How does a product configurator software work?

How does a product configurator software work?

reading time  9 minutes

Software vendors often speak in jargon, and a commonly used acronym is CPQ (Configure price Quote). It is a program for setting up a quote. Probably the first time you’ve even heard of it is when a software vendor has proposed it to you.

 

Improper Uses of the Word

The problem is that the term is often misused. In fact, there is a tendency to confuse the whole with the part. The acronym can be used to describe many different activities such as pricing, discounts and promotions; the configuration of baskets of prices and offers; structuring or restrictions of offers, or even proposals, estimates and management of the offer. But in the end, what is a CPQ really? Our answer is simple.

 

What does CPQ mean and what is a product configurator?

CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote and it is a tool with which to maximize sales and the effectiveness of sellers. Wanting to provide a definition, we could consider it as software that, within a sales process, plays an essential role in configuring the offer, managing the negotiation and closing the contract.

The CPQ, unlike all the other support tools, is used to sell directly: it is the software that the seller uses when he is in front of the buyer and through which he configures the perfect offer according to his needs and of his budget.

Having a CPQ is essential for several reasons: to be faster than the classic manual management, to avoid errors, to be able to disentangle easily complex configurations and, anything but trivial, to suggest to the customer an excellent sense of professionalism.

 

CPQ Software: Role and Benefits

One wonders why CPQ software is so essential to the efficiency of the sales business. In certain markets – let’s even think about Utilities or Telcos – configuring an offer in front of the customer is not exactly child’s play. This is especially true for sophisticated, high-value products and services from industries such as manufacturing, tech media, telecommunications or financial services. In these cases, products and services require in-depth knowledge of the product to finalize an offer which, if done manually, can take a long time. In fact, it is not a question of choosing a product and its color, but of creating complex and modular mixes, remembering to always take legislation into account.

The seller has to choose between basic offers and an infinite number of options to be configured manually, to which promotions, discounts and so on are added. Using a CPQ, the seller can concentrate on the relationship with the customer: his primary purpose is to identify the ideal solution according to his needs, because for configurations, prices, discounts allowed, mixes and promotions there is the CPQ.

 

The inefficiency of the traditional method

Setting up an offer by hand exposes the seller (and therefore the company) to an infinite number of risks. The traditional method, equipped with brochures, catalogs, paper and pen, has always faced very strong limits to its efficiency deriving both in terms of  time to technical management errors and corrections that force the seller to spend a good part of his day completing administrative tasks, rather than focusing on sales and customer relations.

 

The 6 Benefits of CPQ for Sellers

Eliminating paper – which is a cost anyway – is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s see some of the concrete benefits that the company and the sales force could obtain by adopting a Configure, Price, Quote solution:

  1. Increase in sales productivity: automating a large part of the procedure, which goes from configuring the offer to the quote, when using a CPQ means minimizing the possibility of errors due to transcription and manual activities, resulting in increased sales productivity.
  2. Everything always updated: with an excellent CPQ, the sales force is always updated on new models, products, mixes and promotions. In this way, it does not risk finding itself in front of a buyer with an obsolete brochure or configuring an offer based on an outdated price list.
  3. Lightweight, mobile access: the best CPQs come in the form of a mobile application and are accessible anytime, anywhere, 24 hours a day. The use of a common tablet can completely replace catalogs and voluminous brochures.
  4. Speed ​​and customization: even in the most complex sector in the world, subject to high customization of offers and, at the same time, to strong regulatory constraints, the CPQ allows the seller to quickly configure an offer in front of the buyer.
  5. Automation: the steps of the sales activity are brought together in a single workflow, in which manual activity is banned as it is a harbinger of errors and inefficiencies.
  6. Integration with company systems: with its ability to configure complex offers and integrate within the complex management system of companies (especially with CRMs and ERPs), CPQ undoubtedly represents a fundamental piece of sales automation.

The Product Configurator and New Vendors

A particular benefit of CPQ software is the support it provides to newcomers to the sales force. It can take a new vendor from one to six months to become productive, or even longer if the products to sell are complex and complex. What further complicates the situation is that finding the right price for the products is not enough to close the sale. To convince a customer, you need to identify the best combination of products and services for that customer and present them with a quote as quickly as possible.

For those new to the world of sales, it is difficult to realize how complicated it can be to sell a complex set of products. If you are not an expert seller, it is very challenging to manage multiple activities at the same time such as analyzing customer needs, preparing an offer, applying promotions while safeguarding margins and being able to send the quote as quickly as possible.

An inexperienced salesperson may therefore find it difficult to be efficient and effective during a negotiation, managing sales targets and discount requests. With the consequent delay in approving the offer and closing the agreement with a potential customer.

Fortunately, a good Product Configurator has an intuitive interface that standardizes the sales process throughout the organization, so that even new and inexperienced salespeople can be productive quickly. don’t just set up complex products, they are a business collaboration app, helping to increase sales productivity and quickly level up new salespeople.

The CPQ can be used in front of the customer for the configuration of the offer and the formulation of the estimate. The tool undoubtedly allows ample maneuvering activity for the seller, who is free to configure the right mix capable of intercepting the customer’s needs. At the same time, however, CPQ is not only an advantage for the seller but for the entire commercial management. Here’s why:

  1. Definition of sales policy: the sales management sets the policies that the sales force must follow. Using a CPQ it is not possible to sell a product that is no longer in the price list, to configure unauthorized mixes and, above all, to propose discount percentages or unauthorized promotions. The advantage is clear, considering all the time that can be lost (and the repercussions on the brand image) to rectify offers, modify them, meet again with buyers, etc.
  2. CPQ and data-driven approach: if the entire sales force uses CPQ, the amount of data acquired and transmitted to the headquarters is very large and these can be used as decision support. For example, you may find that certain products work better in one geographic area than in another, that some areas are more price sensitive, and so on. Based on this approach it is possible not only to review the composition and activity of the sales team, but also to make decisions regarding logistics, marketing and production.

