How Your Company Can Benefit from Cloud CPQ Software

Will Spendlove, Vice President of Marketing, Salesforce CPQ

Sometimes it seems as if the whole point of technology is just to replace other technology. Better, smarter machines increase the pace of life, which requires even better, even smarter machines, and so on. The sales process too has been drastically affected. In fact, buying cycles have increased in length by more than 20 percent over the past five years alone. Working with software that’s even a little bit obsolete is kind of like driving on an interstate highway with a Model T.

To adapt, sales agents need to create and send quotes more quickly, which in turn allows them to close deals faster and more accurately. What’s the state of the art? What’s the fastest car on the highway? Cloud-based CPQ software.

CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote. It’s a way of accelerating the speed, efficiency and accuracy of creating quotes. But what can CPQ really do? First, let’s look at the sales environment.

Trends at Work

There are three major trends in the marketplace that affect speed and productivity:

1. Sales teams have massive churn. Reps who have been in the sales industry for, say 3-5 years, know the sales environment and can fly through work (watch how fast their thumbs move on their phones!). But, the learning curve for those just entering takes a little bit longer – technology is new, processes are new – this affects the entire team and company. How does this impact revenue? New reps aren’t as productive: they make more mistakes, they’re not as comfortable or knowledgeable. The system slows down.

2. Excel is a cheap go-to. Many sales teams use Excel to create quotes, which can be fine in the early stages of a company, but presents problems for the growing company. For one, Excel doesn’t scale well. It sits on one computer rather than being shareable on the cloud; consequently, reps can’t add to it dynamically (with new worksheets or files), nor can they collaborate. But Excel has advantages that ensure its continued use: it’s cheap and easy to use.

3. Homegrown solutions are customized –  and expensive – and not in the cloud. In order to support the revenue-generating side of sales (as opposed to marketing and process teams), companies know they have to have a system in place to process deals – often leading them to hire a developer to build out a CPQ infrastructure. The advantage is clear: companies can customize the homegrown CPQ as much as they want, they can make changes on the fly, and build a system that delivers exactly what they need. But, homegrown CPQ can become a nightmare to maintain. If it’s built by contracted developers, people on the sales team may have no idea how to update it. The code can grow stale and any changes would need to be outsourced – again.

The Happy Middle Ground

As the saying goes (probably), “Not all sales software is created equal.” There is a way to account for the three trends above: a CPQ system with a low learning curve that is also scalable, shareable and less cumbersome than custom software. Your choices had been, basically, two: Excel for companies that couldn’t afford the software, or some crazy complex CPQ for those that could. But what I’m excited to tell you is that there’s a third option, what I call a “democratized CPQ,” a cloud-based system available to everyone — and it responds to the way customers expect business to work.

There will be obstacles, of course. For one thing, CPQ is an investment for the company. For another, a lot of salespeople are used to the process they have and, being people, are resistant to change. What makes the democratized CPQ ideal is that it serves everyone: it’s easy to adopt, easy to learn, and at a price point that won’t scare a company into clinging fearfully to that Excel spreadsheet.

Selling Where People Buy

By identifying a CPQ solution that can scale with a business, easy to configure and easy to update, you solve for issues of expense and complexity. Built upon Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that acts as a foundation for a company’s data, the CPQ creates offers, tracks the quote process and gathers analytics for these offers. The result is (or should be) a modern sales experience.

Consider this: Your customers expect the same experience every time they engage with a salesperson. Whether it’s on Amazon or at a ski resort, you expect an immediate response, an accurate price (quote) for goods and services, and to quickly receive your order. When you don’t, not only do you become frustrated (and refuse to buy again!), you’re also likely to go on social media and complain, which can sink a company faster than low sales.

Salespeople, meanwhile, expect to engage with customers wherever they’re working: on mobile, laptops, eventually (probably) via telepathy. These sales reps, whether new or veterans, need to respond quickly, accurately, and in a way that works for your business. CPQ software lives in real-time and serves the customer, the salesperson, and the company, which is the state of the art. A democratized CPQ is, in other words, the right vehicle for modern selling.

Will Spendlove is vice president of product marketing at Salesforce CPQ.