With highly configurable products the variability makes the sales process tricky for both the buyer and the seller. Extreme examples include medical devices or manufacturing equipment. Custom products can’t be visualized, adjustable pricing complicates financial reporting, and complex billing requirements may discourage customers.
No matter how stellar your sales reps are, failing to deliver product information quickly and accurately can cost leads and longtime customers.
The industry hit an abrupt inflection point as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (survey results, provided by McKinsey). While companies have undoubtedly faced hurdles, others have transformed the process by implementing new and innovative digital sales platforms.
In some ways, Salesforce Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) was designed for the remote sales era. CPQ makes the remote B2B sales experience both immediate and immersive.
Here are four types of platforms you can integrate with CPQ that can simplify a complicated process, help sales reps transform leads into ongoing relationships, and provide better visibility for finance teams along the way.
1. Visual Configurators
Visual Configurators allow customers to see products in real-time.
CPQ does the configuration heavy lifting on its own, no custom coding required.
Product visualizations in B2B sales are hard to come by. If there is one, it’s a static, 2D photo that likely doesn’t display all the customer’s configurations.
This limits customer’s trust, especially when the product is a ‘big-ticket’ item.
Even when there are product images involved, they come after months of negotiations, prototyping, and custom configurations. Sales reps are heavily reliant on engineering teams to draw up product models, which takes time. Engineering and product teams could be wasting time on one-off projects.
After discussing pricing and feature requests with a prospective buyer, a salesperson should be able to present a product configuration with custom inputs that’s ready to demo on the spot.
Visual configurator integrations give sales reps more autonomy by turning complicated, customizable customer inputs into realistic visuals and accurate 3D models.
For example, CPQ’s integration with Threekit provides a visual configurator that allows customers to see images and interactive models of made-to-order and configure-to-order products. These visualizations boost their confidence earlier in the customer journey.
2. Augmented Reality
CPQ visual configurator integrations bring dynamic, interactive, and high-quality product visuals in 3D and AR directly to a prospective buyer. It’s as close as digital sellers can get virtually to demoing a product the way they would at a trade show.
However, visual configurators are superior to the old trade show experience because they enable sellers to show custom configurations in real time, in the environment the product will be used in. For instance, a manufacturing device seller could demo a buyer’s product in the context of the warehouse floor it will live on using 3D and AR.
3. Automated Billing
Automated billing sustains customer relationships.
Many sales operations have a disconnect between front and back office when it comes to revenue, and revenue recognition. Sales reps use a CRM like Salesforce to manage customer acquisition, and accountants use an ERP to track revenue. In between, a series of manual processes and legacy systems often result in errors, hours spent on data entry, and delayed approvals .
CPQ & Billing gives Salesforce users built-in pricing approvals, one-click quote generation, and improved transparency with finance. When the customer is ready to talk numbers, the seller has them on hand and ready to go.
Subscription and usage-based pricing retains customers.
Customer retention is just as important as customer acquisition for a company’s bottom line. CPQ’s pricing models can make managing customer renewals smoother for Salesforce users.
The challenge is cataloging billing, and securing renewals. It’s easy for customers to forget to renew on their own, regardless of their satisfaction with the product or service.
CPQ’s add-on billing platform lets users launch products with one-time, subscription, or usage-based pricing options. Sales reps can establish the billing timeline at the time of the sale, and CPQ will automate invoices.
Simplify Reordering or Subscription Processes
The initial sales conversation is only the first step in building a long-term customer relationship. Buyers want the same quality of service they received at the beginning at every following touchpoint.
Why? According to a Salesforce survey, 73 percent of customers are likely to switch brands if a company is unable to provide consistent service levels across channels.
- CPQ’s pricing system helps users track customer lifecycles to stay ahead of contract expirations and reach out to customers proactively.
- With CPQ & Billing, sellers can automate complex billing requirements and electronic payments so that invoices are quick and easy at the customer’s end.
- Automated billing also puts customers’ assets in view in one central place, which eliminates the need to cross-reference platforms in order to take inventory on a single customer.
4. Accounting Platform Integration
Accounting platform integrations inform sales decisions.
In many organizations, finance decision-makers don’t have access to sales metrics, leaving them to act on rough, and likely inaccurate, revenue estimates.
Salesforce partners improve visibility across the organization, and can automate reports on quotes, orders, invoices, and payments. Popular connectors on AppExchange are Accounting Seed, FinancialForce and QuickBooks.
Source: Accounting Seed
These platforms distribute revenue transactions over financial periods, which makes revenue recognition a lot easier. Salesforce users can also pass order information and quote details directly to back-office finance leaders.
In the past, limited software resources were available to support sales reps with product quoting and configuration, which prevented them from accurately reporting to finance teams. That slowed down the sales process and ultimately limited their revenue streams (and growth).
Customers expect the “Amazon effect” even in industries with complex products, such as manufacturing or healthcare. They’ll turn to vendors who can offer accurate product visuals, immediate quoting, and simplified billing systems.