If the CPQ fits, wear it! But much of the time — let’s be honest — the CPQ doesn’t fit. Here’s an insider look at how to successfully choose a CPQ partner, from a seasoned executive who has seen it all when it comes to companies looking for the right fit (okay, maybe I haven’t seen it ALL, but pretty close!)
1. Define your CPQ objectives
Begin with the end in mind. Before you get running too fast towards a CPQ software solution, ask yourself, “What do we need to achieve to make this a success?” There are so many benefits to good CPQ for your business it can be tough to narrow them down into objectives; but in my experience, those building the business case for CPQ software get better backing when they say, “We plan to reduce quoting from 48 hour turnaround to 35 minutes”, or “We will eliminate 95% of our rework by using CPQ rules to define the build” than “We want to make things easier for sales.” The right KPIs can lead you. For more on KPIs as they relate to CPQ, see Examples of Sales KPIs that CPQ Can Impact.
2. Form the project team
Once you’ve examined your current process, found the bottlenecks and identified where returns will come from, and set measurable KPIs for your project, it’s time to get buy-in and input from the team. CPQ software affects pre-sales, sales, operations, finance and billing, and customer service, so it is wise to bring together individuals from across the organization and give them clear direction on what you’re setting out to do and what their roles will be. Executive sponsorship comes into play here; you’ll need the team members to be allotted enough time to make your CPQ project a success.
3. Talk with CPQ software experts
Talk with experts. Once you have gotten initial leadership team support and recruited project team members, it’s time to research your options and begin to define a pool of strong potential CPQ software partners. Avoid the mistake of doing all of the research yourself and “getting your ducks in a row” before talking with any sales people. The good ones have made a living by actually helping others and delivering real business value, and likely have more than five years in CPQ. Just be candid about your plans, i.e. “We plan to evaluate 4-6 partners over the next 4 months and make our purchasing decision by 30 November.” That should yield a sales process where you are not pressured and where all parties know what the end goal is.
4. Consider whether to use a Request for Proposal (RFP)
Consider whether or not an RFP is the right vehicle to select a partner. In the past seven years I have been part of many selection processes. Some were successful but not all. One of the common motions for finding CPQ software is to issue an RFP and follow a strictly defined RFP process. That seems to be the norm for very large, multi-divisional global enterprises but it may not be appropriate for a smaller company looking to gain ground faster. Personally I avoid RPF’s because my experience is that too often they are biased and intended to select a particular vendor from the outset.
5. Make your CPQ software launch a major event
CPQ software is a significant investment of time and money. It is akin to standing up a CRM or an ERP. You can’t do it halfway and expect a full set of desired results, so why not make a big deal out of it and get people excited? Especially when you are rolling out CPQ to distributors, dealers, other kinds of partners, your organization needs to know that you have this tool, what it can do for you, and how they can be part of the success. I like to see prizes awarded to people for the most quotes generated in the first week, first order from the new quoting system, dealer with the most reps using the tool, etc. Adoption is key to CPQ success and you are the lead champion of adoption.
So if you’re running to get a CPQ solution for your company, keep in mind these five elements to get it right: Define your objectives, form a strong project team, do the homework, talk with the experts earlier, consider what process will yield the best partner selection for you, and when it’s time, celebrate your go-live across the organization and turn your focus to user adoption and future enhancements.