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Over the last few months we’ve been taking a closer look into the real benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) systems and have been unpicking the marketing bullet-points one-by-one to explore what CPQ can really do for you.

One of the oft touted features of CPQ is ‘guided selling’. In this article, we’ll explore what that means for your business. In essence, guided selling presents a series of easily understandable questions about a customer’s needs to the salesperson who is trying to configure a product or service.

By answering these questions, the CPQ system will present relevant choices to the salesperson sometimes just one clear recommendation of what to sell is made by the system.

Contrast this with a typical configurator where all options are presented to the salesperson – perhaps well organised, with good UX and rules to prevent mistakes – but ultimately, they are able to choose anything for their customer. In this case, the freedom to choose may be a benefit, or it may be overwhelming.

Guided selling is often best used where the range of products and services is large, and where there is a clear logic that can be defined linking the customer’s requirements to the choice of products.

To give an example, consider the experience as a consumer if you try and hire a car. You are not just given a full list of every possible car the company has to hire in its whole fleet. Most car hire websites will ask you to define your requirements before presenting you with any options. For example, you may be asked when you want the car and where you want to collect it from. Then you may be given a selection like Economy Vehicles, Luxury Cars, Dream Collection so by making your choices in terms that mean something to you, you are able to narrow down the choices available. This makes the final selection a lot more practical, and it saves you sifting through irrelevant options.

Guided selling doesn’t have to be a completely restrictive process though. Many organisations use guided selling to simplify the choices of perhaps just the models that are available for selection and within those models there are many detailed choices available which may not be limited at all. The skill in a good implementation of guided selling is getting the balance right between simplifying the salespersons choices while not being overly restrictive.

In some industries, the limitations can have further benefits.Consider the insurance industry which (in the UK at least) is heavily regulated, and the selling of insurance plans has had a chequered history. In situations such as this where regulation and control is critical, guided selling can become the key to ensuring your salespeople follow due process, ask all the relevant questions, and only present valid options to the customer. Using a CPQ system to control the sales process can ensure that there is a clearly auditable record of why a customer was sold a specific product or service, and can remove the possibility of mis-selling.

A further benefit of guided selling is found in environments where the salesperson turnover is high, especially if the product or service is complex or the range of choices is exceptionally high. This is often the case for Inside Sales or call centre based sales teams. When the selection of products is based on a series of customer centric questions rather than deep knowledge of the product, the time for a new salesperson to become effective can be dramatically reduced, and potentially the cost of product training can diminish too. The reduced chance of mistakes in product selection will make salespeople more effective and prevents the wrong product being proposed, or worse, sold.

We’ve seen great examples of guided selling setups where product information and explanatory material is embedded in the process all the way through. Fact sheets, selling guides, benefits guides, text and video explainers, competitive information and much more can be made available to the salesperson, right when they need it. For an Inside Sales team this provides information that is useful while on a call, or for field salespeople it can be a great asset when preparing for a meeting, or when following up afterwards so that they have the detail that is needed. It’s all part of the process of guiding the sale.

Finally, one potential hidden benefit of guided selling is the impact on sales product awareness, and the retention of knowledge from training. If there is clear alignment between the materials used in sales product training and the information provided in the guided selling process, then it is clear that the knowledge ‘sinks in’ more from repeated viewing. Seeing the training material in context helps it to be memorised and used naturally.Our advice to anyone implementing guided selling is to consider working with their training teams and to see the content in the CPQ system as an extension of the training approach. It’s a great way for salespeople to learn, and might even liberate some budget!

Overall, we like guided selling if used in the right situations. It’s not for everyone, but where it’s used wisely it can reduce mistakes, reduce sales training and preparation time and can increase effectiveness.

The series “What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You” is written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux.

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