Picture your best sales rep sitting in a prospect’s office. After months of website visits, product-information downloads and telephone conversations regarding questions about your flagship product, your prospect has asked your sales rep to come in and discuss their needs.
The buyer and your sales rep are walking through a product configuration that should fit their needs like a custom-tailored suit. Everything is cool until the prospect starts to talk about install sites. It seems that your product is designed around US-standard, 110-volt AC.
Your prospect has sites all over the world, and the devices would need to be modified to accommodate different voltages that are found in various countries on their installation site list. Additionally, they will be installing your device on several ships that happen to use direct current instead of the alternating current.
Your sales rep scans the configuration screen over and over again. There is no option for anything other than the standard US 110-volt AC. Your guy takes a break with the customer and calls in to the sales manager.
Make Smart Decisions About Product Configurations
Initially the rep’s complaint is about the product configurator. The rep is upset because obviously someone forgot to include these variables in the business rules that support the configuration options. It turns out that the rep is mistaken. Those options are not included because those options are not available.
The rep and the sales manager are now conferencing with someone from product engineering, which is exactly what should happen in these situations. Someone needs to make a decision. The decision is whether or not to modify the product to accommodate the various voltage requirements presented by the install sites specified by the customer.
Making a smart decision will mean gathering information about the product, the changes required, the cost of those changes and the market potential for the modified product. Additionally, questions about scheduling and production capacity as well as sourcing for parts and supplies will also figure into the decision.
This scenario is not unusual. It is played out time and again in the manufacturing world. If you are a contract manufacturer, this is essentially your business model. If you manufacture highly configurable products, it is likely to be familiar, as well. The challenge is being responsive and making a decision that is good for your customer and good for your company.
Make Data-Driven Decisions
The customer wants to know now if you can do this. Your process must be able to accommodate this type of decision-making. This requires the right data supplied to the right decision-makers quickly and accurately. To address these issues, companies need the functionality that’s found in a robust estimating solution. An estimating solution is something like a product configurator for products that don’t exist. Estimating technology goes much further than configuration; it involves all relevant inputs within your company and supply chain.
The estimating system will ask the right questions and involve the right people (including product engineering) to ensure that a business-smart decision is made and made quickly.
Find a Suitable Solution for the Customer
Sometimes it is just as important to say no to a customer as it is to say yes. If the product required is too far out of your core competency, you should not fulfill the customer’s needs. You should help them find a suitable solution to ensure that your efforts will be remembered for the next time around.
Special order requests can be profitable only if you know what’s involved in advance of accepting an order.