Our blog journey thus far has showcased the superior performance and customer satisfaction supported by configure / price / quote users within Aberdeen’s research. Let’s seal the deal with specific competencies you need to adopt when implementing your own CPQ platform. Remember, this isn’t the author compelling you to make change: Best-in-Class performers – the top 20% achievers around reps achieving quota, revenue growth and lead conversion improvements – among your peers, contemporaries, and competitors, are calling out the best practices in Figure 1:
Figure 1: Process Makes Perfect: Must-Have Foundations for Successful CPQ Deployment
Source: Aberdeen Group, July 2014
- Remove the speed bumps that bureaucratic red tape, legal review delays, procurement haggling, and other “sales prevention” sources of frustration inadvertently throw in the way of frictionless B2B selling. Two-thirds of the Best-in-Class have a formal process in place that defines proposal workflow, because they choose to enable faster sales results with CPQ, contract management, electronic signature, and other bottom-of-funnel technologies. Fewer than one-third of under-performers bother to address these fundamental issues of sales automation; they waste everyone’s time by doing so – it takes nearly twice as long to internally approve a customer-facing proposal, 18.6 hours vs. 9.6 for the Best-in-Class – and score lower in selling results and customer retention as an unhappy consequence.
- How hard can it be to use a calendar? If you want to know a “worst practice” for customer management, wait until 11.5 months into an annual customer contract to ask for a renewal. In today’s hyper-competitive markets, that’s an easy recipe for failure. The research shows top performers are far more likely to use their sales automation platform – it’s easy to embed renewal, expiration, up-sell, cross-sell, and other chronologically relevant triggers into your CRM / CPQ integration – to proactively ensure that customers are delighted enough to make renewal a slam-dunk, and up-sell opportunities more plentiful.
- Discounts happen. The third of these blogs explains how Best-in-Class companies accept this truth, and build a process that identifies – and automates – acceptable price variances, and also throws a deliberate monkey wrench into the same workflow to highlight the needs to consider exceptions. Figure 1 above builds further on this, by introducing in the third element the concept of “guided selling.” Not so much a tightly scripted talk track, nor a total, wizard-driven, eCommerce type of linear flow, this kind of process nevertheless identifies scenarios that reps will repeatedly face – yes, our buyer will likely want to negotiate; yes, discounting will probably be discussed; yes, more senior players in both organizations may have to approve amended proposals – and builds a chronological norm that reduces wheel re-invention and saves everyone time and hassle. Guided selling processes offered by the best CPQ solutions allow sales operations teams to customize the decision and action trees for individual regions, teams, and products to get the most out of every automation opportunity in their various sales cycle flavors.
- Documentation is everything. One look at Laggard practices in Grab the Low-Hanging Fruit: How Best-in-Class Companies Leverage a 360˚ Customer View will shock you into action, if you are not already connecting all customer-facing data repositories – think marketing automation, CRM, help desk, back office – into a single, accurate version of each record and account. As we close out this blog series that defines CPQ as a must-have sales effectiveness technology enabler, the very nature of sales workflow automation demands an almost “Borg”-like commitment to establishing and leveraging tribal knowledge within your B2B sales organization. CPQ works best when customer purchase histories, service call audit trails, digital marketing behavior, and of course CRM data entry all combine to provide a virtually limitless understanding of the next, best offer, the way to most efficiently select / configure / price / quote the product, and ultimately to create customer delight.
Thanks for your time: I hope you’ve learned something from this crowd-sourced research.