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Lurking in your sales quoting process is the monster spreadsheet. It’s big, cumbersome and sometimes unruly. You’re team has been using this manual system to create quotes for so long now that [...]
Lurking in your sales quoting process is the monster spreadsheet. It’s big, cumbersome and sometimes unruly. You’re team has been using this manual system to create quotes for so long now that it’s hard to imagine doing it another way.
The Excel whiz that created your quoting spreadsheet system probably thinks it’s like a hand-built Ferrari engine. He is proud of it, but it’s admittedly complex. Of course this provides some job security because he is likely the only one who can maintain the monster. Your sales people may also be comfortable – very few people like change – even though the manual configure, price and quote process is time-draining and error-prone.
Maintaining the status quo, because your team is used to it, is not always what’s best for your business. Despite being the industry standard for spreadsheets, Excel has clear drawbacks when it comes to creating sales quotes. There are some things Excel simply can’t do for sales users.
1.Setting rules. Adding new rules can be a cumbersome process. The formulas and tables can be very confusing for someone who is not updating the spreadsheets daily. So, generally, a sales department relies on an Excel guru to administer the quoting system and maintain the rules. In many organizations it takes days and lots of testing to get new rules working correctly and to make sure the rest of the rules still work too.
2.Quote approval. A big pain point for many organizations is getting the quotes out the door. Because sales users need to gather information from disparate pricing sheets and input them into the quoting spreadsheets, the organization spends more time on quote approval. Did the rep use the latest pricing sheet? Did the rep correctly select the right combination of options and service plans? Is this a special price request that needs additional approvals? Manual quoting requires manual verification of accuracy and approvals that slow the process.
3.Scalability. As businesses grow, their product and service offerings grow with them. Thus, their quoting spreadsheets keep growing and growing. For complex products and recurring services, manual quoting eventually becomes impossible to sustain while delivering accurate quotes to prospects.
4.Maintenance. Relying on one Excel whiz to maintain your configure, price and quote spreadsheets is a disaster waiting to happen. If the whiz is unavailable or on vacation, then peers will likely struggle and may be unable to figure out the calculations or unlock the spreadsheet to make updates. There is also the risk that your organization may not be able to access your spreadsheets on shared network drives because they were accidentally deleted, not backed up, or the network drive was unavailable.
5.Real-time data. Another downside of the cumbersome, manual quoting process is that you can’t see your sales funnel. Sales managers have little or no visibility into the history of quotes that reps or channel partners send to prospects or what’s in the pipeline. Without some intense custom reporting and an individual dedicated to generating these reports on a regular schedule, you’ll be hard pressed to link your quotes with an opportunity, so you can see value of your deals today.
We understand that sales organizations and administrators can view their Excel system as a security blanket of sorts. But it’s this false sense of security that slows down your quoting process and puts deals at risk. Cloud-based CPQ software can liberate your sales team from the spreadsheet monster, so you can maximize the value of every sale, quickly.
Learn more about what you can do with automated CPQ solutions and how to capture more revenue faster.
You’ve got your company and sales team trained and ready to go with Salesforce.com. You’ve transformed the sales process to have better visibility into your pipeline. Your team can now share data [...]
Albert Einstein said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius— and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” For me, Einstein’s words [...]
Albert Einstein said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius— and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”
For me, Einstein’s words capture the spirit of the many attempts made to simplify the sales quoting process. I’d wager that most sales people have worked at more than one organization that has thrown yet another spreadsheet into the mix because “it will make quoting easier.” Did it?
When you sell complex products and services, the last thing you need is a quoting process that adds complexity. Manual quoting, which requires the collection of spreadsheets, product sheets and people to reconcile endless pricing variables, leads to complications and costly mistakes. Eliminating these errors is one of the main reasons that forward-thinking organizations choose to automate their quoting process by adopting a configure, price and quote (CPQ) solution. However, it’s not the only reason.
Beyond accurate quotes, sales users also need to quote faster. Automating CPQ can make configuring a product quick and accurate. Just how simple this will be relies upon the rules engine that drives the CPQ solution. Many rules engines make quoting accurate but also more complex than it needs to be.
Most CPQ solutions on the market today use sequential rules engines as the backbone for their solutions. While they’re intended to be simple, the very nature of sequential rules engines increases complexity for administrators and users. Sequential rules engines rely on an explicitly specified order of rules and rule families. In these deployments, the rule firing sequence is critical to accurate configurations and it requires fully and clearly expressed rules for each product and option. In short, there are more rules to write, test and upkeep.
There is a better way. REVVY CPQ leverages a sophisticated constraint rules engine that minimizes the total number of rules needed to model the configuration. This simplifies the process for administrators and sales users, delivering better results.
