Sales configuration systems lie at the heart of every fully optimized engineer-to-order (ETO) process.
Their benefits are many, from reducing churn to shortening the customer journey, boosting conversion rates, and increasing sales productivity.
Nevertheless, some B2Bs are slow to adopt and suffer as a result. McKinsey found that B2B sales leaders using “digital’ effectively enjoy five times the growth of their peers. (That’s a hard stat to swallow, isn’t it?)
Do yourself more good than harm.
Follow along as we go over the basics of sales configuration systems along with seven ways these transformational digital tools can solve your B2B woes–and then some.
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- What are Sales Configuration Systems?
- Reasons Why They’re the Answer to Your B2B Problems
- The Future of B2B Sales is Now
What are Sales Configuration Systems?
Sales configuration systems are visual configuration tools used by sales representatives. They automatically configure, price, and quote ETO products according to predetermined engineering rules.
In the most basic terms, sales configuration systems work like this:
- A sales representative (or end-customer themselves) configures a product using an interactive visual interface. They change colors, dimensions, parts, and more visually by selecting options on-screen and rotating their 3D product to make sure it’s just right.
- All the while, the sales configuration system is calculating prices depending on the options being selected. These prices can be displayed alongside if required.
- Once the configuration process is complete, the user can click to generate a quote and a range of supporting documents.
Sales configuration systems enable sales reps to show customers accurate quotes the first time around while freeing up more time for needle-moving tasks.
7 Reasons Why Sales Configuration Software Is the Answer to Your B2B Manufacturing Woes
Here is a list of benefits the right visual configurator can grant your B2B business:
1. They Produce More Accurate Quotes
With a sales configuration tool, the entire process is automated. Sales reps can quickly and accurately complete quotes, ensuring that the final product is precisely what the customer wants. There is no room for human error.
Also, depending on your software of choice, you can generate technical documents like CAD drawings, BOMs, and CNC cut sheets on the spot. These can be automatically attached to quotes or instantly sent to engineering or the shop floor.
2. They Shorten the Customer Journey
It’s common to go through several rounds of back and forth until final product specifications and prices are agreed upon. But keep in mind that each revision is added quote-to-cash time. And when everything is done manually, the entire quoting process can take weeks.
Because visual configuration tools increase quote generation speed (by 99% in Merck’s case), the entire customer journey and related sales cycle are shortened.
For additional reading on visual product configuration, look at Visual Product Configurator: Why Seeing is Believing?
3. They Increase Sales Productivity
It’s a well-known fact that sales representatives only spend about a third of their time selling. The rest of that time is invested in dealing with product issues, internal approvals, policies, meetings, and every other (time-wasting) activity under the sun.
Imagine if your reps no longer had to manually configure, price, and quote your business’ complex products. How many more customers could they attend to on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
4. They Increase Customer Satisfaction and Retention
From the first sales interaction, customers are taken by the hand to flawlessly configure even the most complex products. Again, because everything is automated, customers will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they make purchase decisions and, ultimately, receive their orders.
And because customers are getting exactly what they want the first time around, your business will enjoy lower churn and return.
A Gartner study found that when B2B buyers feel confident about their ability to navigate a new decision (i.e., those using your visual configuration tool), they’re about 2.6 times more likely to expand an existing relationship. That’s versus those who lack confidence (i.e., those having to manually configure their complex products with a sales rep who doesn’t fully understand what they’re selling.)
5. Visual Configurators Reduce Risk
Every time data is manually transferred from one party to another (customer -> salesperson -> engineering -> shop floor), there’s a risk of miscommunications and mistakes. This is especially true if there’s ambiguity or the final design has passed through various rounds of revisions before reaching the shop floor.
While mishaps do occur and can be fixed, errors cost your company–and your customers–extra time and money.
With a robust sales configuration system, pricing and engineering efficiency are validated at the configuration stage. Data is stored and transferred between departments automatically. And quotes, CAD files, and technical drawings are auto-created by machine. Errors are eliminated at every stage.
6. You’ll Close 40% More Sales
How to keep closing deals as a B2B company has been a hot topic during the pandemic, with advice including ramping up prospecting, thinking about your prospect’s customer, and switching to empathy.
While these tips will help you create a more well-rounded strategy, they don’t address the elephant in the room–boosting conversions.
Using sales configuration software reduces the ambiguity and time involved with configuring, pricing, and quoting highly complex products. It also ensures the final product achieves target margins.
Furthermore, when customers can see what they’re buying, they’re more immersed in the buying process. All their questions are answered, and their fears are addressed. They have all the information they need at their fingertips to make an on-the-spot decision, which boosts conversion rates by 40%.
7. You Can Increase Order Value
Excel, number crunching, and manually flipping through the book to triple-check viable configurations are a thing of the past with visual configuration software.
When you’re no longer dependent on the limitations of human abilities, you can up-sell and increase the order value of highly personalized products instantly. The best sales configuration systems use AI and machine learning to predict what customers want to buy before they know it themselves.
(To make matters more enticing, McKinsey ran a study that found 70% of B2B decision-makers are open to making new, fully self-serve, or remote purchases above $50,000.)
The Future of B2B Sales Is Now
The benefits of using sales configuration software speak for themselves.
And the further we plunge into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the more critical it will be for businesses to fully embrace cutting-edge technology as a staple of their business operations.
Question is… Will you lead the pack or quickly fall behind the masses?
Only time will tell.