If you’re still using Word and Excel to handle configure, price, and quote tasks within your company, it’s time to harness the power of CPQ automation to simplify sales processes and shorten sales cycles. Failure to automate gives your competitors the upper hand.
If it takes your sales team weeks to respond to RFPs and RFQs, how can you possibly compete with rivals that can do the same in a matter of minutes? Let’s break down CPQ automation to discover how it works and how you can leverage its potential for maximum competitive gain and ROI.
How does CPQ automation work?
CPQ is software that increases the speed and ease with which sales reps can configure, price, and quote. Ideal for use by manufacturers of complex, tangible, engineer-to-order products, it automates many of the most slow and arduous sales and engineering tasks.
The first step in the automated process is configuration. If you’ve got tens of thousands of products with conflicting properties and compatibility issues, configuring products is hard. CPQ automation guides sales reps towards perfectly optimized configurations and bundles for every customer, regardless of complexity. The automated configuration process is governed by “product rules” – mathematical functions, product variables, and manufacturing data that combine to ensure every configured product is optimized from an engineering and profitability standpoint, and errors are eliminated.
As sales reps (or end customers if your product configurator is embedded into an external, customer-facing website) play around with various configuration options, CPQ automatically computes prices in real-time. Prices are calculated according to pre-programmed pricing rules and in-depth customer profiles, as well as machine learning which predicts the best prices to quote to achieve sales in line with your pricing strategy. The more deals won, the better it gets. Quotes that go above a certain threshold, contain a large discount, or unusual terms, trigger an automatic approval request from a manager. This is designed to protect margins and guard against rogue pricing (more on that later).
Once the final configuration and price have been submitted, CPQ automatically generates a wide range of sales documentation. Quotes and proposals in PDF format are standard. But more advanced CPQ tools, like KBMax, can automatically produce detailed technical drawings, cut sheets, product renderings, and more – whatever’s needed to get a deal over the line.
How Manufacturers Can Use CPQ Automation to Their Advantage
CPQ automation streamlines the configuration of complex, customizable products.
Buyers are demanding customization, and manufacturers are heeding the call. But offering an escalating number of custom options increases sales complexity to such an extent that sales reps are struggling to keep up. Manual configuration processes are unable to handle tens of thousands of configuration options so mistakes and technically nonviable configurations are inevitable.
Streamlining the configuration process enables manufacturers to extend their offering by introducing new customizable products that would otherwise be too “messy” to bother with. Rather than attempting to assemble products from a never ending list of part numbers, sales teams can use a product configurator to narrow down potentially massive product catalogs into optimized customer-specific selections. Reps can meet customer expectations faster than ever and new hires can be onboarded in a fraction of the time it takes for manufacturers that still configure products manually.
The most effective product configurators from an automation perspective are “visual.” With a visual product configurator, users configure products from within a highly intuitive visual interface. They point and click or drag and drop to add components, resize sections, change colors, or upgrade features. They can zoom in and out and spin products around to inspect them from all angles, giving them a rich understanding of the products they’re selling and how they’re assembled.
CPQ automation enables dynamic pricing that boosts conversion rates and removes inaccuracies.
B2B sales has always been rooted in special deals – complex products rarely sell for list prices. But reps can’t be expected to remember every pricing rule where complicated manufacture-to-order products are concerned. Having multiple sales channels like dealers, distributors, and reps, each with their own unique pricing workflows, only compounds the challenge.
Excel has traditionally been used to address these pricing problems, but as customization escalates, old-school spreadsheets become woefully inadequate. With CPQ automation, prices are calculated in real-time as sales reps adjust options in product configurators. And pre-configured pricing rules ensure every price is accurate and attractive.
Not only does CPQ automation make calculating prices easy, it opens up a range of advanced pricing strategies designed to maximize margins in a rapidly changing environment. “Dynamic pricing” endows reps with the ability to set flexible prices for products based on current market demands and temporary pricing scenarios. Pricing becomes more responsive, helping sales teams hit revenue and profit targets under challenging conditions.
With CPQ automation, reps still have the freedom to offer custom prices and discounts, but in a more controlled way, through custom approval loops and workflows. Price approval requests are sent to managers automatically who can give the go ahead, reject, or request further information with a single click. There can be multiple approvers in an approval chain, and each party has visibility over the process, improving accountability (no more “missed” emails).
CPQ automation instantly generates sales documentation that boosts collaboration between the sales and engineering department.
Instant quote generation is standard with any form of CPQ automation. But sometimes it takes more than a straightforward PDF to get a deal over the line. Manufacturers of complex products might need to provide product renderings or detailed technical drawings alongside quotes for buyers to get purchase approval. CPQ automation lets sales reps crank out more proposals than ever before, but for engineers it’s not so easy. Bogged down in repetitive design tasks, they often struggle to keep up, leading to engineering bottlenecks that cause delays and lost deals.
KBMax removes this engineering burden. How? Firstly, by eliminating technically nonviable products, as discussed above. But, crucially, by automating the creation of CAD drawings through Solidworks (and other systems like AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, and PTC Creo). Sales reps can take over the more menial engineering tasks allowing engineers to take on a more creative, forward-looking role.
Automation speeds up sales cycles by an average of 38%
We live in a world of instant gratification where protracted sales cycles are a relic of B2B sales’ past. In highly competitive, rapidly evolving markets, you need to be at the front of the quote queue, or you’ll lose out to competitors leveraging CPQ automation to their advantage. Patience is at an all-time low. Here’s a full breakdown of how CPQ automation accelerates sales:
- Users can configure complicated products in minutes.
- All necessary information is captured up-front, eliminating the endless back and forth between the customer, sales, and engineering, that frequently grinds everything to a halt.
- Custom approval workflows mean approval requests can be sent and signed off with a click.
- Quotes, proposals, BOMs, CNC cutting data, CAD drawings through Solidworks, and more, can be generated automatically.
- Visual product configurator strengthens buyers’ confidence in their purchase decisions, increasing conversion rate (by 40% for KBMax users) and speed.
- Streamlining the sales and engineering process positively influences fabrication, shaving weeks off lead times, increasing customer satisfaction, retention, and referrals.