Digital Transformation Platform Migration & Modernization

Salesforce CPQ: The Foundation of Your Automation Strategy

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 “,” represents two different people and their corresponding email addresses, automated functionality will not. It will attempt to email “,” 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 the touch points 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?

Ready for a fresh look at your automation strategy? Contact Us today.

Digital Transformation Platform Migration & Modernization

It’s Not Salesforce; It’s the Build.

Salesforce is an amazing piece of technology. You don’t need me to tell you that; simply look at the business results, read the analyst reports, or look at their stock ticker (CRM). Their product managers, architects, and engineers have built a product that is truly special. Despite the advantages the software brings to the table, customers occasionally feel like they aren’t getting value out of the software and are left wondering what all of the hoopla is about. This blog examines why.

Common Factors

Let’s start by examining the commonalities that exist within these unsuccessful rollouts. When I speak to customers who aren’t happy with the software, several issues are almost always present:

  • Low user adoption
  • Inconsistent usage patterns amongst users
  • Lack of data consistency
  • Minimal amount of customization to out-of-the-box software to fit business needs
  • Little to no automation of common user tasks
  • User complaints of “one more thing to fill out”
  • Mismatches between desired business workflow and software workflow

These are all symptoms of the same problem: the software is only as good as the build. Salesforce is a world-class SaaS platform for running your business, but using it in out-of-the-box form severely limits its value to your business. This situation is analogous to buying a great house and then not furnishing it; the structure is of the same quality as your neighbors’ houses, but your value as a resident is severely limited by not having a couch, bed, TV, and refrigerator. Much like the house, Salesforce’s architects and builders designed it so that it could be easily furnished to meet your unique needs after purchase.

There’s an easy answer to this problem, and fortunately the answer isn’t anything complex or overly sophisticated: use Salesforce as it was designed. Follow our simple guidelines below and you’ll be realizing value from your investment in no time.

Old Habits Die Hard

Cultural adoption of a new piece of software is a tricky subject. Users, especially those who have been at a company for a long time, have internal processes that they follow to accomplish their daily tasks. Adoption of a new software tool means that these internal processes have to be altered, and altering an ingrained habit is something that is difficult to do.

I’ve seen many companies who simply mandate data entry into the new tool in a memo, declare mission accomplished, and move on to the next initiative. With minimal training in the new software nor incentive to use it, many employees stick to their old ways and retrofit the software into their internal processes. This behavior results in every Salesforce user using the tool differently, which causes inconsistent data, loss of productivity, and perpetuates the stigma that the software is a burden rather than a benefit. After all, how could the software be anything but a burden if a user is still following a manual process and the only difference is that he or she has added the extra step of entering data into the new system?

The old saying “the carrot is better than the stick” applies heavily to user adoption of new software. Dictating that users use the new software and enforcing the new policy can certainly increase your usage numbers, but are these users working in the tool at maximum effectiveness or are they simply trying to keep their names off of the naughty list? Solve the cultural adoption problem effectively with a two-pronged approach:

  1. Make your users want to use the tool.
  2. Configure the tool to dictate your process.

Make Salesforce a Fan Favorite

Every organization has small, pet-peeve types of problems that are the target of employee complaints. Maybe there’s a document that everyone hates filling out (think of the TPS reports in Mike Judge’s 1999 cult classic, Office Space), customer signatures that take forever to collect, or some other tedious task that requires hours of manual effort per week to complete. Make it a point to target at least one of these problems during your first Salesforce rollout.

Announcing that the new software solves a common headache does a few things:

  1. It gets employees excited.
  2. It puts Salesforce in the position of hero rather than nuisance.
  3. It shows the company is listening to employee feedback.
  4. It provides a reward for using the tool.
  5. It eliminates complaining about the pet peeve problem.

Tackling a problem like this one and solving it with Salesforce keeps your users more engaged throughout the learning process and rewards them for working hard to learn new software that may do things much differently than they’re used to within their internal process.

Dictate Your Organizational Process

Many of the customers I talk to who struggle with the symptoms of not having a tailor-made Salesforce environment have organizational processes that run through the Salesforce platform. They spend time documenting how the software should be used and teaching the users how to use the software to drive the process with the expectation that after this training, the users will use Salesforce as intended by the company.

This approach doesn’t always pan out, and there’s a much better way. When the system is configured properly to define the process, most of your process enforcement can simply become “use Salesforce.” The solution is designed to validate data going in and drive automation behind the scenes to step users through a workflow. By customizing it to fit your process to a t, many of the more mundane procedural elements can happen behind the scenes. The most successful companies at using Salesforce have users who use it to drive almost all of their daily tasks, and all of these organizations have invested in customizing the software to fit the way their organizations do business.

By designing the software to drive your process, you simplify your users’ day-to-day roles, reduce confusion, eliminate data inconsistency, and drive user adoption.

The Bottom Line

Much like you wouldn’t get full value out of a house with no furniture, you won’t get full value out of a Salesforce environment that is not purpose-built to your exact specifications. By making the investment in building the tool to solve problems within your organization and drive your organization’s processes, you’re positioning both your users and your executive team for success.

If the software can make the user’s life easier, the user will use the software. And if the software dictates the organizational process, the process will be followed regardless of which user is using the software. These two things alone solve every symptom of the user adoption problem that we started with in this article and put your executive team in position to leverage all of the data you’re now collecting with the platform to make better, more informed business decisions.

Need help designing your Salesforce org, or have a Salesforce-related question? Contact us today and take the first step in your organization’s Salesforce evolution.