The Future of Sales: Part 2

July 10, 2018

There are over 700 companies that comprise the current technology stack sellers use. I have enough trouble deciding what to watch on Netflix for movie night, while knowing my choice ultimately doesn’t constrain or define me (Netflix will still be there). How can companies choose how they empower the engine of their business, given hundreds of options?

With Salesforce as your CRM, augmenting the core platform with additional tools and capabilities from the Salesforce ecosystem drives greater ROI for an existing investment, and drives user adoption since your sales team already knows the platform. 

At Bluewolf, we see Quote-to-Cash technology as a must-have for Salesforce customers, and an ideal “Phase 2” for Salesforce Sales Cloud initiatives. As part of our Future of Sales Interview Series, I sat down with Raymond Juarez, VP of our Quote-to-Cash practice, to discuss why CPQ (Configure Price Quote) stands out from those 700 tools, and is critical for sales organizations.

What is your role at Bluewolf?

I’m part of the Salesforce Platforms team and responsible for our Quote-to-Cash go-to-market strategy. My primary responsibility is our client’s success with the platform. I also help companies drive value out of their front and back office by creating a frictionless buying experience for their customers. Optimizing the front and back office is the most important step in how companies recognize revenue faster.

When people hear Quote-to-Cash (QTC), they might confuse it with Order-to-Cash (OTC). Can you explain the difference between QTC and OTC?

I would characterize OTC as a subset of QTC. Order-to-cash is typically managed in an ERP system and starts post-purchase. Whereas, Quote-to-Cash addresses a wider process where 
companies leverage insights from a qualified lead through to revenue, guiding sellers to make the best offer, at the right price, and removing silos between sales, legal, and finance throughout the customer lifecycle. 

Like OTC, QTC increases operational efficiency gains and speeds up revenue recognition—the difference is that QTC elevates customer experience when transacting with brands because it empowers sales, legal, and finance to seamlessly work together and deliver customer offers, quotes, contracts, and invoices. 

Unfortunately, most traditional business models perpetuate separating the front and back office, but this runs counter to what the digital economy demands, especially in B2B quoting and contracting cycles. 

So, Quote-to-Cash is more relevant today than Order-to-Cash, since it has holistic reach across the front and back office. The Bluewolf approach to QTC focuses on the intersection between customer and employee experience, so it’s well-suited to a forward-looking vision for business transformation. 

Let’s focus on the first part of QTC today, Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ). Why should organizations bring CPQ onto Salesforce?

Leading CIOs and CFOs realize that buyers want an Amazon-like, B2C experience for their B2B transactions. CPQ changes how customers buy from you, with features like Guided Selling, which create a self-service feel for customers. 

But if you back up and think about the data structure Salesforce provides—Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, etc., that helps clarify why CPQ is the next logical step in CRM projects. What interaction do you have with customers in sales cycles after you’ve pitched to them, or delivered your first sales presentation? Often, you quote them, send a proposal, or estimate products, services, and pricing. From a data governance perspective, integrating CPQ into Salesforce, or better yet, finding a native Salesforce CPQ application maintains data integrity across the sales cycle. 

This pays dividends towards customer loyalty and should allow the seller and customer to move beyond today’s spreadsheet or layers of approvals that can inhibit a premium experience.

There’s a lot of sales technology out there, and they all claim to help sellers sell more, sell faster, and sell better. What differentiates CPQ from the sales tech stack?

Most companies resign themselves to believing today’s spreadsheets and approvals delays are unavoidable and part of everyday business. CPQ creates a new, hyper-efficient reality for sales organizations who can automate and optimize these processes, accelerating sales cycles and providing better customer and employee experiences. 

CPQ is distinct because of its Guided Selling features (see below), which are designed around sales enablement, versus simple sales automation. Additionally, CPQ drives business outcomes so reps can increase deal size, decrease deal cycle time, and increase optimal pricing. 

What are today’s sales teams not thinking enough about?

  • AI and Cognitive—for CPQ, that means using AI for Guided Selling and Price Optimization.
  • The journey from CPQ to B2B E-Commerce. Think of the lifecycle of a shopping cart, for example—sales organizations need to pick up abandoned shopping carts from customers, and recommend products, prices, and quotes to them to follow up. 
  • Leveraging 3D visualization during product configuration for industrial or manufacturing goods to improve design accuracy during sales cycle 
  • From a CIO or CFO perspective, thinking about how front office activities drive revenue and digital strategy, and starting to erode the traditional line between front and back office.

Where does Guided Selling fit into CPQ?

Guided Selling is an approach to sales enablement, powered by CPQ technology. It answers 3 questions for sellers: “What do I sell, at what price, with which offer?”

When we implement Guided Selling solutions at Bluewolf, we first map the seller journey to the customer journey—while it’s a sales-focused tool, it should ultimately drive a better purchase experience for customers. 

Guided Selling powered by AI adds another lens for organizations to better understand customer’s needs and wants, and empower sellers to act upon this information. For example, imagine if a seller could support a transaction by uncovering account whitespace, receiving a suggested cross-sell option that mimics a high-performer seller, or avoiding a pitfall that would slow a deal down. 

As long as the structured data and unstructured data are available to the seller when they need it, businesses can iterate and build AI capability. My advice is to start with basic use cases that you have data to measure, then set a plan to capture more data insights that you can harvest to reveal even more about your customer. You’ll soon wonder how you ever ran your business without AI for Guided Selling.

If I’m reading this, and I know my organization isn’t willing to invest in CPQ, what can I say to convince them?

Well, they may soon face the startling fact that their competition already recognizes that customer loyalty is fragile. All companies, from large, established corporations to the smallest startups, are faced with this new bar. I pose the question a little differently: since ample research indicates that ease and experience are essential for lowering customer attrition, then how much of an investment are you willing to make to create a world-class buying experience that sustains their loyalty?

Have more questions about CPQ? Connect with an expert at Bluewolf. 

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