What is a CPQ process?

Definition

CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote. The CPQ process includes selecting components (configure), handling prices and discounts (price) and generating various documentation (quote, technical specifications, 2D- and 3D-drawings).

The CPQ process has a long history with manufactures of complex products, but with the introduction of SaaS (software as a service) the market is currently expanding into service offerings and less complex products.

The CPQ process

- supports a simple way to select valid product combinations with respect to product rules and limitations

- prices the product according to bundling and discounts (manual or automatic)

- creates an accurate and persuasive quote documents based on configuration and pricing information information

CPQ software connects front and back end systems and automates the lead-to-cash process.

What is a CPQ process?

What’s normally included in the CPQ process? Is it all automated and in what way is it adoptable and flexible?

Configure (the C in the CPQ process)

The overall problem is that complex products often have limitations in the way a product can be configured. This can be physical limitations how options can be combined. It’s also very common that there are sales/marketing reasons for limiting availability of certain product combinations. 

A modern CPQ process simplifies the interaction by asking high-level questions about requirements. This is often referred to as guided selling.

The magic bullet when it comes to the CPQ process is the ease of maintenance. The time it takes to do updates as the product portfolio evolves is the real differentiator between a “good” and a “not so good” CPQ process.

Price (the P in CPQ process)

The pricing can, if you let it, be just as complex as the product itself. Manufacturing costs, geographies, competitive situation, and local protocols all comes into play with a clever pricing strategy.

More and more companies are currently moving to a more value-based pricing. What value does your superior product offer deliver to a specific customer? This requires some heavy lifting when it comes to analysis but once that’s in place the CPQ process can really leverage the bottom-line profit and still keep customers loyal to your brand.

Price adjustments is also an important part of the pricing step in the CPQ process. This can be set up to be automatic but should also offer flexibility and advice for sales tactics.

Quote (the Q in the CPQ process)

Once the product is configured and prices correctly, respecting both product limitations and pricing rules, the result is presented in one or more documents. These documents describe the product and is often personalized to resonate with various stakeholders it should be presented to.

The documents generated in the CPQ process describe the product an includes texts, illustrations, data sheets and sometimes drawings, all customized for each offer generated. 

The level of details can be personalized, and document generation should be fully automated.

What is CPQ?

Definition

CPQ is an acronym for Configure, Price, Quote. CPQ is used to describe the process of selecting components (configure), handling pricing (price) and generating documentation (quote). CPQ software is primarily used for complex products, services or a combination of the two.

CPQ solutions
  • supports a simple way to select valid product combinations with respect to product rules and limitations
  • price the product correctly according to bundling and discounts
  • creates an accurate and persuasive quote based on this information
CPQ software connects front and back end systems and automates the lead-to-cash process.

What is a CPQ process?

What’s included in a CPQ process? Is it all automated and in what way is it adoptable and flexible?

Configure: All complex products have limitations to how modules or sub-components can be combined. The user normally specifies key features and main products, a configurator handles all limitations and itty-bitty details.

Price: Manufacturing costs, geographies, competitive situation, and local protocols - the pricing can be just as complex as the product itself. The price adjustments should both be automatic but also offer flexibility and advice for sales tactics.

Quote: Documents describing a complex product includes texts, illustrations, data sheets, drawings. All specific for each offer generated. The level of details should be flexible and document generation should be fully automated.

8 secrets for a successful CPQ project

1. Focus on solving concrete problems 

Always start with a concrete product and set a goal to get the product live in a production environment. With today's SaaS-CPQ-solutions, efficient product modeling/pricing tools and a straightforward system configuration, it is not at all impossible to launch a first product within a month or two.

2. Be aware of the limitations of CPQ

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their knowledge in a specific field is greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.

When you try to launch a CPQ-system, it is easy to fall into this trap. To describe the logic that limits how the product can and may be sold in a general way is somewhat cumbersome. Here it is important to understand what you need to understand before you start with product logic. Then the way to a working CPQ will be as straight as it can now be.

