Quoting Risk Averse Business Services: How an Industry Adapts
Organizations selling business services face two tough challenges; a growing demand amid increased project complexity. While the first drives significant opportunity for your business, the second drives greater risks to your profitability.
How do you keep pace with the level of complexity that drives your risk and grow market (or even just maintain) share?
Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Barlas, one of our experts in quoting business services, and talk about how the industry is changing and adapting and better balancing risk and revenue for growth that scales.
Thank you for joining us today, Bill. What changes are you seeing in the business services industry today?
Quoting business services has always been complicated; each project involves a number of delivery phases, each with their own variations, expert resources and requirements. As businesses grow from a few projects each year to more, they lean on their “superstar” experts to sell, scope and deliver. Today, those experts are out of capacity.
As I work with customers, the biggest industry change I see is a shift to lean process thinking. How can I optimize my sales cycle by eliminating process friction? It’s borrowing a proven page from manufacturing and product design, and for business services brings a significant benefit.
By establishing business rules, teams reduce underselling and over selling and calculation errors. By reducing rework and re-forecasting, teams ease hand-off “back and forth” and rely less on their valuable experts. By removing the friction, they ease and speed their process, establishing repeatability and scale.
What are the biggest challenges you see for business services?
In the past, businesses reached for tools such as spreadsheets and email. Today, there are hundreds of spreadsheets and millions of emails. Expecting your team to bid effectively, and protect your risk and revenue, while jumping through these hoops, is unrealistic.
We’ve all been there. Pull the wrong spreadsheet or email, and we quote outdated services. Or worse, undersell, oversell or simply calculate pricing incorrectly against accepted risk thresholds. Hand the quote off to project management to scope, and the quote stalls because of errors, forcing manual re-forecasting and “back and forth” with sales. By the time the quote is off for approval, your experts have burned significant time on rework, and your customer is still waiting. And we all know that today, more than ever, customers expect rapid turnaround, even on complex services quotes.
Multiply this by the fact that most projects involve a number of phases to deliver, each phase with their own service variables, expert resources and timeline. That means multiple quotes for the same project with different experts scoping, and manually calculating, risk and price for each phase.
It all boils down to the level of risk your business is willing to accept. As a business leader, you have to ask yourself; is this process friction putting us at risk for overruns?
If you have to stop and think, you’re already at risk.
How do you help businesses navigate these challenges?
We bring our experience, our understanding of sales, its impact on project scoping and that impact on profitability and risk. For example, when you quote a service you are also quoting a resource, and consuming that resource’s time. Let’s standardize that service, with all of its variables built-in, for consistency. And eliminate error delays and the time-consuming “back and forth” between project management and sales. When you “SKU” a business service like a product, you get all the right “goodies” in the basket every time. That saves time, and optimizes every opportunity every time.
Let’s make it easy for your team to weigh risk and profitability. Let’s look at your risk factors, for example you’ve worked with this client before. They may be experienced but you can expect delays throughout the project. Let’s standardize and enforce your risk thresholds and manage your risk.
My goal is to help you remove the waste and errors from your sales process so you save time to invest in more opportunities for growth.
Who do you typically collaborate with on your projects?
Understanding your sales process is paramount to my mission. I begin by understanding your stakeholders and the role they play in your sales process. How does sales quote a service? How does project management scope a project? How are these errors being introduced into the process? Understanding where we can enforce business rules, guide stakeholders and automate calculations helps us identify where the process friction is and how to reduce or remove it.
Building stakeholder buy-in and aligning consensus behind your business objectives early is key to success. For example, your business objective might be to eliminate service configuration mistakes and pricing errors and save time - time to invest in more opportunities. Your stakeholders can get behind that because that means scalability and growth. But they’ll want more in exchange for their support.
What is the initial cost of the implementation? And the ongoing maintenance costs? What cost savings can we expect? What exactly is saved by eliminating errors?
By exploring and addressing these questions, and more, with you, together with your leadership and stakeholders, we increase your chances of the organizational stability and financial growth you desire in an intentional, predictable and effective manner.
What advice do you have for businesses still using spreadsheets?
Let's start with a question. Are you going to position your business to keep pace with services demand and grow? Or are you going to live with the liability of process waste that’s slowing you down?
As a business leader, you may be asking, what if we just stick with the status quo? If I told you the status quo is costing you $10,000 a month, would you continue to delay the decision to change?
At some point, the cost of inaction will cost you more than taking action. At that point, you’ll need a good Business Case, including a clear and concise overview of the potential value of action. One that helps everyone involved in the buying process understand why the investment is sound. One that impresses upon everyone involved why it should be started now. One that aligns all parties and smooths the way for a faster project sign-off.
We’re here to help you with that.
Related Article: The High Cost of Quoting Business Services
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.