Speed and timely delivery of quotes play an important role in closing deals. Creating quotes manually can waste a lot of time as sales reps have to email other teams and wait for their responses, while the potential customer is still shopping around. Automated quoting saves sales people from having to spend most of their time on generating quotes, giving them more time to sell and get engaged with customers.
Configure, Price and Quote software are specialized solutions created to automate and streamline the otherwise complex and time-consuming process of generating quotes for products/services. These solutions are designed to help businesses improve sales efficiency, ensure accurate and consistent quoting and enhance customer experience.
Not all CPQ solutions are created equal and businesses need to carefully evaluate their business needs to make sure a CPQ solution aligns well with them. This guide aims to help make the right choice and covers important factors to consider when buying a CPQ solution, its benefits as well as challenges of implementing a CPQ solution.
What is a SaaS CPQ Software?
Configuring, pricing and quoting is a time-consuming process prone to manual errors, which can increase turnaround times and affect productivity of sales reps. SaaS CPQs refer to Configure, Price and Quote solutions that are delivered through the internet. The user just needs internet access to use the software and does not have to install it like traditional software.
SaaS CPQ solutions often work in tandem with other solutions, including billing, ERP and CRM systems, which translate into less chances of data duplication and better accuracy. CPQ solutions use a predefined set of rules to automatically generate quotes by taking quantity, customizations, discounts and other important factors into account.
Most of the not-selling time of sales reps is spent on configuring and generating quotes and getting approvals. Implementing a CPQ solution can drastically reduce the time required from quote request to quote delivery. CPQ solutions remove a number of sales hurdles and prevent the sales quote process from becoming a bottleneck to closing deals. SaaS CPQ solution encompass three main functions i.e. Configure, Price and Quote.
Sales reps have to configure products/services according to customers’ requirements. Things are simple when a business is offering just a few products or when complex pricing tiers are not involved. However, things can get pretty complex when customization gets involved. Catering to the requirements of customers at an individual level can complicate the jobs of sales reps.
A CPQ solution allows sales teams to effortlessly configure complex products that fit perfectly with customer requirements and detect upsell and cross-sell opportunities that sales reps might otherwise miss.
Complex and customizable products mean equally complex pricing structures. Pricing customizable products manually can result in inaccurate quotes and less than optimal pricing. This not only results in slow turnaround times, but can also cost the company in terms of revenue.
Modern SaaS CPQ solutions use technologies such as AI to understand the buying patterns of the target market and what they are willing to pay for a particular product. CPQs can generate reasonable prices while also maintaining profitability by using advanced pricing algorithms, logic and rules. CPQs take different factors into account to ensure accurate pricing, including discounts, quantity, contractual terms, promotions and other rules specified by the business.
Customers expect detailed and professional quotes that include all the information they need to make an informed decision. Chances are good that sales reps will overlook something while manually making customized quotes. CPQs can generate comprehensive quotes that include all the important information such as product configuration, price breakdown, applicable discounts, contract terms and any required documentation.
SaaS vs. On-premises CPQ Software
The benefits and challenges of using a SaaS CPQ software are the same as using almost any other SaaS solution. But both on-premises and SaaS CPQ solutions have their own pros and cons. On-premises CPQ solutions provide more control over the underlying infrastructure, the software and the data, but come with high upfront costs, which is the biggest barrier to entry for SMBs. In addition to high maintenance and upgrade costs, on-premises solutions also suffer from limited accessibility.
SaaS CPQ solutions on the other hand are delivered through the internet and can be accessed from anywhere, using almost any device. However, customization options are comparatively limited and there are still privacy and security concerns surrounding cloud-based solutions. The biggest advantages of SaaS CPQ solutions include low upfront costs, convenience, high scalability, and automated updates and patches.
