Why Configure-Price-Quote systems need to stop being focused on the sales floor
Thanks to the widespread presence of technology typified by the smartphone in everyone’s back pocket, there’s an increasing expectation for what marketers call positive customer experiences. High-quality customer experience is epitomised by a smooth transactional process, usually self-served, with a minimum of human involvement and the whole resolved as quickly as possible.
Companies in the B2C space are aware of this overriding trend, but B2B vendors are increasingly expected to present their goods and services similarly. Author and expert on customer behaviour, Steven Van Belleghem, for example, has stated that 56 per cent of potential B2B customers would prefer to interact with automated systems when researching their purchase decisions, rather than pick up a phone and talk through requirements with a human.
For B2B vendors selling products that are complex, with multiple configuration options and sales channels, providing a simple, self-service interface isn’t a matter of throwing together an e-commerce web front end. It’s to serve this market that CPQ vendors are addressing their own customers’ requirements, and helping to provide their customers’ customers with the types of consumer-like interactions that are typified by smartphone apps like Uber Eats or Deliveroo.
As B2C concerns, like marketing messages, merchandising options and experience management come to the B2B space, we feature two companies (see below) capable of equipping vendors of complex offerings the types of CPQ systems that are fit for 2020 and beyond.
Traditionally, sales teams benefit from the guide that a competent CPQ can give. Instead of spending weeks training new Sales recruits, at least some of that burden can be carried by the software, which updates prices live, offers configuration options on the fly, and gently guides the sales rep alongside the customer on their journey.
Not just bridging, but extending
The systems we feature below, however, do more than follow pre-built configuration rules to help sales staff build bespoke offerings (although, of course, both platforms achieve just that). In today’s digitally-driven companies, co-coordinating fulfilment systems and operational issues means integration with other platforms.
The latest configure-price-quote systems provide the bridge between the purchasers and the operational realities of fulfilling orders. The latter might be the co-ordination of the engineering shop floor or require co-coordinating dozens of manufacturing facilities and the supply chain. That means a great deal of interaction — interaction that was, in the past, done by people and departments inside the business. In today’s digitally-driven organisations, however, those interactions are between the different technology platforms in the business.
For the non-technical layperson, interactions are passed between platforms via APIs (application programming interfaces). These are neutral gateways designed to share information quickly, impartially and securely. The easiest interface to envisage is possible CPQ to CRM; as prospects turn into customers, and then into repeat business, teams across the business need the most up-to-date information at their fingertips. That’s an imperative element in customer care.
Therefore the CPQ system can add information to an individual customer’s records: what they’ve bought, what possibilities there might be to cross- or up-sell, particular requirements and a history of each order’s fulfilment. This is invaluable information for multiple departments: finance, customer care, technical support, engineering teams, and so on.
But there needs to be integration with other systems, too: the company-wide ERP, for example, individual point products like financial systems, a logistics management platform, stock management and ordering systems, or even manufacturing control systems.
In this manner, the CPQ system sits at the heart of the modern business, taking and giving data to complementary systems as appropriate. But, the API can also prove invaluable in providing multiple sales channels, such as those businesses that operate dealership networks.
With CPQ solutions, dealers and resellers can work “live” on the same information that internal sales teams utilise: live prices, configuration changes, additional options, pricing models, and so on. That removes any chance of an unprofitable sale or a mismatch between what’s available and what the customer needs.
The Uber experience
To circle back to the opening of this piece, providing accurate and straightforward self-service (at least of prices and options, and perhaps more) becomes a reality thanks to this new generation of CPQ offerings. Potential and existing customers can configure their own choices with access to the same options and second-accurate prices. The realms of possibility are already a reality: go online, configure your dream car, and click “order”. A few weeks later, your new ride arrives, complete with every option you wanted, the exact shade of trim you favour, and every detail envisaged online made a reality.
To implement this type of consumer-like experience for your customers, and your reseller networks too, we suggest one of the two following suppliers for further investigation.
The benefits of this next-generation CPQ platform go well beyond the sales floor. By integrating concepts that seem more at home in B2C settings — the emphasis on customer experiences, not the sales funnel — the Cincom CPQ creates a context in which customers feel comfortable and able to make their own decisions determined by their own requirements.
But there are efficiencies, too, right across the business. As an open and powerful platform, there’s integration with other systems in the organisation, like CRMs, supply chain, warehousing, finance & accounting. That means that the CPQ platform embeds in nicely.
Sales teams and resellers are guided through even highly complex configuration options, but it’s the customer that benefits too: real-time price and options update on a level that’s redolent of today’s smartphone apps, making research and experimentation possible before committing.
The vendor that uses the Cincom platform can’t sell an unprofitable product, nor present to baffled manufacturing teams options that are outside the realms of physics! Plus, dealer networks use the same interface as sales teams (albeit with any restrictions that might be appropriate), so there is coherence and accuracy across the whole business.
You can read more about the Cincom platform and learn about potential ROI here on the pages of Tech Wire Asia.
As a company that supports multiple verticals, and therefore many different business specialisations, it’s perhaps unsurprising that German SAP offers a comprehensively-equipped CPQ platform.
As a cloud-based solution, the SAP CPQ offering benefits from the highly efficient HANA database platform, which was written with computational speed and pure number-crunching capabilities in mind. Quotes comprising many thousands of individual line items can be generated in seconds, with each item contingent on any number of internal rules dictated by business logic.
The SAP CPQ uses a compute engine that can be aided by an AI engine, capable of learning users’ and customers’ choice patterns, optimising its own performance on the fly.
And as part of the overall SAP offering, integration with other parts of the enterprise framework is seamless, whether that’s to accountancy systems, or individual IoT control platforms. As a solution in the SAP Sales Cloud portfolio, SAP CPQ integrates with the SAP Commerce solution, the SAP ERP application, and lead-to-cash software from SAP, including the SAP Contract Lifecycle Management application, the SAP Commissions solution, and e-learning and sales enablement functionality.
And with sales processes that learn from sales losses and gains, you’re sure to be able to recoup your SAP investment in short timescales. You can read more right here.
*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of Tech Wire Asia
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