In order to scale your business you will need to systemise – all core processes needs to be mapped out and documented. Get your team involved, encourage cross-training and knowledge-sharing. Make sure that everyone in your business feels responsible for consistency and continuity.

  9. Micro-managing– Even when you have, in theory, delegated work to your team, it is too easy to spend your time micro-managing. You have to learn to let go. Help your people, trust them to do their jobs and let them make mistakes. It’s hard, especially when the business is your baby, but it is the only way that your business will be able to grow. If someone is always telling you that everything is fine, I would be wary! In business things are always breaking – that’s usually the only way you learn and grow. Ensure you put metrics in place so that you are dealing with facts and not just what people tell you.

  10. Not asking for help– Many entrepreneurs are terrified that their ideas and approaches will be stolen from them and so they avoid countless opportunities to get feedback from potential customers and partners. Get your minimum viable product out there as soon as possible – test, refine and repeat. It is so easy to get completely consumed by your business and to feel full of fear and anxiety. Having an experienced mentor or coach can provide the necessary challenge and perspective. Joining a support or accountability group can be a great way to realise that you are not alone. Share stories and learn from each other – the support you receive and give will be invaluable. 


Lisa Zevi is the Operations Director of Walpole Partnership and the Founder of COO in a BOX. https://www.cooinabox.co.uk

‘A Day in the Life of a Salesperson Without CPQ’ – Published by Oracle’s Website SmarterCX.com

We love bringing the world of CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) to life, and you can’t beat a good story. We also love that Oracle’s website, SmarterCX.com, has picked up on the great combination of our ability to spin a good yarn and our experience of the business side of CPQ. If you’re not sure what CPQ is all about, read the ‘Day in the Life of a Salesperson Without CPQ’ story that we created for Oracle.

https://smartercx.com/day-life-salesperson-without-cpq/