3. Listen to everyone involved – and to the customers

For some, external assistance may be required to ensure that the CPQ system provides useful results. Ideally, if you kick-start a project with a whiteboard meeting where all the key people involved spend an afternoon figuring out details and documenting the requirements you have.

4. Take on industry expertise

More and more companies have begun to realize that CPQ is not a miracle cure in itself. Many companies that start working with CPQ assume that "we have a lot of product data – plug in a CPQ and let it tell us something interesting".
Here we see that we as consultants have an important role to play in moderating, questioning and provide industry best practices.

5. Realize the value of tests in reality

By making a rapid first version of your CPQ-system you’ll get a quick take part in multicultural, multilingual and even intergenerational insights and learn from them. By going live quickly and exposing the CPQs ability of the organization, you can quickly make customizations that make the system several hundred percent better.

6. Be aware of the "black box-problem"

Trust is another subject that CPQ is forced to face when it comes out in reality – something that is known as the black box problem. How can this be overcome? An important part is not to complicate things more than that they can be explained.
Often it is domino effects in product logic/price models that gives weird (but accurate) effects. Here it is important to be well prepared to explain and describe the logic in an educational way.

7. Establish clear measurements

Having clear operational measures for your CPQ-project is important to prove that it works – and deserves continued support. But many companies do not give this aspect sufficient attention in their CPQ projects.
This is a problem with emerging new technologies such as CPQ. The result is likely to be CPQ projects that are bridges to nowhere, pilots that are not scaled up and projects without any business value. Therefore, we do not make pilots. We make sure to go directly to production and in this way are the goals we set up linked to the company sales. It makes it very easy to judge what works and not.

8. Look inward

Where do you find people who can both understand CPQ and the requirements from the business? It is not an easy task. There is a clear lack of CPQ skills.
One often overlooked method to bring down skills shortages is to look internally to find people who can take CPQ trainings. This way you can work so that there are people who have both CPQ and industry expertise. This is a very important part of our deliveries. We see no long-term benefit of the system if it cannot be managed internally. Our role should only be consultative once we have released the first product.

Top 10 reasons why CPQ projects fail

The CPQ does not have backing from senior management

The CPQ process is spread all over the enterprise and touches many groups including sales, IT, engineering, marketing and order management. The planning and development of a CPQ solution must involve all of these organizations and must address the requirements of each group.

CPQ is a knowledge-based tool, and it's never better than the actual knowledge and data in the tool. Usually the product expert or senior sales rep who is too busy working with deals, is the person most needed for this type of project.

Backing from senior management is essential, to allow for prioritization of the implementation of the CPQ over the day-to-day business tasks for all these organizations, including the busy experts.

Scope creep

Scope creep is an uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope after the project has begun. This is very common in CPQ projects as you learn about and define processes that quite often were never documented before. 

This is why it's important to define project objectives early in the project, and refer to them as much as possible when deciding on changes to the project. It's also important to have a defined change control process, with a steering group that has backing from senior management. 

There's no easy solution to scope creep, but being aware of the problem is essential. 

Aiming at 100% of sales done with CPQ

If you ask an engineer working for an elevator company how many floors the elevators can have the most, he might answer 100. However, maybe 95% of the sales have fewer than 10 floors, and all elevators above 20 floors require some engineer-to-order? So, does it really make sense to allow for 100 floors in the configurator?

We recommend aiming at 80-95% of the configurations done automatically by the CPQ software, and allowing for some manual work for the rest. The reason is that there is typically an 80-20 rule in regards to implementation, where the last 20% of the configuration complexity will take 80% of the implementation time of the tool.

It is much better to focus on 80% of the sales initially in the project, and to make sure there is a ready process for the other 20% of the sales. If the project is a success, why not aim higher in the next phase of the project?

