Salesforce CPQ: The Foundation of Your Automation Strategy

Aaron K Shook
CEO & Founder

What’s a CPQ?
The Salesforce CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) product has a plethora of advantages in the area of quote to cash automation. CPQ provides an advanced toolset that allows implementers to fully automate the process of selecting and configuring products, pricing and discounting these products, gathering approval from stakeholders in the event that pricing falls outside of guardrails, and automatically generating a quote for the customer.
This functionality has a very obvious return on investment for a sales organization in terms of sales rep efficiency, margin protection, quote consistency, and revenue maximization, but there’s also a key advantage that’s often overlooked that is the focus of this blog: CPQ’s impact on data consistency at the front end of your process and the ripple effect it has on an automation strategy.

Why Would a Quoting Tool Drive Customer Service Automation?
Every automation strategy must start with clean, consistent data. While human users can consume unstructured data and understand the intent behind what it is, automation works by interpreting well-formed data and taking action upon it to drive workflows. While human users will likely understand that a customer name of “John and Martha Smith” with an email address field of “john.smith@gmail.com, martha.smith@gmail.com” represents two different people and their corresponding email addresses, automated functionality will not. It will attempt to email “john.smith@gmail.com, martha.smith@gmail.com” to thank them for their business and fail miserably. Therefore, when beginning on a path toward business process automation, starting with structured data is at the top of the agenda.
Since well-formed data is so critical to developing automated functionality, a great place to start is taking control of sales data. The sale of a product typically drives numerous other workflows within a business: shipping, accounting and revenue recognition, professional installation services, customer support, and many others are dependent on the initial sales transaction. Since all of these other processes depend on data that is captured during the close of a sale, it is imperative that the sales data be an accurate, well-structured representation of the transaction with the customer.
Salesforce’s Sales Cloud product is the gold standard for CRMs, and with good reason. It does an excellent job of allowing sales organizations to track and predict top line revenue via forecasting, to analyze sales performance with reporting, and to enhance sales rep productivity by providing tools to automate common tasks. While Sales Cloud is great at managing revenue, the CRM was never designed to manage complex product configurations and the pricing and quoting scenarios that go with them. While it includes some level of baked-in concepts around products, most organizations’ product portfolios and quoting needs are far too complex for what’s provided out of the box.
As a result, many organizations rely on manual effort to create quotes that represent complex product configurations. In my experience, these manual creations were designed to be read by human users to keep track of what happened during the quoting process and therefore aren’t structured in a way that lend themselves to automation scenarios. Given these limitations, how do we move down the path of filling our Salesforce org with good sales data to drive automations?

Enter Salesforce CPQ
Consider a scenario where an account executive closes a deal containing several state of the art medical devices. Each device has its own warranty and associated installation and professional services required to set it up. In a scenario with manual quoting and product configuration management, someone in the organization is on the hook for recording details about exactly what was sold, which parts of the sale were warrantied and for how long, which services are necessary to install the devices at the customer site, and when the install services will be performed. All of these records need to be manually created after the sale, and they must be accurate. Worst of all, there is no clear-cut owner for this task: a sales rep’s core duties end once a deal closes, and no one else in the organization has been involved in the process up to this point.
Let’s re-examine the above scenario through the lens of CPQ. While the sales rep is quoting, each product is grouped with warranty and installation services in a way that is easily interpreted by Salesforce’s robust automation toolset. We know exactly which warranty goes with which product, when the customer purchased the product, and when each warranty starts and ends. By leveraging this data, we can kick off automated processes to email the customer when the product ships, schedule installation services, manage field rep schedules, and set up auto-reminders for customers and sales reps when warranties are expiring. Additionally, customer support automatically knows the ins and outs of a customer’s warranty portfolio without the need for someone to go in and manually maintain the record: it’s all derived based on what happened during the close of the sale.
CPQ simplifies the handoff all of the moving pieces that happen after the deal is closed by giving Salesforce a complete picture of what happened during the deal. Without this data, there’s no foundation for automation.

Configure, Price, Quote… Handoff
Automating the entire quote to close cycle with CPQ not only removes burdensome manual tasks from the plates of sales reps and adds consistency to the sales process, but also serves as the foundation for further automation of processes that take place after the sale.
Consider all of the touchpoints and handoffs within your organization that take place after a sale closes. How much more efficient would your processes be if all of these handoffs took place seamlessly with 100% accuracy? How many support calls due to data entry issues would be eliminated? Finally, how much better would the overall customer experience be now that all of the dots are connected in the process?
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