Let’s explore a couple ways that REVVY’s constraint rules engine outperforms other rules engines.
(1) Shows what you can do, not what you can’t. Sequential rules engines evaluate rules after an option or product is selected and then allow you to select incompatible or invalid options, which causes sales people to get frustrated, and rightfully so. No one wants to be told after they’ve selected options that the options are not available or not allowed. The REVVY rules engine already indicates in the UI whether a certain option is valid by only showing the valid options, which saves time and prevents errors.
(2) Explains invalid options so you can give customers what they want. Sometimes customers want options and products that invalidate other products or options that they still want. REVVY rules engine allows users to see the cause of invalid options and choices to fix all options that might conflict with what the customer wanted.
(3) Faster response time. Sequential rules engines re-fire all the rules in the same sequence multiple times in an attempt to make up for shortcomings. However, this degrades performance and takes more time. REVVY constraint rules engine detects dependencies and thereby optimizes the time it takes to evaluate all rules. This can as much as half the time it takes to execute results.
It’s not easy to make things simpler. It took genius and courage to develop the REVVY CPQ rules engine. But, it is absolutely worth it. This will make a huge difference for administrators and sales users because simpler for them means better, faster and more effective quotes.
You can learn more about why configuration technology matters and how REVVY constraint-based rules engine outperforms traditional solutions.
Companies spend big bucks on customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, Gartner forecasts CRM software revenue will reach $23.9 billion this year. The CRM umbrella is wide. [...]
Companies spend big bucks on customer relationship management (CRM) systems. In fact, Gartner forecasts CRM software revenue will reach $23.9 billion this year. The CRM umbrella is wide. It includes everything from customer service and support to marketing and sales. It’s a fairly broad category, but across the board automation is a critical component. Whether its help desk, email marketing or inventory control, automation enables businesses to streamline the lifecycle and improve the customer relationship.
The opportunities to improve CRM seem endless and there is a lot of talk about where CRM is heading. I agree that mobility, the Internet of things and e-commerce will be big drivers for CRM investment. Outside of these high-level drivers, I think that we’ll also see more CRM investment in niche sales automation tools that live outside the CRM tab for opportunity management, which centers on generating a qualified lead and handing him off to sales.
Strategic investment in tools that address the last stretch of the lifecycle will be where the rubber meets the road for increasing profitability of the customer relationship, particularly for organizations selling complex products and services.
One such tool is configure, price and quote (CPQ). CPQ software boosts CRM by automating part of the sales process that is repetitive, time-consuming and prone toerrors that leave money on the table. To give you an idea of how CPQ software can streamline the quoting process through automation, here’s a step-by-step look at how our Model N CPQ solution works:
• Lead comes into CRM system
• Sales rep accepts the lead and is ready to generate a quote
• Rep launches Model N CPQ from the sales opportunity in CRM
• Rep uses Model N CPQ to configure the quote
• Model N CPQ automatically guides rep through process according to rules and configurations
• Quote is generated and attached to opportunity
• Quote is automatically routed for approval if necessary, which is determined by terms
• Once approved, quote is released to customer
• Once sale closed, CRM creates customer record and billing info
• Aberdeen reports that B2B sales organizations that use CPQ software to streamline their quoting process achieve higher proposal volume, larger deal size and shorter sale cycles. The Aberdeen report is definitely worth a read; you can sign-up for a free registration to read the report.
It’s important to understand that CPQ software simplifies quoting and boosts CRM, but not all CPQ software is created equal. The most important aspect of any CPQ software is that people actually use it. This means the solution you choose needs to be simple and user-friendly. When you start looking at making an investment in CPQ ask a few crucial questions:
1. Is it native to my CRM?
2. Can it quote products, services and subscriptions together?
3. Will I need to write code every time there’s a change to quoting rules?
4. Can supervisors approve quotes in real-time?
You get one shot to earn your sales team’s acceptance of a new application and they’re a finicky group. Do your due diligence—compare solutions, talk to users and trial the software. After all, any investment in CRM and sales automation tools that don’t get used is just more money down the drain.
When you make the decision to move from manual quoting to an automated CPQ process, you’re taking a significant step toward stopping profit erosion. You’re liberating your salespeople from the [...]
When you make the decision to move from manual quoting to an automated CPQ process, you’re taking a significant step toward stopping profit erosion. You’re liberating your salespeople from the time drain associated with configuring complex products with lots of moving parts, so they can spend their time selling more. But you still need to understand the best practices that will maximize your return on investment in CPQ software.
