The EDL Blog

Scaling with Communities and Salesforce CPQ

Providing self-service capabilities to your channel can dramatically expand the availability and reach of your quoting process.

Achieving scale with CPQ is all about optimizing the channel experience.  Getting information to your channel partners about product configurations, associated pricing and bundles quickly and accurately is critical for closing business.

As we discovered on our client engagement with Mitsubishi HVAC, one of the greatest opportunities for achieving scale is supplementing your internal sales model with a self-service capability for your channel partners.  From a partner standpoint, self-service capabilities represent the ultimate in differentiation and customer friendliness.  Getting a quote instantly at any time of the day can make the difference between Partners choosing your products and going elsewhere.

Advantages of a Self-Serve Model

Self-service can equal channel nirvana because your partners are no longer dependent on your reps:

  1. Speed – quotes can be delivered immediately without the need for human intervention, dramatically shrinking cycle-times.
  2. Agility – Partners can receive quotes any time of the day 24/7.
  3. Differentiation – Why would a partner work with anyone else (and wait and wait) when they can receive your quotes immediately?
  4. Customer Insight – A well designed self-serve model can provide behavioral insights as well as information on pricing sensitivity by analyzing business that is both won and lost.

While self-service models may seem counter-intuitive in many high-touch scenarios, the facts are that many businesses like Mitsubishi with finite internal resources can only achieve true scale by fully automating simpler quotes and low-value orders that can soak up valuable selling resources.

Enter Salesforce Partner Communities.  A Partner Community connects resellers, distributors, and partners to increase sales. Partners can find information and experts, register new leads, and update records, enabling them to close more deals more quickly.

“Exposing CPQ via a Partner Community means that your resellers and distributors and even end-customers can get immediate access to quotes and information without tying up any internal resources.”

Exposing CPQ via a Partner Community means that your resellers and distributors and even end-customers can get immediate access to quotes and information without tying up any internal resources.  As proven at Mitsubishi HVAC, by providing self-serve quoting via Partner Communities an exponential increase in the reach, velocity and volume of quoting is possible.

Self-serve can be a huge part of your go-to-market channel mix. For the most effective execution, keep in mind the following considerations:

  1. A quality user-experience is critical.  Exposing tools to the outside world means that there is a higher bar for a quality user experience.  At a minimum a well-crafted Lightening UI should be a part of the mix.
  2. Training and support will drive adoption.  Getting your channel to adopt a self-service model means that you will need to provide a thoughtful mix of training and support options.
  3. Self-serve is not for every everyone.  For highly complex products where deep product knowledge is required self-service may not be practical.  Also, there may be other channel considerations where the business dynamic are such that personal contact is required.  That said, even complex products can often have supplementary or consumable products that can be provided through self-service models.

The future of self-service – AI, guided selling and conversational interfaces

Self-service augmented through AI and guided selling is possible leveraging current machine-learning technologies.  While these technologies are nascent viable use-cases are emerging.

In addition, while today’s self-service models require traditional keyboard-centric user experience, conversational interfaces can supplement or even replace the keyboard.  A well crafted conversational interface can mimic real-life dialogue regarding products and services that would be provided by a sales rep.  These interfaces, driven through messenger apps, SMS or voice-driven interfaces will expand self-serve use-cases to an even broader audience and provide tremendous opportunity for capturing marketshare.

Whether the user interface is a traditional keyboard interface or an emerging conversational interface and guided selling, driving your partners to a self-service model represents a tremendous opportunity to capture greater market share, expand to new customers, and drive down costs associated with inside-sales models.

About the Author:

Bill Loumpouridis
President and CEO at EDL Consulting | Greater Chicago Area | EDL Consulting transforms B2B channel sales to improve profitability, shrink cycle time, and delight customers. Our integrated approach captures best-in-class technologies that fuel marketing, sales, and operational success.