Table of Contents
What is a CPQ Strategy?
A CPQ (configure, price, quote) strategy is a comprehensive approach companies with complex product configurations, variable pricing, and bespoke customer requirements take to streamline and optimize the sales process. It revolves around using CPQ software to facilitate efficient quoting for their products and services.
Your CPQ strategy covers how you’ll accomplish the following goals:
- Consistent pricing and discount control
- Simplification for complex products
- Price optimization
- Localized and variable pricing strategies
- Automated product configuration
- Sales document generation
- Integration with sales, product, and finance tools
- Guided selling and upselling opportunities
- Product library management
- Sales and financial reporting
- Sales cycle optimization
Quote-to-cash efficiency is the ultimate goal of your CPQ strategy. You’re essentially saying, “How can we eliminate the roadblocks that prevent us from closing deals in a timely and profitable manner?” By focusing on the processes involving CPQ software (which accounts for most of your customer-facing sales touchpoints), you’ll ultimately improve sales efficiency over time.
- Configure, price, quote strategy
- CPQ process strategy
- CPQ plan
Benefits of a Comprehensive CPQ Strategy
For businesses dealing with complex products and services, a CPQ strategy is hardly even an option anymore. Today’s customers want more personalization than ever — a recent study carried out by Adobe and Forrester found that two-thirds (66%) of B2B buyers expect the sale level of personalization in their professional lives as their personal ones.
In this way, CPQ software can deliver benefits like:
Higher Quote Accuracy
Having a CPQ strategy in place means you’re able to maintain and manage all your product and pricing information in one system. It also means you’ll be able to generate sales documents like proposals, contracts, POs, invoices, and BOMs automatically as opposed to inputting the customer’s information over and over again.
CRM integration takes this a step further. Every time sales reps create a quote, CRM auto-populates it with the customer’s information. Then, it updates its own database under its profile and makes changes to the sales pipeline, adds notes, and creates action items based on the next sales activities.
All these things contribute to ensuring your sales reps never have to worry about accurate pricing again.
Increased Sales Velocity and Time to Market
The ability to generate accurate quotes in a matter of minutes contributes to sales velocity directly. But there are other ways your CPQ strategy can help you decrease the time it takes to sell your products.
Guided selling and product rules are two of the most critical. By creating configuration, bundling, and pricing parameters for everything in your product catalog, you’re ensuring your sales reps only quote customers for products that are (a) possible to execute and (b) feasible for your business.
For anything out of the ordinary (say, a one-time discount for a high-value lead or custom software development for an enterprise SaaS client), automated approval workflows escalate it to the right leaders.
Part of your CPQ strategy is giving the software access to your product library so you can build these automations and streamline your internal sales processes.
Better Buying Experience for Customers
The customer experience is as important as it’s ever been. It’s also changing — Gartner reports that 75% of B2B buyers say they prefer a rep-free experience.
Although this isn’t always possible (especially when dealing with highly configurable products), we can interpret this as, “what buyers really want is less friction, and talking to sales reps adds friction to the buying process.”
By implementing a CPQ strategy, you’re eliminating all the friction clerical work causes (think: two days extra lead time just because someone working a deal took PTO). It also enables you to personalize the experience more, and sell them products they’ll genuinely find value in.
Steps to Implement Your CPQ Strategy
1. Evaluate your current quoting process.
It’s important to remember CPQ software is an enabler for sales efficiency, not the agent driving it. Software is only as useful as the processes driving it, so the competency of your team and effectiveness of the manual processes working behind the software will determine how successful CPQ is in your business.
That’s why you have to audit your current quoting process.
- Start with sales team feedback. What are the most significant challenges in their workflow? Do customers complain to them about the procurement process?
- Then, move on to sales KPIs like lead velocity and conversion rates (per customer segment) to identify areas of improvement.
- Take customer feedback into consideration. If plenty of customers mention friction in the sales process, take note of where and how often.
If you already use a quoting tool, whether it’s Excel or an advanced CPQ software, look into how that platform currently fits into your workflow and whether there are opportunities to improve it. Depending on what you find, you may either invest in a new CPQ software or change your strategy to get the most out of your current one.
2. Define the objectives of your CPQ process.
Based on what you find in your evaluation, create a set of focal points you want to improve upon. These are typically the KPIs that are lagging, and addressing them will increase your sales efficiency the most.