Bad data quality

A good sales configurator will use your product data existing in current systems. But how good is the quality of that data today? Do you have an organization in which all knowledge is stored in people’s heads and documentation is missing? As stated above, the output from the configurator will never be better than the input, which means you need to make an inventory of your product data and documentation.

You might need to structure and systemize your product data before selecting or implementing sales configuration software. If you don’t, the implementation will probably take much longer than expected, and changes of the tool will be done multiple times back and forth before being able to release.

Too few or too many integrations

Implementing integrations take time, whatever the IT-guy will tell you. Even a standard integration may require some adaptation because the software you are already using and want to integrate to is probably customized. Adding integrations to all your surrounding tools will add up to a hefty budget, and with some delays added, your project might get stopped before it is released.

Hence it is important to prioritize integrations, and to allow for manual integration in the early phases of the project. Do your prices reside in ERP? Are they only changed every 6 months? Can you export them to Excel initially, to get the project going? If you can get a manual integration to work, try to push the implementation work to the future.

However, from a similar perspective pushing integrations to the future which require a large amount of manual work is also a bad idea. The manual work will cost money and may cause update errors.
When selecting a vendor, make sure they have standard integrations to the essential systems you need to integrate to. Focus only on crucial integrations in the early phases to allow for a quick return on investment. Add the additional integrations in later phases, and do separate ROI calculations for the specific integrations.

The configurator cannot solve the configuration problem

Configuration is a complex subject. To put things into perspective; the number of atoms in the universe is estimated to be 10^80. A configurable product with 100 choices, and 10 alternatives for each choice has 10^100 combinations.

It is important to select a configurator that is able to solve complex configuration problems, an incorrect selection of sales configurator may lead to being force to simplify the configuration problem too much and hence giving incorrect configurations or prices to the sales person.

Too much focus on tangible products

A typical product does not only consist of hardware, but also other intangible products. It’s not uncommon for companies to have higher margins on services, spares and extended warranties. These products should not be forgotten when implementing the configurator – because without these the configurator is not complete. And if the configurator is not complete, the deals will either be missing these high margin products, or the sales will simply not use the CPQ due to the missing products.

The CPQ isn’t easy to use

If the solution is difficult to use or just slow – it will fail because no one will use it.

Your solution should simplify a complex process, not replace one complex process with another. There are often tradeoffs in functionality when simplicity is the primary goal. Make sure your CPQ is achieving a good balance between these two elements.

The CPQ doesn’t focus on the key users

CPQ projects tend to be initiated by all other departments at companies except sales, because sales are too busy working on quotes for customers. Hence the key tasks of the tool often misunderstood and not implemented properly.

The most important task of a CPQ is to help the sales person create a correct, competitive and valid quote quickly – and what that means exactly is different for different companies.
Makes sure key people from the sales department are involved in the selection and development process to insure that their requirements are covered.

No focus on data maintenance

In most configurable products, the master data changes continuously. New options are added and old ones disappear, new suppliers emerge, prices change, etc. Often, these changes are made on a daily or weekly basis. Typically, these changes are managed in ERP or PLM systems by people not involved in the CPQ maintenance.

It's vital that master data maintenance requires minimal amount of changes in the CPQ software. It is also equally important that an organization is set up to be responsible for the maintenance of the software, because with even a minimal amount of maintenance it still needs to be tested and validated.

Top 4 reasons why manufacturers choose a CPQ solution

What criteria can you use to determine if your company needs a CPQ solution? How can you tell when it’s time to invest in CPQ software?

I wouldn’t set out specific criteria as much as offer four reasons that I think will help you sort out an answer.

This is what we hear over and over again from clients and potential customers.

Spend more time selling

Is there a feeling that not enough selling is being done by your team? If so, this deserves your immediate attention.

Sales people are expensive and their primary role is to engage with customers and prospects. This is how your organization generates revenue.

Preparing quotations and proposal documentation is still a major tasks in many sales organizations. If this can be reduced there will be more time for actual selling. This is the first reason to invest in a CPQ solution.

