The term “unintended consequences” is usually used to describe something bad: kill all the wolves and there’s a disastrous deer overpopulation. Make a bridge from extra-light materials and it starts oscillating in the wind until it collapses. Test an atomic weapon and Godzilla destroys Tokyo. Sometimes, however, unintended consequences are good. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the case of configure price quote (CPQ), software which is starting to find a welcome home beyond its traditional domains in manufacturing, high-tech, health sciences, and telecommunications. Any company that sells a complex product mix can benefit from CPQ, and the number of businesses whose product portfolios can be described as “complex” is continually growing in reaction to customer demands, and the problems of manual proposal generation tend to remain the same: they’re time consuming, lead to frequent mistakes, obscure up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, and are generally created using only what the sales rep knows of the company’s product mix. When a business buys CPQ, it’s often seeking to attack one of these pain points – often, the issue of the time it takes to create a quote. But other benefits accrue to the business.
CPQ turns the process of generating quotes from an ordeal involving product and pricing books (often numbering a thousand pages or more) into a point-and-click operation. Sales reps who had to pore over the books searching for the right data have it at their fingertips, so of course CPQ saves them time. One customer’s quote process went from four days to just 15 minutes. That’s hard to overlook. But CPQ also helps speed the process of quote approvals. Thresholds for discounts and other approvals can be built into CPQ, so a submission can be approved automatically; sales managers are no longer potential bottlenecks unless reps break the thresholds. It also allows new products, new bundles and new pricing to be introduced without the production and distribution of new paper pricing and product books. One customer confessed that it allowed old books to remain in the field until they reached a point where the absence of new product and pricing books was simply too painful to overlook, and then had new books printed (at no small expense, by the way). That approach made it tough to roll out new products and, ultimately, cost them sales. CPQ allows new offerings to become available for the quote process immediately.
B2B buyers want to satisfy their company’s needs quickly and with as little hassle as possible. For customers, a faster quote is a better quote. Even more important is accuracy – when a customer gets a quote and signs the resulting contract, he or she expects the quote to deliver what’s expected. Mistakes in configuration, completeness or terms are aggravating, and in worst-case scenarios, can drive a buyer into the arms of a competitor. At a more basic level, CPQ helps customers get solutions that are best-fits for their circumstances. Sales people often sell the products they know best, which may not be the best products for a specific customer. CPQ has a guided selling component that can help steer a sales rep to the ideal product for the task, making the purchase a better solution for the customer and thus resulting in a happier and more satisfied buyer. CPQ also helps present quotes in a standardized, branded way that reflects the professionalism of the organization much better than a printout of an Excel spreadsheet could. CPQ also provides customers with the content they need for the products on the quote automatically. Any uncertainty they have can be allayed through the proper documents – and if the content suggests a better solution, a new quote can be created quickly.
As our report CPQ: the ROI Argument explains, the guided selling features present in most CPQ solutions have a major impact on average deal size. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that use a CPQ solution have an average deal size 105 percent greater than companies without a CPQ solution. It does this through margin protection, the creation of bundles, and suggestions of up-selling opportunities. Again, a sales rep not armed with CPQ might struggle to spot those opportunities when selling unfamiliar products. With CPQ, the options are literally at the sales reps’ fingertips. For a set of real-world examples of how CPQ helps companies solve their pressing issues – and other issues they may not have realized they had – read our report “3 CPQ Lessons from Smart Companies” which illustrates how a trio of businesses discovered that CPQ was the ideal solution for what was ailing their sales operations – and cured some other ailments in the process.