During the What CPQ can REALLY do series, we’ve taken a deeper dive into the real benefits of implementing a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) system, and we’ve looked at how CPQ can help from the perspective of a number of different stakeholders including finance, marketing, order management and other teams.
However, I can’t help but return to the salesperson’s point of view, as the sales teams are the ones who use CPQ on a regular, if not daily, basis. If a CPQ system doesn’t work well for salespeople (or channel partners) then it will rarely be a successful system for the company. So in this post, it gives me no end of pleasure to discuss how a good CPQ solution can deliver a benefit that is close to the heart of so many salespeople, and that benefit is a reduction in administration.
Show me a salesperson who craves more administration and I’ll show you someone who is almost certainly not hitting their target. Admin is an anathema to most salespeople, and trying to avoid doing lots of admin might have been one of the main reasons they moved into sales in the first place.
There are five main ways that implementing a CPQ system can save administration time:
1) Rekeying Information
CPQ is generally integrated with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and so it is straightforward for all the account information, names and addresses etc, to be passed seamlessly from CRM to CPQ. In return, once the deal is in a CPQ system, the products, prices and status of the deal can be automatically synced back into CRM. This reduces the need for careful updating of two separate systems, and it also reduces errors.
In most organisations, forecasting is frequently dealt with in a whole team meeting where each person in turn states what deals they are bringing in this week or month, and the value of them. It’s often necessary to treat forecasting like this so that a sales manager can inspect the deals and make their own judgement on whether they’ll really happen or not. I’ve seen this process reduced significantly in organisations that are disciplined in the adoption of CPQ. By putting the detail of a deal into a CPQ system, and seeking approvals for non-standard elements in advance, salespeople and managers are more collaborative throughout a deals lifecycle, building confidence in, or having it challenged in a more productive way. If the customer requirements change, all systems get updated and managers have more confidence in the data in the system. It’s a much more straightforward process all round.
3) Quote/Proposal Creation
Of course, a CPQ system will offer a major reduction in the administration required to generate a quote or proposal document. All deal information can be used in well-branded templates, allowing the time taken to create an accurate proposal to be reduced from sometimes days to minutes. A sales person can spend their limited time crafting a personalised cover letter that will have impact, rather than trying to collate information on the detail of the product or service, or searching around for the prices and facts of a deal.
4) Automated Approvals
We’ve mentioned before the beneficial effect on approvals that CPQ can bring, and for many salespeople, chasing around after people to say yes to a deal is a time-consuming and unnecessary overhead, which sometimes means you need to return to the office to find people who are hiding behind voicemail or not responding to emails! Having a transparent and automated approval mechanism can highlight when approves are holding up deals, and it can also breed a culture of support for salespeople if implemented correctly.
5) Order Processing
Finally once the salesperson has done the easy bit of what they’re paid to do – getting the customer to say yes and to sign the order – they then have the challenge of getting the order processed. Without CPQ this can be a manual system, sometimes preparing internal order paperwork with more information, and having to double check everything is correct, when really you should be out drinking champagne to celebrate. A CPQ system that is integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or order management can provide all the information that the downstream systems require, fully validated and error free, all at the press of a button.
Overall the streamlining of administration and moving it away from frontline sales can only be a good thing for an organisation. I’ve heard sales people refer to themselves as the highest paid admin clerk which is both sad and frustrating. Take the tasks away, systemise them, automate them and let CPQ free your salespeople to sell.
The series “What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You” is written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux.