The annual planning season is here again, which means that it’s time to think about the initiatives that will help you drive the most business growth in 2013.
If you’re looking for direction, Gartner—a leading information technology research company—is a great place to start as you’re evaluating technology initiatives.
Gartner has long tracked innovation in sales, marketing, and e-commerce technologies, and its reports on enhancing sales processes through technical innovation should be viewed as a great resource for anyone looking to make process improvements in 2013.
If you’ve read the recent Gartner report, “How to Analyze Your Sales Processes on Efficiency versus Effectiveness,” you may be looking for supplemental information to help you dissect the research, and better understand how technology applications play a role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of selling processes.
To help you make better use of the report, as well as prioritize your sales initiatives, here is my take on Gartner’s insights, with a focus on the attention given to configure-price-quote (CPQ) and guided selling.
“How to Analyze Your Sales Processes on Efficiency versus Effectiveness” introduces a useful framework for assessing the potential benefits of various sales technologies that are based on two dimensions—efficiency and effectiveness.
Efficiency involves completing tasks more rapidly while enforcing process integrity and lowering resource burdens. Effectiveness focuses on generating qualitative improvements in selling practices that will lift sales results.
The Gartner paper notes that efficiency-oriented sales processes tend to address more tactical pain points, while investments in sales effectiveness tend to target more strategic concerns, like increasing average deal sizes, and overall sales growth and profitability. Sample key performance indicators are also provided for each sales process identified, broken out by efficiency and effectiveness objectives.
Notably, CPQ and guided selling earned some of the highest rankings for both effectiveness and efficiency in the Gartner report. In fact, CPQ and guided selling stand out in comparison to other categories covered when both dimensions are considered at the same time, while adjacent and complementary processes like proposal generation and sales contract management also scored well for improving sales efficiency.
To address how these tools enable sales efficiency and effectiveness, the piece offers helpful perspective on the kind of closed-loop support that CPQ can provide in sales cycles via configuring product assemblies, applying correct pricing, generating quotes, and converting quotes into valid contracts. The paper also discusses the progression of CPQ technologies—which have advanced beyond supporting traditional field and inside sales users, to enabling selling on partner networks and ecommerce sites.
The struggle for acquiring competitive advantages is mounting. The ability to sell more products more intelligently is critical to many firms. This is where configure-price-quote (CPQ) and guided selling in particular can provide a competitive advantage.
CPQ and guided selling help sales channels identify and articulate different products and value propositions in sales cycles. Such benefits are especially important for business models reliant on considered sales, direct sales, partner management, and e-commerce operations.
Gartner published additional research on how CPQ technologies maximize sales efficiency, effectiveness and better selling experiences. Consider reviewing “Configure, Price and Quote Tools Help Redefine the Sales Experience” (a pay-to-download piece.)
Now I would like to provide additional perspective on how CPQ and guided selling help sales channels sell more intelligently while reducing friction in sales cycles. (That is not a trivial task, mind you.)
In my opinion, there are at least three major advantages that CPQ and guided selling offer to selling organizations:
Firstly, the core configuration software in configure-price-quote (CPQ) relieves sales people from getting bogged down in the minutiae of product data (variations of bundles, assemblies, subassemblies, options and accessories.) The configuration functionality of guided selling and CPQ acts as a big data application, establishing the constraints, rules and patterns that enable sales people and others to rapidly search and filter through vast, complex product catalogues and identify the best items for the right transactions.
When you invest in CPQ or guided selling, the heavy lifting of modeling product portfolios and developing constraints is done upfront, which enables end-users to easily navigate even the largest product catalogues without technological “know-how.”
With knowledge bases of prescribed sales practices and content organized around active configuration rules, best practices can easily be disseminated across all of your sales channels. Essentially, this means that sales excellence within an organization can be institutionalized, and conveyed to elevate sales skills with needs identification, responsiveness, persuasiveness and objection handling.
Guided selling in particular moves the dial with gains in sales efficiency and effectiveness, by orchestrating interfaces, workflows and content, and visualizations to shepherd users through sales processes. Combined with configure-price-quote (CPQ), sales users are empowered with collective knowledge on handling different buying behaviors and sales cycle events.
Finally, with tight integration between configuration, pricing and quoting functionality, generating pricing and defensible quotations is a seamless process. Content and details can be compiled and revised at each step in sales cycles with dramatically greater ease and efficiency, so sales teams produce consistently higher quality quotes with more favorable pricing.
Similarly, integration can be extended further to adjacent functions like proposal generation, contract management and order management. Duplication of work in managing different deliverables for clients can be eliminated by sharing content between systems. As a result, many pre-close activities (generating contracts or submitting orders) can be streamlined, enabling sales people to move on to other deals more quickly.
With impressive advances in usability and Web access, the above capabilities are applicable to indirect channels too, and can guide casual, episodic users in self-service environments of partner and e-commerce sites. Buying processes can be modeled and automated with constraints, workflows and content to radically reduce or eliminate confusion and errors. For partners, superior product catalogue navigation, product content and visualization, pricing transparency, and integration with home pages make selling third party products substantially easier.
In summary, configure-price-quote (CPQ) and guided selling are coming of age as invaluable resources for helping sales execute key fundamental responsibilities better. Capabilities are rapidly maturing, and becoming more accessible to sales people for developing and closing business. Meanwhile, firms gain from institutionalizing best practices and automating processes that help sales channels scale and compete more effectively.
You may now be asking, “how do I put the Gartner research and perspective provided here into practice?” I would like to suggest some immediate actions you can take to increase your firm’s sales efficiency and effectiveness in 2013.
Consider the following recommendations for tackling annual planning for sales:
For qualifying the need for investments in CPQ and guided selling, keep the following in mind:
For active, formal efforts to pursue configure-price-quote (CPQ) and guided selling capabilities:
Better planning on behalf of sales is becoming more important as every year of economic uncertainty passes. Configure-price-quote (CPQ) and guided selling will prove very attractive to enterprises seeking to raise sales efficiency and effectiveness, especially for those providing configurable products in business-to-business commercial relationships.
For enterprises that market assemble, build, and configure-to-order goods, CPQ and guided selling should be viewed as priority investments for acquiring convincing business advantages with direct sales, partner channels and even e-commerce operations.
This guide was co-authored by Selectica and Michael Dunne, Senior Vice President of Creative Executions. Michael brings to his clients extensive experience in advising executive teams of leading organizations worldwide on business innovation and development strategies. He was an industry analyst for over 16 years, and a longstanding observer of the sales configuration, CPQ and pricing analytics software markets. Creative Executions is an advocacy, communications, consulting and content generation firm based in Southport, Connecticut, that helps organizations more successfully navigate increasingly entwined regulatory, integrated media, business and financial environments.<< Back to resources