The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

With great anticipation, you have invested in a CPQ application that will change the future of your company, change the way that product offerings are configured and priced – all with the intent of compressing your lead to cash process and helping your direct and indirect sales teams sell more. Now all you have to do is make sure that everyone actually uses the system.

Let’s start with The Good

This is the carrot stage where everything about the system is focused on supporting the user community – sales team, sales management, and the executive team.

Easy and intuitive access to information at this stage is critical.  CPQ has so many benefits for your sales team and now is the time to highlight them.

There is no more painful process than as a sales rep, to have to search through endless spreadsheets for pricing information, through folder after folder for product details, and send a blizzard of emails to get something approved.  If everything is accessed from your CPQ application, it becomes the go-to system – the Swiss Army knife – for anything sales, not just quoting.  Eliminate chasing around for days to get a quote prepared and approved, giving back hours, or days, to the sales team to get in front of more customers and of course, sell more.  The early bird does get the worm – in one survey, the first to deliver a quote won the business 37% of the time. Are your quotes always first in line?

Bottom line: any tool that makes a sales rep’s life easier, and is easy to use, will be adopted with open arms and is crucial to achieving your revenue growth goals.

Ideally you have focused on adoption from the outset of the project.  Key sales stakeholders should be involved in every review point throughout the implementation in order to ensure their ongoing buy-in and enthusiasm.  If not, things could go from sheer optimism, to Bad, to Ugly in a heartbeat.

The Bad

In order for your team to successfully adopt a new CPQ process, it must be well designed, intuitive, and with an eye on the future.

Too often we see that companies simply want to automate their spreadsheets or leave them hiding in the background feeding the pricing components of their CPQ application.  Sure some pricing models are complex, but a true CPQ application eats those for breakfast.  Multi-currency, partner discounts, major account discounts, geographical discounts – mere snacks.  Why would anyone want to adopt a new system and still have to maintain the old one!

And here’s the real shame – I can’t tell you the number of times that we have been called in to ”clean up” a CPQ application simply because the original implementation team didn’t push back on keeping one foot in the past.

“Disruption is an all-or-nothing game—hedging your bets is the equivalent of ensuring defeat.”

Geoffrey Moore, Zone to Win

True, any new application should serve the process and not the other way around, but moving to a new sales process should be transformational; a time to set the stage for growth, scalability, flexibility to add new product lines, acquire companies without putting sales processes in a tailspin.  Embrace and encourage change as the way of the future, the company’s future and of course, future, uninterrupted commissions.

An application not properly configured at the outset will be difficult to maintain, will not have the flexibility to adapt as the business evolves, will fall into disrepair, and ultimately lack of use.

The Ugly

CPQ implementations are complex and adoption can falter after the initial excitement.

Often, management will solicit input from the team that will use the CPQ application – the ones whose livelihood depends on how it works – then invite everyone into a meeting one day and announce the way things are going to be going forward. In the metaphor of carrot vs. stick, this is a giant club guaranteed to breed resistance and low adoption rates.

If you have stumbled with the introduction of CPQ to the team, there are still steps you can take to drive up adoption.

The first step is to look at why the system has not been adopted, take those objections to heart and revise the configuration to make it useful for everyone – for the sales team and management alike.  Get some professional advice on best practices; it’s not necessary to have to do this in a vacuum; learn from mistakes and leverage the experience of industry experts.