Every CPQ solution requires some degree of upfront planning in order to function properly and efficiently. But, this legwork shouldn’t be too much work itself. The goal is to do this setup correctly, quickly and only once, then reap the benefits for all time.
So how should you approach this start-up process for your CPQ rollout?
Your first step is to assign a CPQ admin to identify dependencies and relationships among your components or product options. When you’re dealing with complex products, selecting one component can have a ripple effect on subsequent choices. Relying on salespeople to remember these dependencies will negate the value of automating CPQ and lead you straight back to delayed and inaccurate quotes.
Take the time to do preliminary modeling and map your component relationshipsbefore you add the components to the CPQ system. Once you know how the components are related, you can quickly create option and option groups and define product configuration rules.
Effective configuration rules are the basis for eliminating quoting errors. Consider that you will need different types of rules including compatibility rules, must-select rules and visibility rules. For instance, if options don’t work with each other, you’ll need a compatibility rule that prevents a salesperson from selecting both options together.
It’s important to outline configuration rules in plain English. Define them in business terms so it’s easier to understand how to create those rules in the CPQ system. Decide it it’s more efficient to describe these rules as positives or negatives.
Most importantly, test that your rules work the way that you expect. Confused salespeople are a surefire way to kill adoption of your CPQ system—you have one chance to get your salespeople onboard with your new automated CPQ system, so it needs to work as expected. Test rules as soon as you’ve created them and test the entire model to ensure the system works as planned.
While this legwork is time-consuming, it’s the foundation for successfully automating your CPQ process. When your CPQ admin takes the time to follow the best practices we’ve described above, your CPQ system will enable salespeople to quickly create accurate quotes, win customers and keep those customers happy.
For more details on these and other best practices for effectively implementing CPQ, download our best practices sheets.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of predictions put forth in the CRM space. As pundits look into their crystal balls, it’s no surprise to see them home in on the “Internet of Things” [...]
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen a number of predictions put forth in the CRM space. As pundits look into their crystal balls, it’s no surprise to see them home in on the “Internet of Things” particularly after Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff announced his vision for the “Internet of Customers” whereby every Internet-connected device becomes a touch point for connecting with customers.
CRM tools will certainly advance as consumer devices are increasingly Internet-connected. That’s definitely where we’re headed in the long run. But from a shorter-term perspective, two things stand out to me as absolute certainties for CRM in 2014.
Mobile becomes the norm—anything less won’t be good enough
First, anything not built for mobile will be left behind. Companies have come to terms with the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon after consistent demands from employees. As a result, companies have either allowed staff to bring their own tablets and smartphones or opted for a choose your own device strategy, in which the company issues the device of choice to the user. In fact, Gartner has said that by this year 30 percent of sales organizations will issue tablets as the primary device for sales staff. With iPads and Droids in hand, users won’t embrace any systems or processes that can’t be done while mobile. Whether it’s an off-the-shelf tool or a homegrown custom application, every new CRM undertaking will count mobility as a core requirement.
In addition to mobility, usability will be a key driver to adoption of new CRM applications. If it doesn’t make the process easier for sales teams, they won’t use it. Forcing sales teams to use a cumbersome legacy in-house system will no longer work. With SaaS solutions a click and a credit card away, it’s easy for business managers to go around the company system that fails to meet their needs and get what they truly want.
CPQ steps into the limelight for CRM
We’ll also see more of the sales process benefit from automation. Most organizations continue to lack a unified view of customers that includes current and past quotes, contracts and transactions. They still live with the manual inputs and lost cycle time spent crafting quotes for products and services. This translates into longer sales cycles that lose deals and lack visibility into workflow and contracts. For the rest of 2014, this will change and we’ll see a surge in organizations connecting their CRM systems with configure, price and quote (CPQ) processes.
By automating CPQ, companies can maximize return through contract management and provide sales teams with an end-to-end view that allows for execution of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and minimizes costly errors. Ultimately, linking CRM and CPQ will increase the value of every customer relationship.
Stronger software solutions for automating quoting and contract management are now available and will fill a void on the technology front. However, it’s not necessarily the technology that is driving CPQ into the limelight and stimulating change. Rather it’s the customers’ requirements for better service. Overall, businesses are increasingly reshaping their perspectives by putting themselves in the shoes of their customers. They’re asking right question—how does the customer want to do business?—instead of forcing the company’s outdated processes on customers.
In the case of CPQ, customers demand that businesses be more responsive and CPQ systems provide the sales force with the tools they need to make the sales process easier on their customers.
The customer experience is the common thread among each and every evolution that has taken place and will take place in the CRM space; in 2014 the customer will continue to drive significant change.
What do you think will be the biggest change to CRM in 2014?