Smart Selling

It Pays to Automate Sales Quotes

Automate sales quotes to keep your sales reps focused on closing business.

Sales reps have a full plate. They have a lot to do and a short time to get it done. We expect them to turn in positive results quickly and if not, we tell them to pack up their things and move along.

For most selling organizations and for individual sales folks, the key limiting factor in achieving their goals is time. Any time spent doing stuff that does not contribute to closing business is wasted time in their eyes.

Filling out travel and entertainment reports? Waste of time. Attending sales meetings? Waste of time. Cold-calling stale contact lists to update listings? Waste of time. Preparing proposals and sales quotations? Huge waste of time!

Isn’t that their job?

Not really; their job is to close business. Their job is to get the prospect to say, “I’m buying it; order the product.”

Granted, not all sales jobs are the same; they will vary in terms of when the rep actually becomes engaged with the prospect. The trend is that prospects are waiting longer and later into the buying cycle before wanting or needing to engage with a sales rep. Regardless, some sales jobs involve extended multiple visits to educate and negotiate with prospects while others are simply a matter of answering any last-minute questions and physically placing the order.

Regardless of how the sales rep operates, for most products, the customer will ask for two things: a price and a proposal. For many reps, this moment is a decision point. How serious is the prospect? How well does my product stack up against the competition? Am I just column fodder, or do I have a real chance to win this deal? These questions are important because this is where the rep is going to have to personally commit and invest time into the process.

If they have a low-percentage deal cooking, that will require extended time to prepare quotations and proposal documents, and at the same time, if they have another deal cooking that is much more likely to close, they will be very tempted to let the tough deal go. That decision should not be made by Sales. When you automate sales quotes, the decision is unnecessary because the quote can be generated with minimal effort by the rep.

What’s in a price?

For many products, providing a price involves more than isolating an SKU and looking up a price. Lots of other factors are involved. Is the price made up of lots of smaller prices driven by options selected and quantities purchased? Are there volume discounts to consider? Is the customer a member of a special class that’s authorized for special prices such as a national account or GSA customer? Do you have prices by country?

When we talk about automating sales quotes, this is where we start. A configure-price-quote tool maintains all of the necessary pricing data. The onboard interviewing script establishes which price list is applicable. It sorts through the complexity of pulling the right parts into the delivered product assembly and building, and it also knows your prospect from your CRM data, and that identifies any applicable discounts.

The sales rep can’t screw it up. There is no opportunity to overlook a critical question or miss an important requirement.

What’s in a quote?

For both prospects and vendors, quotes need to comprise more than just a number. To some degree, a price quote is a legal contract, or at least it is a representation that a specific level of service or specified product will cost a certain amount of money.

At minimum, a quote needs to include a detailed list of goods and services to be provided and specific amounts associated with those goods and services that represent compensation due. Additionally, terms and conditions that affect the timing and manner in which the vendor might invoice and the customer might render payment are described.

At its most sophisticated, a quote is a proposal. The proposal contains all of the above plus a certain amount of supporting information in the form of testing or survey results, summaries of discussions conducted between customer and vendor and information on the solution proposed.

Assembling all of the material takes an enormous amount of time. Sales reps who can automate sales quotes will greatly reduce the time required to assemble the quote and all of the supporting information that makes up a proposal.

The technology required to automate sales quotes

CPQ, along with CRM, ERP, sales portals and marketing automation systems, combine to store and maintain all data known about prospects, customers and products. The configure-price-quote system will pull all of the necessary information from those systems to build the elements that make up a quotation and proposal.

No more long nights in the office punching product codes and prices into a spreadsheet, pulling collateral together and typing up cover letters.  No more emergency RFQ responses that ruin weekends and holiday breaks. CPQ and the allied system build the required document to ensure that your customer’s needs are met, your company is protected from misquotes and pricing omissions and your rep is free to get back out there and sell instead of watching the copier warm up.

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