Here are a few common objectives to consider (in no particular order):
- Decrease quote delivery time
- Increase accuracy of quotes and orders
- Improve the quality of documents sent to prospects
- Streamline approval processes
- Increase win rates
What’s great about objectives like these is they’re measurable. After implementing CPQ and executing your strategy, you can revisit these metrics and see how you’ve improved them.
3. Determine what you need CPQ to do.
If, after evaluating your current quoting process, you’ve found your current solution doesn’t accomplish what you need it to as far as quote-to-cash efficiency is concerned, you need to hunt for something new.
There are tons of different CPQ solutions out there, so you’ll need to narrow it down based on what your business needs throughout configuration, pricing, and quoting processes.
- Engineer-to-order product vendors (e.g., a medical equipment manufacturer) will need CAD-enabled 3D product configuration and supply chain integration.
- A B2B SaaS company requires subscription management and recurring billing functionality to manage tiered and usage-based subscription billing.
- Professional services firms need AI-powered profitability calculators to understand the feasibility of different client projects.
All these things require a completely different approach to CPQ. Before beginning your search, narrow down your search to only the solutions that could fit into your current workflow.
4. Choose a CPQ solution based on your needs.
Since you’ve narrowed down your options, the procurement process will be a little bit easier. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Your number-one goal should be to find a solution that offers all the features you need, and very few you dont. You want to avoid overpaying and underutilizing the software. Otherwise, you’ll see a lower ROI and risk low user adoption rates.
Other critical considerations when choosing a CPQ solution include integration capabilities (with your current tech stack), user-friendliness, and scalability. It’s also important to consider the level of support and training your vendor provides.
5. Implement your CPQ solution.
The amount of time it takes to implement CPQ depends on a few things:
- The intricacy of your current technology infrastructure
- How much data you have to import to the system
- Whether you’re using a low-code or custom-built tool
- The extent of customization you want to do
Generally, enterprise businesses can expect to spend several months migrating all their product, pricing, and sales data over to the new system. A business with high degrees of product complexity, a lot of product options, or a myriad of bundles and rules-based contingencies will typically have a longer implementation time.
For a smaller company using a low-code tool, implementation normally takes a month or less.
6. Integrate CPQ with CRM, ERP, and billing.
Integrations are a crucial part of the implementation process because they determine how data is shared across your company.
- CRM integration centralizes all your customer and sales data, so every quote is accurate and your sales team doesn’t have to do any clerical work.
- ERP integration ensures your team has the most up-to-date product information when creating quotes. It also keeps your financial data accurate and makes order fulfillment easier.
- Billing integration streamlines invoicing and revenue recognition processes. If you’re a recurring revenue business, it also handles subscription management.
Integrations are how you build automation into your operational processes. Since all these tools contribute to the bigger picture as far as the CPQ process is concerned, you need them to be seamlessly connected.
7. Configure product and pricing rules.
Product and pricing rules tell your platform everything it needs to know about the constraints of your offerings. Consider the following:
- Pricing models
- Configuration capabilities
- Add-ons and common customization options
- Price localization
- Discounts and special offers
- Scenarios that always require approval
Depending on how many product options you have, you may have a few dozen rules or a few thousand. Be through here — if you miss anything, your team members’ ability to generate accurate quotes dramatically reduces.
During steps #6 and #7, run dozens of different sales scenarios to ensure your systems transfer information accurately and your CPQ only displays accurate product configurations.
8. Onboard users to the CPQ platform.
After data migration and admin setup are complete, you can start the onboarding process. Assuming you’ve tested the product for issues on end users (and brought a few on board for the procurement process), many of them should be somewhat familiar with your new system.
During the rollout, you’ll want to monitor user adoption rates and train your team on how to use the tool effectively. Gather feedback from users, document any issues they encounter, and address them as quickly as possible.
9. Integrate CPQ into your sales workflow.
Post-onboarding, your sales team will eventually reach autonomy. To get them there faster (and to fully integrate CPQ into the sales process), it helps to implement a sales playbook.
Within CPQ, you can create one based on your operational and manually-guided processes, and have CPQ do the rest of the work for you. Then, you can use standard templates and merge fields that are associated with individual opportunities to accelerate the sales cycle.