Benefits of Using a SaaS CPQ Solution
Manual quoting process is prone to breaking down catastrophically as the volume of requests or complexity increases. This is when it’s time to stop relying on spreadsheets and consider investing in a CPQ to avoid quoting errors, missed renewals or payments and bring everything together. Key benefits or using a SaaS CPQ solution over manual methods or traditional software include:
- Automated workflows
- Shortens response times and sales cycles
- Increases quoting capacity
- Improves customer engagement and satisfaction level
- Professional quotes in a fraction of time
- Guided selling
- Improves the deal approval process
- Reduces administrative burden
- Provides deep insights through analytics
- Better auditability and transparency
- Can deal with complex configurations, product catalogs and pricing models
- Ensures consistency of approach
- Simplified sales process
- Improved accuracy
- Streamlined contract process
- Personalized experiences
- Reduced timeframes and downtimes
- Automated renewals and up-sell/cross-sell
- Eliminates manual errors and data duplication
- Centralized information
- Integration with other systems
- Highly scalable and flexible
- Enhances brand image
- Empowers employees and boosts their productivity
Things to Consider When Buying a SaaS CPQ Solution
A CPQ makes sense if slow turnaround times are becoming the norm. A business that has complicated pricing models and complex products makes it difficult for sales reps to efficiently and accurately generate manual quotes. Other reasons to go for a CPQ include loss of revenue because of over-discounting or less than optimal pricing and the quoting process becoming a bottleneck to closing sales. Some important questions to ask and things to consider when evaluating SaaS CPQ solutions include the following.
Understand Business Needs and Objectives
Businesses need to evaluate both their current and future requirements and pain points when comparing different CPQ solutions. Replacing a CPQ down the road can be a massive undertaking and disruptive to the sales process. A CPQ solution should allow you to add more sales channels, pricing models and other options and be able to move at the speed of the business.
Automated Renewals and Amendments
Amendments in the initial quotes is common, which is often done several times before a deal is closed. A CPQ should be able to upgrade or downgrade a quote as well as include cross-selling/up-selling offerings automatically without much input from the sales reps.
Support for Multiple Sales Channels and Pricing Models
Sales channels refer to the route using which potential customers can buy a product. Sales channels include self-service (customer can order himself through a portal or a website), sales-led (customer – sales rep) and through resellers. A CPQ should ideally support multiple sales channels even if you are currently using one or two. A business might add resellers in the future to expand its reach, so the CPQ should have the flexibility to add more sales channels in the future.
Depending on the nature of a business and in addition to flat-rate pricing, a CPQ should also support other pricing models, including block pricing (based on quantity ranges), cost-plus-markup pricing, batch pricing, contracted pricing, tiered pricing, and per-user/per-active user pricing.
A CPQ should be more than just a standalone software for generating quotes. It should also be able to seamlessly connect with other systems such as CRMs, ERPs, e-commerce and document management platforms for a smooth data flow and real-time visibility into the sales process. CPQs that come with a robust API allow for custom integration with the tech stack a business is already using and should be considered when evaluating different solutions.
Customization Options and Scalability
A CPQ solution should be able to accommodate the growth and increased demands of a business and adapt to changing variables. Scalability is the ability to handle increased workload, including data volume, user traffic and complexity. SaaS solutions are highly scalable by nature, which also holds true for SaaS CPQ solutions. SaaS CPQs should be able to handle complex product configurations, large product catalogs and a high volume of quotes without slowdowns or performance issues.
Customization options refer to the ability of a CPQ solution to tailor according to specific business needs, branding and processes. These options include customizable user interface, workflows, quote templates, pricing rules and other elements involved in the quote generation process. A CPQ should offer adequate customization options, allowing businesses to tailor it according to their own sales processes, sales teams and the customer base.
Ease of Use
Speed, ease of use and an intuitive user interface matter a lot when it comes to choosing the right CPQ solution. That’s because sales reps are generally not tech savvy people, and the time they spend on dealing with the complexities of a CPQ system translates into lost revenue for a business. The user interface should be intuitive enough that sales reps can learn it without extensive training and start using it with minimal training.
A CPQ has to be faster than the manual process it is replacing otherwise it does not make sense in implementing one. Some important aspects in this regard include a clean and intuitive user interface, clear flow, logical navigation, simplified configuration, and automated calculations.
