CPQ Perspectives is a series of blogs designed to look at configure-price-quote (CPQ) systems through the eyes of those who encounter them. Recently we’ve discussed the value of configure price quote solutions to the customer, the distributor as well as the manufacturer. In this instalment we look at how CPQ benefits the actual “feet on the street” sales reps.
Sales managers and the sales force, in general, enjoy many benefits from CPQ and other sales-enablement tools, however, how does a tool like CPQ make any difference to your people on the ground, sales reps?
What matters to sales reps?
Many salespeople see themselves as independent businesses. They have an inventory of time, effort and knowledge that they use to bring their employer’s product and a prospect’s pains and needs together in a sales engagement.
These critical elements in the salesperson’s personal inventory deserve to be isolated for emphasis.
Each of these are at least partially expendable and in limited supply. This is especially true of the “time” component. They are all important to the sales rep as critical success factors in closing deals. Like a three-legged stool, no single element can support a successful outcome; all three are necessary to achieve success.
Sales reps can and often do work after hours on knowledge- and effort-related tasks. They can expand their product knowledge, learn about new products and read about common pains and other relevant information in their chosen market.
They can spend some time looking for answers to specific questions posed by their prospects related to product and possible mitigation of the pains driving the engagement. Some of this time may have to be borrowed from normal business hours if it involves talking to product experts or other specialists.
Additional after-hours effort is frequently required for putting together quotations and formal proposals for sales customers and prospects. This may involve bringing together product collateral, user stories, pricing and contractual terms, bills of material (BOMs) and other details designed to present a final, all-inclusive selling instrument to the prospect.
Finally, the most limited inventory item for a salesperson is time—time in the form of the roughly eight-hour day during the 40-hour workweek traditionally devoted to conducting business.
Sales reps know that these few precious hours are always in short supply, and they are naturally reluctant to waste these hours on clerical tasks or non-revenue-generating activities. There is understandable resentment of anything that requires them to use those hours on activities not related to engaging with customers in an overt way.
There are, of course, a myriad of other issues that concern sales reps on a regular basis, but these three elements are the high-level factors that are both controllable and critical to the ultimate success of the sales professional.
How does CPQ impact sales reps and help them sell?
CPQ offers specific and powerful help with each of these three elements. Indeed, these three elements make up a huge percentage of the benefit delivered by any decent CPQ tool.
Let’s take a look at each of these three elements and how CPQ helps reps get the job done.
Time, the first element, is important to reps during both business hours of operation and after. CPQ provides a single go-to source of info for reps. This advantage is enhanced by the portability or mobility of the CPQ solution. CPQ can be accessed via laptop or tablet by the rep anytime, anywhere—including the customer’s office.
Questions are answered immediately, not after “checking with corporate” for an answer. CPQ offers accessibility to so much product and business information, that reps do not have to spend endless hours updating price lists and product collateral.
Effort is also related to time, and CPQ reduces the need for one by eliminating the other. Proposal generation and quotation activity is largely automated. The information required to fulfill pricing and product information requests are produced by interactive interviews, ready-to-go marketing collateral and appropriate pricing that is available on demand.
It doesn’t matter if a single line-item quotation is needed or a full-blown formal presentation is required; CPQ is there and ready to fulfil the request. This is provided without hours of keyboarding text into a Word document, formatting graphics, listing BOMs and line-item prices and arranging them within an executive-calibre presentation.
Knowledge can be easily carried, updated and remembered by a CPQ system. The sales rep’s knowledge is still important, but much of the troubling detail-oriented knowledge is not required.
For instance, pricing may be highly variable based on volume discounting and customer class. A CPQ platform builds that variability into pricing produced on demand in an automated manner. The sales rep doesn’t need to “check on” the customer’s GSA or notional account qualification; CPQ pulls that information in from the customer relationship management (CRM).
A CPQ system knows what country price list is correct for the prospect and that the quantities quoted are qualified for a specific discount level.
Specific product knowledge is also supplied by CPQ related to option selection and application of the product solution to the prospect’s needs. Issues like environmental limitations and similar factors can be built into the interactive interview questionnaire relieving the rep of the need to house all of the knowledge in their immediate memory.
CPQ eliminates the need to “call the product manager” or chase down a discount authorization. The rep is empowered by knowledge without having to rely on memory or spending hours acquiring it.
Conclusion: CPQ Helps Sales Close Deals
CPQ helps the sales rep tame the most critical elements in their operating process. CPQ saves time, reduces effort and assures instant access to knowledge. CPQ helps the sales rep bring the deal home.