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  • CPQ
    June 2, 2016

CPQ and the Zen of No More Sales Prevention

We’ve all been there at some point in our sales careers: an eager buyer is nearly ready to pull the trigger, having been through our marketing funnel, product demo, customer references, and even preliminary implementation plans.  All we need now is to get a solid contract into her hands, because we’ve confirmed BANT (budget, authority, needs and timeline), done our homework, and know she’ll champion us to her peers.  Problem is, she expected the contract three days ago and we have no idea when it will clear Legal and Procurement…not in her firm, but inside ours.

No child says, “When I grow up, I want to be a VP of Sales Prevention,” but the hard truth of B2B selling is that well-meaning folks charged with protecting our companies sometimes get in the way of closing deals, and kill the momentum and productivity we need to make our number.  

Sometimes this behavior is the direct result of poor past sales execution – over-discounting, over-promising, under-delivering, under-handedness – so we sort of have it coming to us on the back-end. But unlike the sales function, which can easily be ROI-qualified around quota attainment, how do in-house counsel staff or procurement professionals self-justify their budgets?  Lawsuits avoided? Discounts prevented?  It’s hard to say, and even harder for fifth-gear sellers to tolerate any of their colleagues pulling their foot off the gas.

Aberdeen’s research looks at this scenario and discovers that the best way to work around these barriers is to proactively work with them: take an objective look at where and how speed bumps develop in your quote-to-cash cycle, understand which processes, documents, and conversations are repeated ad nauseum, and automate everything possible.  

The best technology solution, built specifically for enterprise sales teams, is usually the configure / price / quote, or CPQ suite. Our data shows that top-performing firms – Aberdeen’s well-known Best-in-Class – are 63% more likely than under-performers to increase CPQ utilization over the next 12 months, and 59% more often reporting heavy integration between core CRM platforms and connected CPQ solutions. They also keep the deployment options – on-premise, cloud, hybrid – flexible.  Moreover, CPQ-powered sales teams improve year-over-year performance more aggressively than non-adopters, around reducing contract error rates, growing customer retention, and improving lead conversion rates.  

How, specifically, are CPQ users driving better business performance results? They’ve painstakingly iterated, as described above, how both standard and one-off deals tend to move through their internal cycles, and have come to recognize that excellence is not a luxury, but a must-have, around these B2B sales competencies:

  • Those dreaded incoming RFPs take away what many sales reps believe is their strongest asset: their personality, communication skills, and ability to charm buyers into making the purchase.  A strong sales operations team can use CPQ to make rapid, effective RFP response not only less painful in terms of time savings, but can also aggregate the "tribal knowledge” from historical selling situations to identify unique competitive edges that help the sales rep or channel partner improve their own batting average. CPQ-enabled teams are 45% more adept at RFP response activity – not a bad way to reduce sales friction and sales rep stress.
  • Every sales deal involves some degree of internal angst over price – "should we provide a discount in order to win the deal? How much? How much is too much?” CPQ users are 23% more adept than non-adopters in managing pricing by exception, providing pre-approved discounting thresholds for various products and selling scenarios. They use the solution to guide every potential sale through a wizard-driven logic path that protects the margin of the selling organization, while enabling the seller to "know how far I can go" without adding the friction of checking with their boss at each negotiation milestone.
  • CPQ users are nearly twice as effective at avoiding "no-decision" sales losses compared with non-adopters, because the proposals and pricing that reps offer their buyers have been reality-checked, error-reduced, and more quickly generated. These competitive advantages not only result in more wins; they also help savvy sales executives and individual contributors know when to "fish or cut bait.”  When facing a low-balling buyer who tries to take the negotiations farther than an acceptable profit margin to be yielded by the seller, a sales rep is automatically empowered with the data to "know when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.”

In the end, we all want to sell more goods and services with the least amount of effort or cost of goods sold. Check out these numbers, which speak to how much more efficient your high-performing peers and competitors are in moving quotes, contracts, and proposals through their internal systems:

Figure 1: Reducing Sales Cycle Friction: Are You as Good as the Best-in-Class?

These Best-in-Class companies are able to report an 85% higher customer retention rate, 64% stronger lead conversion, 61% better team attainment of sales quota, and most tellingly, 52% more “proposals, quotes, or RFP responses delivered to customers / prospects, per sales rep, per month,” compared to under-performing sales teams.  

This last metric doesn’t imply that throwing more spaghetti against the forecast wall is independently a positive sales attribute, but consider both this quantity KPI and a quality view as well: the Best-in-Class reduce errors at an 8.5% rate year-over-year, versus only a 1.5% improvement among other companies. They force their reps and channel partners to jump through fewer hoops before getting deals in front of buyers for signature – quality deals, not just lots of deals – and enjoy the fruits of their CPQ-automated labor all the way to President’s Club.

Next and final blog:  What Do You Mean, "There's a Debit on My Commission Check"?

Learn more about how to maximize your investment in the sales technology ecosystem.

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