Better proposals

A good quote delivers a vibrant, crisp and compelling proposals that distinguish you from the competition. A superior quote will persuade your customer and win more business.

Developing best practice for quotes, RFP documents and other sales documentation enables your team to increase the overall quality of the delivered proposals.

A better proposal will tell the customer that you will fulfill their needs and deliver what the customer wants. A better proposal that will provide important benefits and clearly describe the delivered value. A better proposal that validate that you have the right qualifications to fulfill the customer needs.

The proposal should send the message why your company better than anyone else can deliver the optimal solution with the highest value. This is the second reason to invest in a CPQ solution.

Get the price right

Working with complex products is somewhat problematic. To get the price right is a challenge and it makes a big difference when it comes to bottom line earnings.

The first problem: One option often requires another option. Forgetting that other option in a quote can be will severely reduce the profit. But to keep track of all options and exception is a difficult task that requires up-to-date knowledge.

The second problem: When multiple products are combined there is normally a reduction in price that only applies under certain conditions. To work with packages is an efficient way to expand the offering, but it also requires that up-to-date knowledge.

The third problem: In a changing world pricelists need to adopt fast. What was previously done on a yearly basis is nowadays more likely to be day-to-day updates. To be able to adopt to changing circumstances also requires that up-to-date knowledge.

The third reason to invest in a CPQ solution is the fact that up-to-date knowledge should be part of the CPQ package.

First to respond

When a customer asks for a quotation or proposal it’s unlikely the request is sent only to your company. The most likely scenario is that the same questions and requirements will be sent to up to a dozen competitors.

Companies with an implemented CPQ solutions reports that speed makes a difference when it comes to closing more deals. A rapid respond really makes a difference.

Being the first to respond will in itself not guarantee better business. But in combination with more time selling, better proposals and correct pricing it definitely makes a difference. That’s why it’s the forth reason to invest in a CPQ solution.

Five common pricing mistakes a CPQ solution will address

Pricing is difficult and also very sensitive. Changes in pricing is one of the most effective way to level overall profit.

This list of pricing mistakes can be used to build a good business case for a CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) investment.

Weak controls on discounting

It’s not uncommon that sales representatives are given a lot of freedom when it comes to negotiating the price. This means what the profit per deal is very dependent on the person executing the sales.

Discounts are often given without a controlled won/loss analysis and are more based on gut feeling. This means that prices will vary very randomly.

Without analysis and a proper approval process these issues will not go away. This is something a CPQ solution will address.

Inadequate systems for tracking competitor selling prices and market share

It’s difficult to understand the completion and most companies don’t put any effort into analyzing the lost deals.

With a CPQ solution it’s possible to benchmark the won and lost deals in a very structured way. It’s possible to find what key features of the product that correlates with won deals and also what features that are typical for lost deals.

Cost-plus pricing

Cost plus pricing is still very common in the manufacturing industry. The problem with this approach is that it assumes that the customer value is dependent on the production cost. Everybody knows that this is not the case.

A CPQ solution can price on factors that are actually valued by the customer and at the same time ensure that margin.

Price increases poorly executed

There is a problem when price increases can’t be motivated. If we’re not providing any new customer value, why should I pay a higher price?

It’s essential to plan ahead and do price increases as your product improves. If your new engine will cut fuel consumption there is no problem to pay a higher price.

That’s why price increase should be coordinated with product development. This means that timing is essential. Do the math and plan ahead. This is a process that a CPQ solution should support.

Worldwide price inconsistencies

In a global market it’s no longer possible to have inconsistent pricing.

By introducing a central storage for local price it’s possible to understand and correct price inconsistencies. A CPQ solution normally connects the global and the local prices. This means that a CPQ solution introduces the possibility to have governance for local pricing.

How CPQ analytics can improve product development

One interesting aspect of an implemented CPQ solution is the possibility to analyze sales in a new way.

