Few organisations today have the luxury of time – business is global, high octane and competitive, particularly in markets like telecoms and software. So it’s unfortunate that turning an idea into reality is often a long process.
Taking a great new concept, from initial discussions to an official launch, might take anything up to a year – by which time, the idea might not be relevant to the market any longer.
Over the past few years, product portfolios are becoming more sophisticated due to technology advances, compliance regulations, globalisation and customer demands.
Sales and marketing teams struggle to optimise the potential of this full product catalogue and outdated legacy IT systems mean they are faced with a confusing array of configurations.
This revolution in how companies must approach the sales process has led to a natural reliance on technology, but such is the pace of change that even relatively new technology has quickly become outdated.
Configure price quote (CPQ) solutions are a case in point. At one level, a software system that enables the sales process to be a more efficient process is exactly what was required. But the landscape is changing and now more than ever before, the first wave of CPQ technology, previously a functional platform, has become as vital a business tool as a CRM or ERP system.
As a result, companies looking to steal a march on the competition through an innovative and streamlined selling process need platforms that can quickly adapt to launch new products and services before supporting teams throughout the whole product and sales lifecycle.
At the same time, clunky business processes need removing and the excessive admin that frustrates sales teams must go. From a leadership perspective, the agility to react quickly to changes in the market and identify rapid roots to sales and growth is the order of the day and, already, first wave CPQ platforms don’t hit the mark.
So if a business is about to invest in a CPQ system, or is weighing up its options, how can it truly make the most of its investment? Here are a few key issues to consider.
1. CPQ isn’t an add-on, it’s a disrupter
CPQ presents a genuine opportunity to transform a business for the better by putting innovation at its heart – and these chances don’t come along all that often.
Of course, CPQ can simply replace older technology and still introduce great operational efficiencies and cost savings. However, its real strength is the way it provides unprecedented agility to change the way a business goes to market.
It enables businesses to experiment and find the right formula – the innovative products, commercial models and the most effective channels to market, enabling them to disrupt and lead the field.
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2. Look beyond sales
CPQ is a fantastic solution for sales, enabling teams to exceed targets for new customers and renewals. But to maximise potential, extend it to product managers, marketing teams, customer support teams and senior management.
3. Align the CPQ sales process to the customer experience
Try to understand what is important to customers, from sign-up to billing. CPQ systems help build customer experience foundations based on a genuine understanding of the most valuable customer interactions.
4. Use CPQ to unify sales channels
Think beyond traditional channels to provide a unified buying experience. CPQ can provide a single customer view to deliver a seamless cross-channel experience, so encouraging loyalty and retention.
5. Make sure you get buy-in
Make sure colleagues understand CPQ and its benefits from the outset. Don’t simply use the acronym and expect everyone to get it. Explain the predicted and measurable improvements for each business function and focus on return on metrics that will resonate with each team.
Talk about the number of quotes per person, higher percentages of quota achieved and increased retention and sales people will understand. On the other hand, marketers will appreciate the shorter time to market, improved conversion rates and lower costs per lead.
Customer service will be looking for other benefits such as a good user experience and an improvement in productivity through a reduction in administration.
6. Consider the cloud
As with many of today’s solutions, CPQ tools can be delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) through the cloud. The system will typically come pre-configured and ready for set-up and integration into the business. The responsibilities for running and maintaining the system lie with the vendor.
7. Remember the IT department
CPQ takes certain elements out of the IT department and puts it into the hands of teams who are not necessarily experts or technological wizards. This provides a solution to any IT skills shortages issue and frees up existing teams.
Instead of concentrating on the nuts and bolts and making systems speak to one another, they must first ensure they are being adopted properly and that everyone is accessing the right information.
They can then move downstream to information management, focusing on more proactive and strategic tasks such as analytics. However, this may need planning and careful management.
Of course, next-generation CPQ can’t solve every business challenge. However, it can help break down organisational barriers and provide a single view of all aspects of the customer, the sales process and the product.
In this way it will enable all areas of the business to meet their individual objectives. But it will also help develop an integrated and successful business ready to meet any future challenge.
Sourced from Greg Dunbar, CloudSense