How long does it take these days to turn an idea into reality? Unfortunately the answer these days is usually ‘too long’. Taking a great new concept from initial discussions to fruition might take anything up to a year or so. But many markets such as telecoms or software move so fast that by the time the product or service is launched it may no longer be relevant.
This need to be constantly inventing and renewing due to market demands – and also technology advances, compliance regulations and increasing globalisation – is leading to increasingly complex and sophisticated product portfolios. This is a problem for sales and marketing teams as they struggle to optimise the entire catalogue. They are hampered by outdated legacy IT systems which can present them with a confusing array of configurations.
CPQ platforms, or software applications which enable sales teams to Configure, Price and Quote, are relatively new on the scene. These have been exactly what’s required at a functional level to make the sales process more efficient and have become as vital a business tool as CRM or ERP.
However, as often happens with technology, the pace of market change has been so swift, that even these platforms have quickly become outdated. Companies want more streamlining, more agility; they want to be able to quickly launch new products and services, an elimination of clunky business processes and excessive admin tasks and the agility to react quickly to market changes. In other words they need a solution which is all-encompassing to address more of their sales process challenges.
So a new generation of CPQ platforms have emerged to meet these needs. This can be confusing to companies considering the technology, but naturally want ensure that they get the most from their investments. So here are a few pointers – and issues to consider:
– To make the most of next-generation CPQ, see it as a disrupter
The chance to transform a business for the better doesn’t come along very often, but next-generation CPQ offers a real opportunity. Yes, it can just be used to replace older technology and still offer great operational efficiencies and cost savings. But its real strength is in providing unprecedented agility to change the way a company goes to market. It enables them to experiment and find the right formula; the innovative products, commercial models and the most effective channels.
– Not just a sales tool
CPQ is great for sales. It enables teams to exceed targets for new customers and renewals. But it also works for:
o Product managers – helping to run the entire product lifecycle, developing and implementing go-to-market plans.
o Marketing teams -enabling them to easily develop and implement promotional plans.
o Customer support teams – ensuring that customer needs are satisfied.
o Senior management – enabling them to respond to market changes quickly.
– Improving the customer experience.
Next-generation CPQ platforms enable improved alignment of the sales process to customer experience. They enable teams to build customer experience foundations based on a genuine understanding of the most valuable customer interactions.
– Unifying sales channels
CPQ platforms enable companies to look beyond traditional channels to provide a unified buying experience. They provide a single customer view to deliver a seamless cross-channel experience, so encouraging loyalty and retention.
– Making the business case
Next-generation CPQ needs to be explained from the outset – so it’s no use just using the acronym and expecting the rest of the company to understand. The recommended tack is to explain predicted and measurable improvements for each business function, focusing on the metrics that will best resonate with each different team. For example, the sales team will like to hear about the number of quotes per person, higher percentages of quota achieved and improved retention rates. On the other hand, marketers will appreciate the shorter time to market, improved conversion rates and lower costs per lead. Customer service will be looking for other benefits such as a good user experience and improvement in productivity through a reduction in admin.
– Consider the cloud
As with many of today’s solutions, CPQ tools can be delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) through the cloud. The system will typically come pre-configured and ready for set-up and integration into the business. The responsibilities for running and maintaining the system lie with the vendor.
– Freeing up the IT department
CPQ takes certain elements out of the IT department and puts them into the hands of teams who are not necessarily experts or technological wizards. This provides a solution to any IT skills shortages issue and frees up existing teams. Instead of concentrating on the nuts and bolts and making systems speak to one another, they must first ensure they are being adopted properly and that everyone is accessing the right information. They can then move downstream to information management, focusing on more proactive and strategic tasks such as analytics. However, this may need planning and careful management.
Next- generation CPQ can’t solve every business challenge. However, it can help break down organisational barriers and provide a single view of all aspects of the customer, the sales process and the product. In this way it will enable all areas of the business to meet their individual objectives. But it will also help develop an integrated and successful business ready to meet any future challenge.