What the Future Looks Like for Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)

By Danny Wong

B2B sales across all industries are increasing in complexity and scope. It’s not just affecting SaaS software; many different types and sizes of companies are employing innovative sales strategies, such as subscription-based sales and customizable product packages.

The market statistics for configure, price, quote (CPQ) software bears this out: The segment is expected to maintain steady growth of 20% annually through 2020. Corporate buyers are demanding more out of their CPQ purchase, and developers are rising to the occasion by introducing new features and leveraging sophisticated AI technology to make their platforms more dynamic.

Better Integration of Data from Sales All the Way Through the Supply Chain

The greater the level of complexity in your sales process, the more you need to use high-level data to make objective determinations. The data needs to be standardized across company units so that everyone in the organization is able to draw inferences from the same starting point. People in every department need to have access to the same CPQ data points, the data must be formatted the same way, and everyone should be using the same tools to analyze it.

Sales data isn’t just important to the sales department. It has implications for the people who make pricing decisions, manage supply chain operations, forecast, collect revenue, perform customer service functions, and so on. CPQ platforms will continue to feature better integration of data points across ERP and CRM platforms as well, creating a virtual warehouse of standardized, high-quality data throughout the company.

Configure, price, quote solutions of the future will facilitate even more efficient workflows than are currently possible. Employees in non-sales departments won’t have to clean up sales data as often or delay decisions because of incomplete or inaccurate information. Optimization doesn’t happen in a bubble, and advanced CPQ platforms help teams achieve productivity gains across the board.

Empowered Decision-Making Abilities

Complex sales often hinge on salespeople’s ability to make numerous decisions quickly with the information available to them at the time. When decisions are based on faulty data points or incomplete analysis, it’s more likely that reps will make mistakes in the decision-making process. That’s why complex sales are often difficult to complete; any one of these decisions can cause a snag in the development of the transaction.

CPQ developers have always worked to create solutions that help salespeople make informed decisions. That’s because the decisions on the part of the buyer and the sales rep turn the gears of the B2B sales funnel, not technological systems. When every detail is so important to the process, you need a software tool that lays out all of the details in a clear and digestible fashion, especially when you are deciding on something that could make or break a deal.

The one impediment to sales technology is often salespeople themselves. Sales reps may feel they’re wasting valuable time on CRM data entry that could be spent on more critical tasks. So while many sales professionals are loath to put stock in a new technological platform, the developers of advanced CPQ platforms are working to change their minds. When salespeople have access to data that allows them to make split-second decisions that can close a deal faster, they just may finally start turning to their CPQ solution as a first resort.

Improved Analysis and Automation Through AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been an important component of CPQ solutions for many years, but recently it has gotten smarter, more affordable, and more versatile. As AI continues to revolutionize software products in almost every conceivable category, it’s inevitable that AI-powered elements in CPQ systems will continue to increase in sophistication.

AI tools can perform complex analyses in seconds that are impossible for humans. They can survey all of the different factors involved in a sale from a broad perspective and see how they fit together and where potential disruptions could occur. AI assistants can quickly assess a deal’s profitability, even when there are numerous and disparate revenue and expense data points involved in the sale. As AI technology continues to improve, it will become an even more important element in using CPQ software to its full potential.

Another area in which AI makes a massive impact is in automating tasks. Complex sales are driven by a variety of tasks that could be improved through better automation, and AI assistants of the future will take on a greater share of these tasks. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean sales managers and reps are staring down the barrel of irrelevance: As AI tools automate certain tasks during the sales process, the need for human, personal connections with customers becomes even more paramount. People must be the driver of all the interactions that aren’t handled by AI technology. In short, CPQ solutions powered by AI will make the mechanics of complex sales move more smoothly and efficiently, but they will never be able to replicate the human-to-human connection that still drives the B2B sales environment.

Reduced Complexity for Reps and Customers Alike

The essence of configure, price, quote software has always been to take complex systems and clarify them through organization and access to information. It’s the only way to see all of the many different moving parts of this process, all of which impact everything around them simultaneously. Of course, the underlying drive behind this quest for simplification is to complete more sales, and no CPQ software program would be able to market itself effectively without being able to make that claim. As the technology improves, business professionals are discovering that there’s much more to the CPQ experience than selling more.

Through CPQ, sales leaders can help improve organizational knowledge. One of the biggest challenges for sales reps who sell complex products is that it can seem like they’re selling a new product every time because of specialized configurations. Advanced CPQ solutions use tools such as AI and data segmentation to help reps understand what they are selling on a deeper level, so that they can then more effectively communicate value to their buyers.

CPQ technology is improving the experience for the customer as well. It can help break down a transaction into simple components so customers can easily discern where the perceived value is coming from in the deal, and what they are giving up for it.

Enhanced Customization to Facilitate Unique Sales Situations

CPQ software developers understand that customization is one of the top priorities for their corporate customers. For this reason, they continue to devote resources to enhancing the customization abilities of their solutions.

The true and lasting value of CPQ lies in its ability to be modified instantly to work with thousands of different product configurations. As developers improve the customization capabilities of their solutions, sales teams can build their specialized configurations faster and deliver more accurate proposals and quotes to prospects with a short turnaround time. With the continued improvement of CPQ software, you can reduce bottlenecks that were once an inherent part of selling complex products and systems, and move your customers closer to realizing the value from their purchase faster than you ever thought possible.

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<p>Via <a href="https://www.salesforce.com/products/quote-to-cash/resources/" target="_blank">Salesforce</a> </p>