Traditional sales statistics answers the question what has been sold. This is somewhat interesting but normally it doesn’t bring very much new insight to the table.

With clever BI-tools (like Tableau or QlikView) it’s possible to slice the data in a way that will give you a better understanding on what’s tending and who is really doing profitable sales. But this still doesn’t answer the big question… With ordinary sales statistics one can tell WHAT is selling, but it doesn’t answer the question WHY?

A CPQ solution makes it possible to keep track of all quotations. This opens up for analysis where one can compare successful quotes with the less successful. This type of analysis will give concrete measures on what products that has been offered and make it possible to compare it what has actually been sold.

The analysis gives the possibility to reduce the product portfolio based on what has been part of actual quotations and if it has been sold. This gives a rating per sub-component whether a certain product is providing adequate value on the market.

The analysis also answers the question where there is possibility for new business. By understanding the type of deals that are refused by customers gives great input for product development.

This video (found on the Tacton Youtube-channel) introduces the concept of CPQ analysis.

CPQ - Configure, price, quote software

This webpage is about quote and proposal software, quote proposal software, price quote software, quote software, quoting software, quote generator software, product configurator, configurator product, product configurator ecommerce, product configuration, what is product configuration, b2b e commerce web, b2b e commerce solutions, b2b e commerce company, b2b e commerce sales, b2b in e commerce, e commerce b2b, what is b2b e commerce, b2b e commerce, web sales software, sales software, b2b sales software, software product sales, sales quoting software, product quoting software, sales quote software, quote generation software, sales quotes software, web quoting software, product configurator software, what is crm on demand, big machines reviews, big machine software, big machines support, big machine cpq, cpq configure price quote, oracle cpq

CPQ analytics

Understanding the principal drivers for successful sales is essential when developing new products for a fast changing competitive market. This extends the understanding of important key differentiators and the effects by geography and segment.

Using big data from your CPQ solution unlocks analysis capabilities for data exploration. This enables analysis to understand customer segments, pricing and key business drivers. In the end the CPQ data can drive a more optimized and targeted product offering.

What’s really interesting is to see the link between customer need, product selection and likeliness to win the deal. This is the core idea of CPQ analytic, that the logs from the CPQ solution contains underlying cause for successful selling.

To analyze the perceived value there must be a link between three main components:

• What's in the product portfolio?

• What products offerings wins business?

• What value does the solutions deliver?

If you want to know more about CPQ analytics, stay tuned.

How diverse products can ruin your business

Yesterday I talked to a dear friend who is also a web shop owner. She sells STEM-education kits to Swedish parents and sometimes to Swedish schools. If you didn’t hear the term STEM before it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These skills are most likely good to know in the future.

In kids-electornics we have two big-sellers” she told me. “One small kit retailing around $60 and a bigger kit retailing at around $130.

Then we have some other similar kits in the range from $80-$100. You basically get what you pay for, the more expensive the more STEM-experiments you can do.

There’s basically only market demand for the big-sellers and therefore she decided to lower the price on the mid-range products to reduce stock. This is when something strange happened…

The surprise

Instead of an increase in sales (when prices were cut) there was an overall reduction in sales.
After some analysis there was one obvious but maybe not intuitive conclusion.

When prices of the mid-range kits came to close to the small kit (with the discount there was only a 10 % difference) it became more difficult to decide what to buy. And when it becomes difficult to decide there will be no sales.

What can we learn?

When deciding how to price make sure that it’s easy to differentiate products. Remember that price is a very important factor in making this decision. By keeping a clear separation of prices you help your customer to decide what to buy, and thereby speed up the purchase processes significantly.

Prices don’t need to be logical, just make sure they help the customer decide how to pick and choose your various options. It's equally important, no matter if you run a web shop or if you're responsible for a CPQ-system.

As a "pricing officer" you need to do quick changes and sometimes quick adjustments. Don't forget that the correct prices will help you both to sell and earn some money while doing so.