Do B2B utilities need to boost their CPQ engines?
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CPQ systems enable your sales team to present the right product at the right price at the right time. It reduces your quote-to-cash times by guiding sales reps through the configuration process. This will speed up your sales cycles and reduces human induced errors. But there are some clouds on the horizon, CPQ’s can’t do everything. An increase in data availability is constantly challenging what these tools should be able to handle.
CPQs focus to be the best at configuration, pricing and quoting of complex products. Standalone or as a module within existing CRM solution such as Salesforce. But what happens if these complex product configurations are increasingly defined by gigabytes of data?
At Oracle they state; configuration ensures quotes are efficiently built based on both business requirements and customer needs. It aims to reduce the exposure of product complexities to the sales staff. With templates and playbooks, deal construction can be made easy for B2C and even highly tailored B2B products. All information is stored in a centralized system to further optimize for future orders and renewals. It can even be taken a step further, like they did at Apttus, where process optimization is done by applying AI or machine learning techniques. The idea is to offer the right information at exactly the right moment.
All quotes are defined by their own pricing variables, CPQ processes are built around these pricing variables to assure sales users don’t need to waste time chasing the latest data needed to build a new price offer. Complex offers are built in minutes by applying rules. For example; some products are only valid for import meters (meters that are consuming energy from the grid). This and many more rules are easy to define in CPQ software. Automated approval schemes assure proposals are constructed with the right authority. For example, reducing the risk of over-discounting to meet sales targets. This eliminates the need for spreadsheets and an abundance of mails to align on what to offer to a customer.
The product is configured and priced, meeting all internal and external requirements. CPQ auto-generates the needed quotes and contracts on the fly. Contracts are enriched with information already gathered in the pre-sales stage of the deal and are electronically forwarded for customer review and signature.
Conclusion, CPQs are great. They streamline your processes and offer information at the right time and level. They allow sales teams to go above and beyond, without hurting the bottom line. When selling complex products, we highly recommend looking into adoption of a CPQ solution. Known suppliers are; Vlocity, Apttus, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP and Cloudsense.
CPQ IN B2B UTILITIES
To collect and configure the right needs of both the business as well as the customer, the sales rep needs to have access to all data defining the client profiles. In case of a UK enterprise company with smart meters installed, this boils down to needing detailed meter information, consumption data, transmission losses, distribution losses and potentially a point of sale forecast.
Much of that needed data exists out of half-hourly values for each supply point of the contract. Meaning a lot of data needs to be collected before all client information is there to price.
In data-heavy industries, CPQ solutions require prospects to look for external solutions to manage these amounts of data. Process oriented technologies simply cannot and will never be able to cope with vast amounts of data. Dedicated data-oriented solutions are needed to solve data challenges. There are several options out there; meter management systems, pricing engines, data lakes, data warehouses or maybe a self-built solution?
Before going out on the web to look for a solution, we highly recommend thinking about what you need to achieve in your organization.
At Gorilla we believe there should be three priorities:
DESIGNED FOR VOLUME
Look for a system designed for volume, that can literally tackle petabytes of data in an efficient way. To work well with existing CPQs it will be needed that all information is stored in a comprehensible way. Only then, information can be pulled from an external system and exposed to sales users when needed.
EASY TO INTEGRATE
In the UK, market information is coming from Ecoes or Elexxon. Consumption data can come from private organizations or the client itself. Losses are delivered by the industry. Your solution will therefore need to be able to integrate quickly with any kind of source.
Unstructured data might be even worse than no data. You will end up paying for something you don’t know what to do with. Make sure your solution is set up for action. At Gorilla, all data coming in is pre-processed to ensure it meets the client requirements and can be used for further actions like forecasting, pricing and reporting.
You will only be able to meet your sales targets, increase operational efficiency and gain new business when you are able to let the data work for you.
B2B energy retailers are one of the first industries to use vast amounts of external data (delivered through smart meters). With over 10 cost components directly being defined through the use of consumption data by default, and energy prices making up a large part of the total bill, it is not more than normal that data insights are leveraged to create profitable deal prices.
The implementation of smart meters has forced energy retailers to look for solutions to cope with the massive amount of data made available for more detailed pricing. CPQ solutions focus on delivering value through process optimization and are not set up to do complex pricing with vast amounts of data. They are able to handle discounts, margins and other simpler calculations, but they are not built to do data engineering needed to define a competitive price in current energy markets.
Existing pricing solutions are often hosted on-premise, require a lot of investment and are not able to scale with the retailer business needs. If you’re interested to learn more about why your system should be set up for agility, read our paper here.
When looking for a pricing solution, take into account:
FLEXIBLE PRODUCT CONFIGURATION
With the markets opening up to new entrants and the big technology companies looking to enter the energy supply industry, it is now more important than ever to create a system where product development is not limited by the tools used. Large, heavy IT infrastructures with hardcoded products just don’t cut it anymore. As a retailer you want to adopt a solution that is made for agile development. Choose a solution that allows your product team to create, test and release without the need for advanced software skills.
CPQs are optimized to facilitate the sales process. They have become an indispensable part of your value chain. Even with professional software dedicated to pricing, you’ll need to look for integration possibilities between your CPQ, all of your other stored data and your energy products.
Ensuring a smooth data flow between these systems is key to success. Don’t disrupt your sales process with manual activities and badly designed systems. Look for an integrated solution that ensures a free and efficient data flow at all times.
CPQs manage to dramatically reduce your quote-to-cash times, to optimize the flow of client and business data. Don’t let your pricing solution disrupt this enhancement by running out of pace with your other systems.
Look for a solution that is able to work with all your half-hourly or even quarterly data without using aggregation techniques. Adopt a solution that enables you to quote fast at the highest accuracy. This will enable you to drive sales conversations with competitive offers faster than anyone else.
Last but not least, the quote needs to be fitted into a contract, send out to the customer and signed. All data needs to be summarized and made understandable to the end customer. A process where we think CPQ systems cannot be beat. Once integrated with a great pricing engine and competitively priced, a CPQ is your best option to handle the final process of quote follow-up and closure.
It’s not done yet! After your contract signature, your complex product needs to be billed accurately and your organization wants to know if their position was positively impacted by the deal. Reporting and performance metrics cannot be ignored when looking to optimize sales performance.
In our next article we’ll be covering how pricing is an art of itself and why it shouldn’t be part of any other system.
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