Selling, CPQ and the Connected Vehicle – “Calling All Cars!”
The idea of a connected vehicle is not new to selling. Emergency responders, taxicabs and other common vehicles have been using wireless radio connectivity with dispatch and other fixed locations for many decades. Indeed, over 100 years ago, wireless communications related to iceberg warnings and post-collision distress signals were central to the tragic sinking of the Titanic.
The notion of non-voice data transmitting from a vehicle to a fixed point or station is also not new. Aviation and space exploration have provided the incentive to develop this technology to ever higher levels of sophistication. Huge amounts of data are now commonly transferred from airborne and space-based vehicles. These include the real-time status of human and non-human cargo, assorted positioning and vehicle systems status reports, research and environmental data collected by all manner of instruments and sensors onboard these vehicles.
The lack of connectivity is often responsible for tragic results. The loss of Malaysian Air flight 370 is an example. It seems almost inconceivable to us that modern passenger aircraft are not in constant contact with some ground-based tracking facility. This connectivity may not have saved flight 370, but at least we would have some clue about what happened and the ultimate location of the plane.
All of this sophisticated sensor and telemetric technology has and will continue to trickle down to the world of private, personal, commercial and public service vehicles. The impact of this technology will continue to be profound.
The Connected Police Vehicle
Police dispatchers no longer have to ask, “Car 54, where are you?” because Car 54 is now connected. The onboard GPS sends real-time data back to the precinct or central command center, so dispatch knows where the vehicle is at all times. If there is an incident, the cruiser’s onboard dash-cam can transmit real-time imagery back to fixed-base police assets as well. The status of the vehicle in terms of incident involvement is also communicated, so dispatch knows who is available and who is engaged at any time.
|Source: Stockbyte | Thinkstock|
Officers today are able to access any of several local, state and federal criminal, vehicle and property databases via their onboard laptop and internet connection. Their cruiser will stay in tip-top condition because the vehicle is also communicating status reports back to fleet maintenance and the vehicle manufacturer. This will enable them to schedule predictive service for the engine, transmission, chassis and other components.
Even when our intrepid constables exit their vehicles, they will continue to transmit their own personal information in terms of voice communication, body-cam imagery and more via the networked connectivity they maintain with their cruisers.
This kind of connectivity is also designed into other specialty vehicles, including: emergency vehicles, rental cars, service fleets and private automobiles. It is being extended into other vehicle types as well including campers, RVs, agricultural, delivery and service vehicles.
What does this mean for selling and CPQ?
Not so long ago, buying a firetruck involved picking out a standard truck chassis and adding the appropriate body and functional apparatus to the vehicle. This approach can still be utilized, but most applications in the world of firefighting are now fulfilled by custom-built vehicles. Cincom customer, E-One, boasts over 14,000 customizable features offered for their family of emergency response vehicles.
Even in the world of law enforcement, police cruisers are non-standard specials such as Ford’s Police Interceptor series. The use of Kevlar shielding in cruisers and SUV-based tactical vehicles is another example of “specials” requiring sophisticated configuration.
Increased Product Complexity
For sales operations and for the systems that support them, this means that the complexity of any sale will increase. If your product is sold through a dealer network, the whole notion of value delivered by manufacturer to dealer will change. The number of options and requirements and the number of potential conflicts and technological dependencies will make selling specialty vehicles more demanding than ever.
It’s no longer a matter of which engine, transmission and body package. The connected vehicle is everything it always was and more. Now it’s a rolling communications center. Like any communications center, there are a whole host of questions to consider in terms of outfitting that vehicle properly for the mission it is fulfilling.
Dealers faced with supplying local agencies or markets will need to know what communications protocols, network requirements and other technical specifics are in play within their market vertical and within their geography.
The Sales Rep as Technical Advisor
The successful manufacturer should be able to facilitate some or most of this by offering portals that will guide the sale, asking all of the right questions and providing the answers that are correct and in alignment with local requirements.
Builders of these sophisticated platforms are still dependent upon dealers and other “feet on the street” sales assets to educate the buyer and guide their selection to those products that best fit their needs.
The selling rep will have to have access to and knowledge regarding the technical requirements associated with the connective infrastructure onboard the vehicle and that which will be used by the assorted fixed stations that the vehicle will interact with.
E-One product manager, Joe Hedges, sums up the success of this tool by stating, “We were able to develop a quoting tool that we could populate with thousands of options and hundreds of rules, allowing the dealer to develop highly customized quotes.”
Compliance and Regulatory Issues
RVs, busses, fire apparatus, police vehicles, UAVs, ambulances and agricultural vehicles are all subject to more and more regulatory control. The increased reliance on connectivity and the technological spectrum of that connectivity impacts the selling process as well.
Increasingly, the selling entity will require access to regulatory information related to the cargo, location, mission, design and technology utilized by the vehicle and those operating it as well.
Once again, the information related to a given location will vary depending upon local laws and regulations. This will impact both sales and buyer. Guiding this sale will require CPQ technology that is sophisticated enough to include local restrictions and requirements into product configuration processes.
From a global perspective, this complexity level will increase even more.
The Role of CPQ Technology
CPQ technology will facilitate much of this complex, esoteric knowledge transfer. The ability to select specific communication modules, location reporting modules and other sensor-generated data will be dependent upon knowing what kind of technology is used at the fixed locations or those common to specific industries. These configurations involve multiple technological compatibility considerations, and the sales rep and customer will need to be guided through that selection process.
Knowledge of communication infrastructure will be critical. The days of asking about AM or FM preference, CB or mobile phone are over. Networking requirements, system interfaces and frequency information all need to be part of the vehicle specification conversation. CPQ will need to help inform the decision-making process.
Specific regulatory limitations relating to weight and vehicle size are highly variable by city, state and federal jurisdiction. Operations within or across state or national borders will impact selection criteria as well. Vehicle markings, warning lights and navigation beacons are all included in this localization requirement. Again, CPQ technology should be able to help with much of this.
CPQ will be critical in the world of connected vehicles because it will be unreasonable to expect sales reps to carry all of this information around in their heads. Relegating this data to written manuals or even web-based queries will not get the job done. The configurator will need to accommodate and maintain this information as it changes and evolves over time.
Dealers will expect manufacturers to enable their success by making the product they are offering easy to sell, and customers want and expect products to be easy to buy.
Increasing the velocity of the sale, but maintaining defect-free quotations, order inputs and product deliveries will be enabled by technology. This delivers higher topline revenue and increased customer satisfaction.