10. Measure sales performance over time.
Using the KPIs and objectives you’ve mapped out in step #2, monitor the performance of your sales motion over time. If your CPQ strategy is working as it should, you’re practically guaranteed to see a shorter sales cycle, higher win rates, and increased overall revenue.
If you notice any dip in performance or failure to reach your business objectives, it may be necessary to reassess your strategy and make improvements accordingly.
Special Considerations for CPQ Strategy Implementation
Product Data Management
The product catalog is how your CPQ stores info about products, physical or virtual components, and their associated pricing options. It comines its knowledge of your products (i.e., the product data you give it) with your financial/operational data from ERP to calculate prices optimized for profitability, accounting for discounts, taxes, and costs associated with delivery.
Managing a dynamic product catalog can be quite difficult if you aren’t diligent about updating it with new product information. Every time you add or discontinue a product, component, bundle, or offer, update your CPQ as soon as possible to avoid the potential for quoting errors.
Customer Data Management
Although CRM integration takes care of the lion’s share of your customer data management, you still need to monitor its accuracy in your CRM. While CPQ can update CRM about quote-related communications, it’s still up to the sales rep to stay organized when it comes to all their customer interactions.
If your team doesn’t take care to update CRM with other sales activities, improvements in the sales process from your CPQ strategy will be offset by inefficiencies created elsewhere.
Analytics and Reporting
As far as measuring improvements in your sales motion and attributing them to changes to your CPQ strategy goes, you need to track quote-specific KPIs.
- Quote-to-close ratios
- Win/loss rates
- Sales cycle length
- Quote-to-cash length
- Average quote delivery time
- Quote error rate
Looking forward you can improve your sales team’s efficiency using data from your sales tools to create forecasts and trends analyses. This can help you tailor your strategy based on how much growth and buyer demand you can expect in a given period.
Ideally, your sales team can access your quoting tools on their smartphones and tablets. There might not be very many instances where they need to send a quote on the go (mobile apps generally have limited functionality, anyways). But if they need to reference the sales playbook or pull up customer information, it’s important they can do that at any time.
Training and Support
Targeted ongoing sales training will help your reps continue to get the most out of your CPQ solution. During deal reviews and sales QBRs, collaborate with sales reps and account executives use the CPQ to accelerate the deals they’re currently working. And reflect on how they could have been more efficient with it in past deals.
Whether your systems and processes can evolve with your company is the most important consideration, no matter the size and rigidity of your current infrastructure.
If you’re a small business, you’ll obviously wind up changing your sales strategy as you target new areas of the market, grow your team, and add new products. Without a highly scalable CPQ solution you’ll find yourself starting this process over again as soon as your current software can no longer handle your workload.
Even for a large company with standardized processes that go largely unchanged, scalability is an important factor. As you develop, so will the need to accommodate fluctuating sales volumes and new product lines in your CPQ processes.
Key Takeaways on CPQ Strategy Development and Implementation
The main takeaway here is that an effective CPQ strategy accelerates your sales cycle, increases win rates and improves overall revenue. If you’re selling a configurable product or service, it’s the only way you’ll be able to scale your sales operations.
However, it’s not a one-and-done process. Your team needs to constantly assess and adapt the strategy based on data-driven insights and ongoing training.
- Conduct thorough research and planning before implementing CPQ.
- Carefully examine your current processes to understand how a quoting tool fits in.
- Keep product and customer data up-to-date for accurate quoting.
- Use analytics and reporting to track your strategy’s success and prepare for future changes.
- Maximize the effectiveness of your strategy by providing ongoing training and support.
Most importantly, remember that your CPQ solution should be (a) integrated and (b) scalable. If it isn’t both of those things, it’ll create more problems than it solves.
People Also Ask
How do you prepare for a successful CPQ implementation?
To prepare for a successful CPQ implementation, you’ll want to form an implementation team to integrate, test, and deploy it. In addition to sales, this includes finance, product, engineering, legal, and customer success leaders, plus end users.
How does CPQ boost the sales cycle?
CPQ reduces sales cycle time by minimizing the amount of clerical work required to effectively manage quotes. CPQ automates pricing calculations, document generation, and data entry across systems, so your sales reps only have to focus on selling.
Who are the decision-makers in CPQ strategy development?
Key decision-makers in CPQ strategy development include sales managers and executives, finance leaders, product managers, and customer success leaders. However, it’s also important to involve sales and customer success reps, who will be the primary end users and executors of the strategy.