Sales management software tools cover a vast amount of functional territory. The sales management process involves many things that are not directly tied to selling. Complex organizations often require sales managers to oversee many mundane tasks and processes that support the organization itself but offer little in return in the form of increased sales, shorter closing times or happier customers.
For our purposes in this discussion, we are not concerned with administrative tools that are designed to lighten the load for managers who oversee large teams and how they operate within vast bureaucracies. In our context, sales management software tools will only include tools that are related to the support, measurement and improvement of the selling process itself.
Sales evolutions produce huge amounts of data that are retained or stored in some fashion within the assorted systems that are maintained within the selling organization. All of this data can offer potential value to those who are inclined to dig around, extract, analyze and interpret it. The problem facing sales managers is finding the time and expertise to do this in a meaningful and productive way.
There are many data-mining tools that can help, but these often require expert proficiency in terms of using the product and evaluating the results produced. Effective sales management software skirts these requirements by building tools around the familiar processes within which sales managers are most comfortable working.
Sales managers do not want to re-learn their jobs; they want help in doing their jobs more effectively. To that end, it can be quite beneficial to find existing means to accomplish goals that are set forth for managers.
Sales managers see the world in terms of the sales cycle itself. There are lots of different labels and names for the assorted milestones that define the sales cycle, but for our purposes, let’s think in terms of the following:
- Prospect Needs Analysis
- After-sale support
Sales managers want sales management software that increases the number of opportunities pushed through this chain of milestones and the speed at which these opportunities are processed at each stage.
CPQ as a Sales Management Software Tool
CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) software offers great value to the sales manager not only as a source of data for managing the sales process but also as a tool to help facilitate the speed and volume of opportunities handled.
CPQ collects and uses data related to customer qualification, specific needs and preferences and pricing sensitivity. Collectively, this information provides market data related to who is using your product under specific conditions, the value derived from using that product and how the product is actually accomplishing that for the prospect.
Let’s take a look at the data within CPQ and see how it fits into that milestone listing that serves sales managers so well.
Prospecting – Sales managers are constantly looking for ways to more efficiently deliver a specific message to a specific audience. These are two key factors common to most sales campaigns. As products develop, options are added and product performance is improved. This gives the sales manager a great opportunity to offer specific add-on functionality to existing customers who are most likely to benefit from the new option or increased performance. This is what defines upselling. CPQ will help managers identify existing product users.
Qualifying – Many existing customers are happily using a given product. So, the product managers and engineers, being the ingenious and creative folks they typically are, figure out a way to make the product portable. Some customers will see great benefit in portability. Perhaps portability gives them the ability to address and serve a much larger, more widely dispersed customer base.
Sales managers can use CPQ and CRM to identify lower-sales-volume product users who are located in remote areas. Low sales volume and remote location would be ideal qualifiers for identifying which of all users might have an interest in driving growth that may be limited by market access.
Prospect Needs Analysis – Once the presales team is on-site, the primary goal is to figure out exactly what is troubling the customer and to isolate their specific issues. Once that has been accomplished, mitigating the effects of various solutions can be reviewed and evaluated.
CPQ and CRM will offer data about what other pains were experienced by existing product users. This information can provide some level of credibility to any recommended solutions to potential users.
Telling a prospect that their competitor uses a given product successfully is a powerful recommendation.
Quoting/Proposing – CPQ can help sales managers identify what pricing and value elements resonate with specific types of prospects. Knowing what to emphasize within a proposal and what can be relegated to supporting data will increase the feel of customization and personalization of the proposal as perceived by the prospect.
Consider these element as questions. Is pricing sensitivity common for this class of prospect? How important are peer-based user stories? What level of pricing granularity is appropriate for this customer?
CPQ can answer these questions and produce a proposal that’s tailored to the individual prospect.
Closing – When the sale is down to the wire, it is important to know how the competition has responded in the context of the final proposal. Will a last-minute sweetener elevate the proposal above the rest? Is a price concession necessary, or would some additional functionality help bring the deal home?
CPQ can identify what has worked and what hasn’t worked in past sales cycles.
After-Sales Support – Once the product is installed and in use, the clock starts ticking on support issues. How vendors respond in terms of the first “crisis” will often skew their chances for additional business. Once that hurdle has been successfully cleared, the way forward may include looking for additional opportunities in the customer’s organization. CPQ and CRM are excellent sources of data related to what applications the product has within the customer organization and the “temperature” of the customer toward the product and vendor.
Happy customers are frequently happy to spread the word and offer introductions within their organization to potential prospects.
Sales management software offers a wide range of functional assistance to sales managers. CPQ gives the sales manager high value, specific help with the sales process and the evolution of the individual sale within that process.