Ease of Implementation
A CPQ that is too difficult to implement may cause disruptions, which can be costly when it comes to transforming the sales process. Although SaaS CPQs solutions minimize the complexities associated with implementing an on-premises CPQ, businesses still need to consider a few important factors when evaluating different SaaS CPQ solutions. These include data migration capabilities and vendor support, onboarding process, pre-built integrations, and supported data import and export formats.
Support Services, Vendor Reputation
Chances are good that your sales team will need support at some point from the SaaS vendor. Some important factors to consider in this regard include support channels, availability, and responsiveness. Training programs and online resources should be comprehensive, while self-paced learning resources improve adoption rate and enable team members to use the CPQ effectively. Regular maintenance, upgrades, data backup policies and other professional services also play an important role when evaluating different solutions and should be considered when reviewing vendors.
Businesses need to pick vendors with a strong presence, credibility and satisfied customers. Their reputation can be evaluated in a number of ways, including looking for vendors having industry-specific experience, requesting customer references and reaching out to gain insights into their experience, and reading case studies and success stories.
Cost Considerations and Pricing
Most SaaS vendors offer different pricing models that can vary based on different factors, including based on the number of users, based on volume, and based on features. Tiered pricing is also common in SaaS subscriptions with higher tiers offering additional features, support services and integration capabilities.
In addition to the recurring subscription fees, businesses also need to consider additional costs or fees which may include:
- Setup fees
- Implementation fees
- Customization and configuration (usually for extensive customization)
- Training and support
- Integration services
- Data migration services
Step-by-step Guide to Buying a SaaS CPQ Solution
Investing in a SaaS CPQ solution is a costly and more often than not, a time-consuming process. Businesses need to carefully evaluate their own requirements and how they match with what different vendors have to offer. Here are a few key points to consider when buying a SaaS CPQ solution.
Clearly define your requirements and goals and identify specific pain points and challenges your business is currently facing. A CPQ should align with these requirements and the complexity of your product catalog.
Research different CPQ solutions and pick experienced and reputable vendors. Use online resources, including customer reviews and industry publications, and shortlist a few vendors that meet the criteria.
Request product demos and presentations to get an idea of how well a CPQ performs in your business environment. Prepare a list of questions and ask during in-person or virtual demos. Trying a product before going all in gives you a fair idea of the user interface and performance.
Evaluate different pricing models and additional costs to get a fair idea of how much you’ll have to pay in the long run. Pick vendors that are transparent about their pricing and ask for detailed pricing information.
Consider vendor reputation as well as its future roadmap and long-term viability. Factors including its size, financial health and R&D are good indicators of where a vendor is headed and whether or not it has the capability to become your technology partner.
Clarify pricing, specific requirements and terms, and understand the SLA (Service Level Agreement), which defines the level of service, escalation paths, reporting and communication and other key metrics.
Common Challenges of Implementing a CPQ Solution
Although implementing a SaaS CPQ solution is not as challenging as implementing an on-premises CPQ solution, still there are quite a few hurdles in implementing a SaaS solution. Common challenges include:
- Maintaining data accuracy, especially when dealing with complex pricing models and product catalogs
- User adoption and training can be a challenge when sales reps are used to manual processes
- Lack of proper training can cause resistance to change, hindering user adoption
- Some organizations struggle with managing change, making change management a challenge
- Moving to a modern CPQ can cause disruptions during the transition process, which can cost time and money
- Failing to keep up with the change and not being able to continuously improve can hinder long-term success
- Integrating a CPQ solution with other solutions can be challenging, especially if a business is using legacy systems that use old data structures
SaaS CPQ solutions are designed to help businesses generate accurate and professional quotes, streamline sales processes, price and configure products/services. These solutions work well for businesses looking to upgrade their existing manual quoting process and want to automate and streamline the sales process. Fast paced businesses that regularly create new offerings and launch new pricing tiers need a system that allows them to make changes quickly. This saves a lot of time and gives the sales people more time to sell instead of spending most of it preparing quotes.