Distributing product through multiple channels means accommodating multiple sets of needs, competence levels and knowledge. Each channel is unique to some degree, and that means each channel has unique requirements, as well. Discerning the nature of those requirements requires visibility into individual sales channels.
Different sales partners typically address different market segments. For instance, let’s say you manufacture material-handling equipment, and your primary product line is made up of conveyor technologies. The products range from simple to complex—from basic, light industrial use up to customized, heavy-duty, high-capacity systems.
Your systems handles everything from packages prepared for logistical companies like FedEx or USPS Priority Mail to in-plant part and assembly movement within a production facility. Your customers include basic warehousing and fulfillment centers, major automotive manufacturing facilities and everything in between.
You rely on a number of distribution channel partners to address these different markets. For our discussion, let’s look at three partners and see how their needs differ.
Case One – Spec Limitations Within CPQ to Prevent Ordering Misaligned Products and Improve Channel Visibility
This partner sells conveyor-belt systems to gift-catalog fulfillment centers. The materials moved on these systems have a maximum unit weight of 25 pounds, and they are less than one cubic foot dimensionally. They typically move product from warehouse storage into the loading dock area where the product is labeled, sorted for shipment and loaded onto trucks.
For a typical end-user customer, the only real consideration in terms of selection is length, width and height. These warehouses typically have pallet shelving addressed by human pickers who use hand trucks to move product to the conveyor system from the ground level or perhaps from a second or third tier of shelving to the ground-level loading dock.
Your sales channel partner has a limited number of choices to make. Accessing your partner portal, they are presented with the line of products they are authorized to sell within your CPQ application. A selling script guides them through the conversation to determine the specs associated with this order.
- Maximum weight per parcel
- Maximum width per parcel
- Parcels handled per hour
- Distance from load point to loading dock
- Vertical requirement (one to three levels available)
Once these questions are answered, a price is generated. If necessary, a proposal can be generated along with renderings of the assembled unit. The sales presentation takes place, and an order is entered.
Case Two – Channel Visibility Provides Advance Notice to Corporate Approval Resources
This selling partner addresses an entirely different market; their customers use industrial chemicals and gasses. Their warehousing operation is a high-security area because some of the compounds they offer are dangerous.
The customer has different warehouse areas for gasses and liquids as well as for hazardous and non-hazardous materials. These materials are all highly regulated, and their movements must be properly tracked, recorded and stored for inspection by government regulators.
When it comes to selling these systems, the selling agent has a somewhat more elaborate process to follow than the agent in case one. All of the dimensional and weight information is required as before, but now there are additional basic information categories to satisfy.
- Material composition – solid, liquid or gas?
- OSHA hazard classification
- Container type
There are others as well, but there is also an approval step where the spec list, recommended product and design elements must be signed off on by an engineer. This sales channel requires a review process from both engineering and sales management before the order can be accepted and processed.
There are workflow elements within CPQ that provide the sales rep with access to engineering and sales management approval steps. CPQ sales scripting guides the process with appropriate interventions from Sales and Engineering as needed.
Additionally, visibility into this specific channel can provide advance notice to Engineering and Sales Management as well as Marketing that this transaction will likely require approvals as things heat up in the sales discussion.
Case Three – Special Customer Classification Pricing is Expedited via CPQ
The third sales channel is similar to number one, but they also sell to government contractors. Many of these contractors are paying for products using restricted funds and are required to purchase from GSA-approved dealers to receive a GSA discount.
CPQ offers pricing options for any user and for some, multiple options that are automatically activated based on inputs related to the end-user customer and their status as a GSA qualified user.
CPQ scripting within the sales portal inquires as to the customer name and CAGE number for discount eligibility confirmation. This contract discount may or may not be subject to additional confirmation. Regardless, the pricing ultimately used aligns with the customer’s status as a GSA or national account or other type of special price eligible customer.
Three scenarios, three different selling channels and one supplier. The process used to support each is customized and tailored to match the individual partner’s exact requirements. The end-user is assured that all of the necessary requirements are fulfilled, they are getting the best technology for their dollar and that their needs are fully met.
The selling partner gets the level of support they need to address their specific market, and the company is assured that the individual markets are addressed efficiently.