New product ideas are wonderful things, but an idea should never be confused with a market-ready product. Many great product ideas have failed in the marketplace because back-office processes were not updated for the new product and its delivery requirements. Examples of this are as near as your favorite online store.
I’ve seen clothing items listed on Amazon or eBay with no size selection. I’ve seen auto parts and aftermarket accessories listed without any reference to make, model and year compatibility. I’m sure I could add other examples, but the point is made; details count in bringing products to market.
CPQ Helps Turn Prototypes into Products
The first time I managed a new product rollout was when I was a rookie product manager. The product already existed and was manufactured and sold by another company; we were essentially just rebranding it with a new name, packaging and market. I went to the product administration folks and confidently explained that I needed a product code and a price listing for the product in our ordering system.
The nice person asked me about three questions and then stopped and looked at me.
“You’ve never done this before, have you?” she asked.
She then explained that I needed not one code and price but about 30—one for each individual part as well as codes for the boxes, labels and manuals.
CPQ uses all of this minute data for every product maintained in your inventory. If you simply use the CPQ input requirements as a guide, your new product will be fully defined and ready for activation in your order management system (OMS) and other back-office systems.
All of those little details will be “remembered” by CPQ because CPQ will use all of those details when it starts building configurations around the new offering.
CPQ Learns to Be an Expert by Digitizing Tribal Knowledge
Complex products come with complex usage scenarios and limitations related to the environment hosting the product and the application of the product to a user requirement. In many cases, expert knowledge is needed in order to properly configure and apply the product to a specific use.
CPQ features a guided-selling-based, interactive interview process at the front end. This facility guides the sales rep and customer through a dynamic questionnaire that uses the customer’s responses to questions to provide options and selection choices in the configuration process. The questions are generalized at first and gradually become more focused as more information is gathered.
At the conclusion of the process, a fully configured product is designed, priced and visually displayed. The configuration process was based on expert knowledge because experts designed the questions and determined the proper responses in the form of more questions, specific choices made available or options that are selectable by the user.
The digitization of expert knowledge within CPQ means an expert is present at every sale and proposal. That digitized expert knowledge will always be available. This removes the need for lengthy, time-wasting interactions with “experts” in the middle of a sales cycle.
Turn Sales Reps into Product Experts with Digitized Data
One of the biggest obstacles to moving new products is educating the sales force and support personnel who are tasked with getting the product offering into the hands of new customers.
CPQ makes this process much easier by reducing the volume of detailed, esoteric knowledge the individual rep needs to talk with a prospect about the product and how it might help them.
CPQ’s embedded expert knowledge is searchable, and it automatically invokes during the interview process.
If the sales rep can read the interview questions, the experts will respond. As time goes by and the reps become more confident, they will also become more at ease discussing the product, its benefits and how it might be of service to customers.
This process is vastly superior to bringing field reps into week-long sales meetings to introduce new products. The need for rote memorization of product data and technical specs is unnecessary.
CPQ Speeds Time to Market
So much of the time lost during the development and rollout phase is due to a lack of structure in the process or a “figure it out as we go along” type of strategy. Using CPQ and adding new product specs will provide a certain level of discipline to the rollout process that ensures time will not be wasted during this event cycle.
A product that can’t be described or quantified by the data needs of CPQ may not be a product at all. CPQ can reveal that if it is true and also expose knowledge white spaces associated with the product itself.
CPQ will ensure that your new products arrive in the market on time and fully ready to start working for your customers.