CPQ (or Configure, Price, and Quote) is a unified sales tool that lets companies automate the configuration of complicated and customizable products, calculate dynamic prices, and create different kinds of sales documents like business quotes, proposals, and even estimates.
Thanks to advances in big data and AI, B2B buyers can now complete an end-to-end purchase digitally without the need for human input. Which has left people wondering: what will the sales rep’s role look like in, say, five years? Will it even exist at all?
There’s no doubt that a large number of repetitive sales tasks are ideal for automation. CPQ sales have removed a big chunk of the sales load in some of the most forward-thinking organizations, reducing costs, improving scalability, and boosting sales as well.
But sales reps will continue to play an integral part in the success of B2B businesses going forward, albeit in a role that will have digitally transformed. Digitizing repetitive, menial sales tasks and ditching legacy software like Excel will allow them to focus on what they’re good at (and what they enjoy most)–building new customer relationships, nurturing existing ones, and, ultimately, generating more revenue.
What can CPQ sales do in truth?
The role of sales reps has become an increasingly challenging task in recent years. Growth in demand for customized goods means reps have to learn to advise customers on hundreds of different product options, each with their own sets of rules and dependencies.
Narrowing down their vast catalogs of highly complex products is a big challenge for even the most experienced reps, let alone new hires. So reps stick to what they know, configure the same narrow band of products repeatedly, regardless of their customer’s individual needs. Non-viable configurations are common, and engineers are left to pick up the pieces, which leads to delays, rework, and lower retention than ever.
Tools like Salesforce Revenue Cloud make configurations pretty easy for both sales reps and buyers alike. Reps are provided with a series of carefully designed questions to identify the perfect product for every customer. Simultaneously, the logic built into the software’s back-end ensures that every configuration is correctly optimized for profitability and increased engineering efficiency.
Visual CPQ sales configurators like KBMax take an approach that’s a little bit different. Rather than answering simple questions, sales reps can configure their products with a highly intuitive 2D or 3D visual interface. They simply drag, drop, point, and click to add or remove parts, change colors, resize sections, etc., with changes getting updated on-screen in real-time.
Calculating prices is the next big challenge that sales reps face. Taking figures off a static price list is pretty straightforward. But data-savvy businesses are using dynamic pricing strategies and boosting their profitability by as much as 25% as a result. With dynamic pricing, prices get updated regularly, in accordance with changing market conditions. Factors like customer location, day of the week, demand, and competitors’ prices get combined with unique customer profiles to calculate intelligent prices that generate a purchase response with the best possible margin.
Data gathering and analysis, and then calculating dynamic prices, are beyond any human pricing team’s capacity. Just the manual updating of prices alone would be time-prohibitive! CPQ automates the entire dynamic pricing process, ensuring that no money gets left on the table. Tools like KBMax CPQ Analytics and Salesforce Revenue Cloud “Einstein” provide relevant predictive pricing insights through the analysis of crucial user experience data.
Another significant drain on sales reps’ active selling time is creating quotes in Excel. CPQ sales assist here as well. The generation of all sales docs like quotes, proposals, and estimates, can be carried out just with the touch of a button. With KBMax CPQ, reps can produce multiple technical drawings in CAD, BOMs, CNC cut sheets, and more without any engineering input at all. KBMax Connector joins all the dots, connecting the CPQ to Sales Cloud integration, NetSuite, Salesforce, and a number of other third-party systems.
CPQ Sales and the Self-Serve Revolution
The B2B buyer has changed – demographically and psychologically. The old guard is now being replaced by a new generation of digital natives that have risen through the ranks while companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber have come to the fore. They’re so accustomed to dealing with the tech giants that they’ve come to expect this same level of consumer-like customer experience when they make a B2B purchase for work.
Today’s buyer wants everything to be quick and easy. They don’t have time to build an emotional connection with a sales rep during regular working hours when they can make a purchase independently, at their own pace, at any time, through any device. With CPQ sales, companies can give buyers that self-serve option.
A visual product configurator embedded into a B2B eCommerce website can guide buyers through the configuration of the most complex products, calculate the optimal price, and then generate a quote for them to pay or share with their team. A process that generally used to take 20+ calls and emails amidst the buyer, sales rep, and engineer can now get completed without any human interaction at all.
What Does the Rise of CPQ Mean for the Sales Rep?
Most sales reps would agree that plenty of their day-to-day responsibilities are ripe for automation. The busywork–finding and qualifying leads, scheduling meetings, sending follow-up emails, and building reports–are all easily replicable.
Reps spend a paltry 37% of their time making active sales. They would welcome the opportunity to shift their attention to more meaningful, revenue-generating work, where insights, emotional intelligence, and relationship building are crucial success factors. These are the intangible, “human” skills that machines might never possess, at least not in our lifetimes.
Yes, some sales jobs will be lost to automation. But these will be jobs at the lower end of the pay scale. Plenty of well-paid, highly-skilled sales roles will be created for creative problem-solvers.
Far from being replaced by technology, the best-performing sales reps will be those able to combine a command of advanced technology like CPQ sales with persuasive, interpersonal skills.
Companies are made up of real people. And real people desire a real human connection. There’s an innate emotional component to sales that no AI, and no person either for that matter, can be taught. Not even by Salesforce Revenue Cloud training.