Admins / CPQ

Salesforce Products and Pricebooks vs. Salesforce CPQ

By Yelena Slobard

Products and Pricebooks vs. CPQ – what’s the difference? Which one does my sales team need?

These are questions I have heard a lot since Salesforce purchased Steelbrick CPQ at the end of 2015. This post will clear up the main differences between them, and hopefully, give you a better idea of which one you need.

At a high level, Salesforce standard Products and Pricebooks come natively with Salesforce and require no extra purchase. Salesforce CPQ (previously Steelbrick), on the other hand, is a purchasable add-on, that is installed as a package to be used either with Sales or Service Cloud.

What are Products and Pricebooks?

Products and Pricebooks allow you to create a set of Products in the system with some attributes, like Family and Description built-in. To utilize the Products, you set up a Pricebook and add Pricebook Entries for each Product. This is referred to as the Standard Pricebook.


Pricebook Entry

Once the setup is complete, on an Opportunity, users can add Products to the Opportunity, which then generates the Amount of the Opportunity based on the Prices of those Products. These records exist as an object called Opportunity Products, which is kind of a junction object* between Opportunity and Pricebook Entries (note: not the Product).

*although not entirely a junction object – see this crazy diagram for reference.

Opportunity Product Related List on the Opportunity

And that’s it! Simple, and not a lot of frills come with the native functionality for Products and Pricebooks.

Now let’s talk about CPQ.

What is Salesforce CPQ?

Salesforce CPQ does use the same Product, Pricebook, and Pricebook Entries objects, as well as, the Opportunity Product object, but then it goes way beyond that in its capability – with 66 custom objects, its own set of fields, configurable settings, and logic.

The first feature to highlight is the Calculator Engine, otherwise called Quote Line Editor, or QLE for short. The QLE is the place where users are taken to select Products, provide discounts, and do any other modifications you might need to do to products. Unlike Standard Products where users just select the Products and then move on, CPQ provides a whole system for picking Products, customizing them, and then generating an Output document at the end.

Quote Line Editor – products already selected:

Supporting the QLE are two functions that help the user for both selecting the products and for deriving the price, these are:

  • Product Rules
  • Price Rules

These rules provide many functionalities, so much so, I have a 15-page guide on Salesforce CPQ you can find here.

Sample Product Rule

After the user has completed working through the QLE, they then work off the Quote record, which has Quote Lines for each product selected.


Quote Lines

At this point, the user can generate an Output document with a click of a button that will pull the data automatically from what the user has selected. By default, Salesforce CPQ provides some functionality out of the box for the Output document, however, there are about 10 objects that make up the document, which gives you quite a bit of flexibility in what you can achieve with additional configuration. Again, I am going to reference my guide as there is too much detail to go into here!


Overall, I think that you can see that Salesforce CPQ is a ‘quote-to-cash’ beast that lives on top of the original native objects and processes. Depending on your business needs, scalability requirements, and pricing & output requirements, you can make the choice of whether to purchase Salesforce CPQ or to stick with the native functionality.

The Author

Yelena Slobard

A US-based Salesforce Geek and owner of sf9to5


    Ian Gotts
    September 09, 2019 5:58 pm
    There are some (BAD / not recommended) alternatives that have been posted on Confession #61: 3 custom Product objects with duplicated fields and no documentation… Confession #69: Product object, 250+ quantity and 250+ price fields. But needed to write some Apex to query the record. CPQ on one record.Confession #74: 40 lookup fields on the Product object. Confession #119: We have 2 Product objects and nobody knows what the differences are. Confession #143: Customer sold 10 products. They put a checkbox on the Account record for each product and company. Every time they sold to a new company – they added those 10 checkboxes to the Account record for the new company. We got the call when they reached their 500th field on the Account record.
    September 10, 2019 6:23 am
    I think you may be missing a hyperlink in the statement, "*although not entirely a junction object – see this crazy diagram for reference."
    May 05, 2020 4:52 pm
    Thanks for a useful summary, Yelena. Standard Products & Pricebooks and CPQ seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum from (almost) too simple to (almost) too complex! There's certainly lots you can do with standard products and pricebooks but need to be a bit of a whizz with workflows and/or flows to move data around. Having implemented many different product/pricebook permutations I started building an app to cover off some common, reproducible and simple pricing strategies but using standard products and pricebooks (no custom product or line item objects!). It just saved time having to perform similar steps over and again. A few years and that app is now on AppExchange and if you - or any of your readers would like to give it a try... feel free to do so - I'd love to hear your thoughts and indeed those of others. One of the biggest challenges that I see in Salesforce is that as the platform relentlessly grows... it seems to introduce increasing complexity. Sometimes it's good to focus on the main steps to profitable selling and seeing whether most of your sales can be made through either standard salesforce or a simple app. We often use Pareto's Rule (80:20) to help businesses decide whether the time, effort and money is worth the return for complexity. Thanks again for the insightful post.
    Dev Ramesh
    October 07, 2020 7:12 pm
    Hi Ben, Thanks for briefing about CPQ product in short. Could you please explain me why CPQ(Steelbrick) has not chosen Salesforce standard object "Quote", but instead it uses custom object "SBQQ__Quote__c" ?
    Gina Kalamaris
    October 19, 2021 9:52 pm
    Hi Ben, Have you ever seen products configured in a way where they're priced per pound but sold at a unit price NOT on CPQ? For example, it I were to select an opportunity product from an opportunity, I'd be able to change the price per pound so that the unit price (let's say I want to sell a 10lb case of product that is $15 p/lb) it would do the math automatically? Right now I can only change the unit price and I don't know where I can add a per pound price.
    April 25, 2022 4:13 pm
    They don't use Quote because this allows Products and Price books to be used without CPQ.

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