How to Select the Best CPQ Software for Your Company
As discussed in previous articles here and here, Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software solutions enable organizations to automate and optimize their quote to contract process, helping secure more orders faster. Rarely does someone start off specifically looking for a CPQ solution. They usually search the web for a particular problem – and then discover that they need something called CPQ software.
CPQ is a very broad term that spans simple, cheap apps through to very sophisticated platforms – and there is a growing number of providers. In fact, there are so many CPQ systems out there that it’s difficult to know which one will be right for your company.
Finding the most appropriate solution for your business situation can be confusing – even identifying suitable candidates for a shortlist can be frustrating.
This blog article will help steer you in the right direction sooner, with some important questions to ask your own business, and some things to ask potential suppliers.
Read more: What is CPQ
Here are some key considerations for your business that will save you time and money if you do so before you begin searching a CPQ solution for your organization.
There can be pressure to focus on the immediate problem at the expense of the longer term. A quick fix is fine if the cost is low; however, the danger can be to continue investing in a tool beyond the initial scope only to find that it is not best suited to the organization’s new needs, and the cost, time and effort is wasted.
For example, the way your organization sells (or rather the way your customers buy from you) today might look very different in a year or two. A focus on your sales team’s CPQ need would be very risky without considering how the tool would cope if this process shifted online (it almost certainly will to some degree) or what your sales team might look like if your sales channel could be self-sufficient in pricing deals.
While this is related to how aggressive or otherwise your growth plans are, it is more about how you will achieve this growth.
This is closely related to the sales growth strategy question, but deserving its own section – particularly around the way your business will change.
For example, a business that sells product or equipment may find that it has become more dependent upon technology and/or services. Indeed it might even consider that its whole business model needs to change – perhaps even to a servitization or outcome based pricing model. In which case the CPQ solution must be able to manage different pricing strategies.
Who prepares quotes today is an easy question to answer. But real power is in asking who should be preparing quotes, and why.
For example, an internal sales team providing solutions and prices to its channel partners is at best inefficient, and worse, could alienate customers if responses are slower than needed. Providing a CPQ tool for those channel partners to be guided in the correct selection of products, options and services and to see the price at a time and a method of their choice would be hugely influential in their buying process.
Allowing yourself time to dream about the ideal quote to contract scenarios is both powerful and motivating. Invite people from different parts of the business to consider these questions and provide them the necessary background information to contribute meaningfully.
For example, it is typical for a sales or sales operations team to be very good at describing its ideal way of working. Bringing people from the IT department can introduce a new perspective and open ideas. An external consultant can also be helpful – particularly so to describe the possibilities that technology can open up.
Before you start looking for a CPQ software solution to buy, it’s crucial to get the right team on board – early. Experienced members from sales operations, IT and sales need to be involved in the selection process. Their input and perspectives can help to eliminate systems that lack the functionality you really need.
Ensure that your provider’s solution initially meets the very basic level of your requirement but with capacity and flexibility to grow and accommodate your strategic vision. Ask for examples of how they have coped with different scenarios and changing business needs.
Moving from basic concepts to full CPQ provisions will take time. But with the right expertise and experience, a well-defined (and documented) process can minimize time and cost.
It is essential to progress in incremental steps, in the safe knowledge that your solution provider can continue the journey with you. Ask your vendor how they plan to introduce your solution. There should be some specific milestone deliverable items that ideally secure quick wins that will built trust.
A good CPQ solution can accommodate any business scenario. It is not necessary to know what those scenarios are at the outset. Seek examples that demonstrate exactly how a system will cope with any rule, calculation (particularly across different products and services) and documented process.
A traditional approach to seeking a software partner can be to look for those who are experienced within a vertical. Whilst this can help, it is doubtful that any external team will know more than your colleagues about your business. So if your team is looking to introduce a competitive advantage, consider others’ perspectives too. An outside perspective from a vendor with solid experience of CPQ best practices can often be more helpful than industry experience – after all, the industry expertise should be your domain.
So consider providers that can demonstrate solutions across multiple and varied scenarios.
When investing in CPQ software, start by taking a holistic view to make sure the solution fits your overall business needs. Develop a list of high-level requirements that can fulfill your business strategy. Expect a solution that will evolve with your organization.
Furthermore, ask the potential vendor to help you further define your CPQ requirements – they may provide ideas and perspectives that you can draw upon to achieve your business goals and long-term strategic vision.
After researching alternatives, and drawing up a shortlist, you are ready then to schedule a demo and discuss how the CPQ solution fits your organization.
Kevin's passion is helping companies become easier to buy from. He is a pioneer and thought leader in CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote). Quick to spot how technology (in particular CRM and product configuration software) enhances sales team performance, he was instrumental in the development of cloud based CPQ applications. He co-founded BlueprintCPQ in 1999, and built this to become one of the most powerful and flexible CPQ platforms. BlueprintCPQ was acquired by Xait in December 2020 where Kevin is Head of CPQ practice and Managing Director of Xait Ltd where he continues to apply his innovative thinking and experience to drive sales efficiency.