This is the third in an eight-part series looking at the typical failure points in the last mile of the sales cycle, often referred to as the quote-to-cash process.

In our last installment, we looked at the select & configure step in the quote-to-cash (QTC) process, identifying that initial step as the foundation of not only the last mile of your sale, but also your relationship with your soon-to-be customer.

In this installment, we’ll look at the next step: assembling accurate pricing for the initial customer-ready quote. This includes a breakdown of the products and services you have selected, any accompanying documentation, and the price quote.

Get pricing under control

Pricing is traditionally a difficult, tense, and error-prone portion of any sales cycle. The weak links in the pricing stage are the unmanaged price lists, often in Word, PDF or spreadsheets, floating throughout the sales organization. The risk here is obvious: you’re working from a price list that is out of date. But ensuring accuracy in the actual price—the dollar value—is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are the base aspects of knowing what leeway you have (or don’t have) with discounts. Then there are your policies on things such as volume discounts, which are difficult to control even on a small team with simple offerings.

Complexity really starts appearing when you consider pre-negotiated contract pricing, channel and partner pricing, and one-off terms of which you may not be aware. If your offerings are many or if configurations are convoluted, you see how even simple pricing rules quickly become complex.

Management usually enforces these rules with review and approve cycles. While that adds control, it does little to empower the sales rep, streamline or speed up the process, or even prevent errors. Only automation can do all of those, and more.

Automation empowers sales reps

We use the word “control” quite often when talking about pricing, but really, the key word should be empowerment. You want to empower your reps to push deals along without hand-holding, or even worse, handcuffing.

Giving your reps and other customer-facing teams the power to create their own pricing sheets and subsequent quotes is the goal you really want to achieve. Manual approvals not only suck up precious time, they create a barrier between the reps and management, almost like a parent-child relationship. You don’t want to babysit reps, and they don’t want to be micro-managed and second guessed.

When reps have the power to act, they can do so with confidence. Giving them the power to build a quote that they know is pre-approved and won't be delayed waiting for reviews lets them drive their own deals. With QTC, they are guided through a process of creating a quote based on the attributes of the deal, and they instantly know that the quote they are creating is ready to send to an opportunity.

Automation takes nearly all approvals, reviews, and stress out of the process because reps are creating a valid, accurate, complete quote on the first try. They build it, then they send it. Done.

Sure, there will always be special cases that require bending the rules, but automation helps to streamline those fringe cases with automated approvals and workflows that ensure the right people approve the right quotes. And automated guidance ensures all of the correct aspects of every deal are included, from offerings to discounts to add-ons.

You never get a second chance at presenting your first quote

Once the stress and complexity of pricing is complete, it has to be packaged for presentation to the customer in a formal quote. Again, this is where automation can save you time today and prevent headaches down the road.

For starters, there’s the simple look and feel of the quote. First impressions matter. Sales reps aren’t designers or Microsoft Word experts, so there’s always the risk of quotes looking sloppy, reflecting poorly on your company and brand. Automating the formatting and assembly of the quote eliminates this risk.

Automation also ensures all of the required documentation, legal terms and conditions, product information, cover letters, and other elements of a quote are included. Quotes are dynamically assembled so that the elements are based on the products, services, or other offerings included in the quote. For example, if you choose item X, then the current data sheet for item X is automatically added.

As a quote nears completion, the combination of providing accurate pricing, required legal documents, the right product information, and other relevant information all add up to multiple chances for errors or omissions. Without automation, the solution may include even multi-step, sequential approvals, which take even more time—and still don’t completely solve the challenge. With automation, these worries go away.

Case study: NetMotion Wireless

NetMotion Wireless was growing fast—their software filled a critical need for the market and they had a sound sales strategy in place, but they knew they could grow faster. The challenge was execution. Their sales team was creating quotes manually, switching back and forth between their licensing database, Excel, and Word to configure a full quote.

They faced an upcoming product release that involved a complicated licensing and maintenance fee structure, and knew the current quoting system couldn’t handle the complexity. They also needed to ensure that each quote’s foundational data would always be up-to-date and reliable.

NetMotion Wireless chose Salesforce CPQ, and now sales reps no longer have to manually configure any part of their sales quotes. In fact, they depend on Salesforce CPQ to automatically make suggestions about what to include in each proposal.

This saves the sales team a lot of time, making them more productive. It also makes them more profitable. Each rep now produces a sales quote in 12 clicks—down from at least 20! And, virtually all of NetMotion Wireless’ sales quotes are now made in Salesforce. Want to learn more? Check out our customer stories.

Next installment

Next, we’ll dive into the third phase of the QTC process: propose & contract. This phase is where your quote becomes a professional-looking branded proposal, including all of the required offerings, legal, pricing, and other documentation, plus the forecasting and tracking for ongoing deals at this stage of the sales cycle.