Smart Selling

The Real Challenge of Selling without CPQ Software

To appreciate the value realized using CPQ software, simply look at how difficult life is for those sales reps who work without a CPQ solution; it’s like going back to the ‘50s.

When I was growing up, my parents always had the same answer to my two most common FAQs:

  • What does ________ mean?
  • How do you spell ______?

The answer was: look it up! They knew it was an important habit for me to develop.

In those days, the “internet” was a series of expensive reference books called encyclopedias and dictionaries. Your “search engine” was located between your ears. It was part table of contents and part figuring out the first letter of the key words for your query. This helped you select the right volume for your query.

If you had a question about the Romanov Dynasty, you first looked in the “R” volume of your encyclopedia.

Selling without CPQ solution works the same way. You have a question? Look it up. Your customer asks you something you don’t know the answer to? Look it up.

Wait a minute, is there an encyclopedia for sales reps who don’t have a CPQ solution?

The answer is, sort of.

Before we had CPQ software, we had (some companies still have) all manner of reference materials to help move down the funnel with the customer toward the close.

Sales reference materials before CPQ Software

Before CPQ, sales was a job that involved a lot of reading and memorizing. It still is to some degree, but nothing like it is without CPQ software. Look in the back seat or trunk of a sales rep’s car. Look on their desk or at home in their study or office, and you will find countless three-ring binders, manila folders, presentation folders and loose papers covering every aspect of the product, the message and the selling process.

The more of this stuff the sales rep could memorize the better. You couldn’t carry all of this with you into the customer’s office, so it had to be in your head.

Here are just a few of the things we’re talking about:

  • Product manuals and product bulletins – These contain all of the technical information about the product including the specs, the options, the updates and modifications, the whole knowledge of what the product does and how it works.
  • Price lists and discount policy rules – These are critical because they establish the standard price for a product. List prices and standard pricing discounts or offsets have to be documented to protect reps from commission penalties, customers from overpricing and the company from losing money on a deal.
  • Product service bulletins – These are important because they augment knowledge about the product based on information collected from field-installed products.
  • Sales manuals, order-entry forms – These cover the mechanical process of selling or doing business with the company.

Now consider the fact that each of these items are subject to change. Models improve over time, prices rise and fall, and the more products that are installed and the longer they are installed means more service bulletins will be generated. Administrative rules change as internal systems evolve within the company.

Product information is either replaced with new information, or it grows with additional information.

The net effect is the same. The memorization is never complete. Reps have to update their personal knowledge all of the time.

It’s all manual, and it requires a lot of time because it’s inconsistent and subject to constant change. The more complex the product, the company or the customer’s application, the more likely it is that mistakes will be made.

What if they didn’t keep up?

Customers have a knack for thinking of things no one else has thought of. As soon as you memorize all of the assorted applications for your product, the customer will ask if they can use it to do something no one else has ever done.

That still happens in the CPQ software world, but it happens much less frequently.

The rep can either make up an answer, call someone who has the answer or as happens too frequently, drop the sale and move on to an easier prospect.

Anything they don’t know means digging through all of the material and then calling corporate. CPQ solutions streamlines this process.

By design, if your CPQ solution can’t configure it or price it, you can’t quote it, and therefore you can’t sell it. That’s when you call corporate; that’s when you pull in the guru. Hopefully, you won’t have to do that, but if you do, you get to that point quickly.

You and your customer have the knowledge needed to move forward and accomplish your goals.

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