CPQ and the company’s other software products

While its role is to support the vendor, CPQ is not an island either. While widely recognizing its value, witnessed among other things by the constant growth of the market, companies want to fully understand the differences between CPQ and the other management tools they use on a daily basis, and in particular CRM and ERP. In this way, you quickly discover that not only are they extremely different, but they can be blended together, maximizing results for the organization.

CPQ and CRM, complementary tools

CRM and CPQ are complementary tools that work in different phases of the sales cycle, each with its own peculiarities. Customer Relationship Management a platform for managing relations between the company and its active or potential customers, is a tool with which to track the entire customer relationship experience, whether linked to online or offline activities. CRM records contact information, past experiences, business relationships, sales opportunities, and more. But the key point that CRM is is not a direct sales tool whereas the CPQ is.

That’s why CPQ and CRM work well together. The first is more direct and specific, the second has a wider range of action, but both intervene within the sales process, albeit at different levels. One of the typical activities following the purchase of the CPQ is its integration with the company’s management systems, including CRM. In this way, the organization will be able to take advantage of the effectiveness, speed of configuration and productivity of the CPQ by adding it to the wealth of information of the CRM.

CPQ and ERP, unity is strength

Another integration of the CPQ is with the Enterprise Resource Manager, the complete and modular management platform of the company. The reasons can be different and range from the administrative branch to production, from marketing to logistics. One example is the integration with warehouse management systems: in this way, the seller can know and communicate to the buyer the availability or not of the products and that particular mix that is the subject of negotiation since delivery times depend on it.

How to choose the best CPQ

The CPQs on the market all serve the same purpose, but they are also very different from each other. In fact, not all of them are designed to fully satisfy the needs of those who use them. Most CPQ software is part of specific CRM or ERP. This results in a disadvantage from the point of view of the user experience that makes it difficult to use.

CPQ software manages product complexity, pricing, grouping and market rules, but it doesn’t help sellers with other important aspects of selling. Typically, CPQ tools are not optimized for mobile or customer-facing and do not work offline. How can a salesperson be productive if the CPQ tool is not designed for their needs?

That said, here is what you need to evaluate to make an excellent choice:

CPQ with an optimized User Experience

It is absolutely essential that, in addition to receiving and sharing data with the company’s management systems, the CPQ also offers the end user (the seller) ease of use in your activities. The user must be able to configure offers, however complex they may be, with great simplicity and speed. Otherwise the benefit is simply not there. In addition, an intuitive and functional tool, which does not require an instruction manual to be used, ensures easy adoption in the company, managing to overcome resistance to change.

 

CPQ ‘mobile’, i.e. in the form of an application

The vendor must be able to exploit all the functions of the instrument through lightweight and portable devices, such as tablets and smartphones so it is imperative that the tools has been optimized for mobile.

A CPQ that also works offline

Not all customers operate in areas with perfect coverage of the mobile network or under Wi-Fi. A good CPQ works even in the absence of a network.

A common frustration for sellers is not being able to generate a quote without an internet connection. Unfortunately, most CPQ software doesn’t work offline and needs a good connection to work properly. The technical elements need to be improved to allow the seller to create an offer together with the customers even in the absence of a connection. In fact, sellers often miss important opportunities when they have a customer ready to buy in front of them, but they cannot show prices or generate a quote in real time.

Collaboration with other business functions

This isn’t a typical CPQ function, but the best solutions on the market go beyond just configuring bids and setting up quotes. A good sales support platform (including CPQ) must allow synergy between different business functions. In particular, the best results are obtained by mixing the practical activity of the sellers, the coordination of the commercial management and marketing, whose task (in this case) is to provide constantly updated sales support materials.

A CPQ integrated with other business software

CPQ works stand alone, but the best results are obtained by integrating it with other business systems, in particular CRM and ERP. Always taking into account its ultimate goal, which is to simplify sales and increase productivity.

 

Apparound: more than a ‘simple’ CPQ

Apparound’s aim is to simplify the sales process and make the work of the sales network more profitable. It is an application that can be used easily via tablet and smartphone and allows you to digitize the activities carried out in the area, directly in front of the customer. Through Apparound, the seller presents the marketing material in digital format, configures the offer together with the customer and can close the deal at the first meeting. With all the benefits of the case.

Apparound is therefore much more than a simple CPQ: in fact, it integrates digital content management, the real offer configurator (CPQ), but also the contract generator, remote signature and data collection modules. and field information. Here are the five main benefits of the solution.

Comprehensive information materials

With Apparound, the seller has at his disposal all the materials, in all possible multimedia formats, that describe the products and the value proposition of the company. It is a valuable resource for new salespeople, but also quickly updates everyone else’s skills. Furthermore, the availability of material in line with company standards affects the perception of quality in the eyes of customers.

It favors alignment with marketing

The app is constantly updated with all the marketing information and, in general, with all the useful information to respond to customer objections. This avoids errors and, in addition, the application itself can suggest how to proceed in the sales proposal.

Personalized offers

On the basis of the information acquired, it is possible to offer the potential customer a product tailored to his needs and, even, to help him understand the unspoken ones.

Acceleration of the sales process

Thanks to Apparound, customer and seller can close the contract at the first meeting having the possibility to also use an electronic signature.

Loyalty

The seller can monitor the status of offers and contracts. Through the app, in fact, he can automatically keep track of the activities carried out at the customer and receive notifications and updates. This privileged view of the customer improves their management, favoring the establishment of a lasting relationship.

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    ©Apparound. All rights reserved. APPAROUND SPA e P.I. 13147681004