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Posts tagged ‘Configure’

How To Make Complex CPQ Selling Simple With Visual Configurators

Bottom Line: Realizing visual configurators’ full potential starts by enabling engineering, production, and sales to become real-time collaborators in creating new products.

2D, 3D, Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) visual configurators are proliferating across the Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) landscape today. Manufacturing marketing teams say they are the most effective lead generation technology they have, responsible for 40%+ growth in Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) this year alone. Sales VPs and Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) are seeing from 9% to 30% improvements in deal close rates and over 90% increases in quote accuracy. Visual configurators deliver shock-and-awe to prospects and drive more leads and deals.

Product Models Need To Scale, Driving Greater Collaboration

The good test of any product configurator is whether it can scale from assemble-to-order (ATO) to Engineer-To-Order (ETO) while enabling real-time collaboration between engineering, production, and sales. A given products’ many attributes and options defined by engineering in their PLM system need to be consistent with manufacturing’s work instructions and Bill of Materials (BOM) in their ERP system. And the visual configurator sales & marketing is using needs to reflect, in real-time, what engineering defined in PLM and what manufacturing’s ERP system can build. Product models serve as the master data that enables real-time collaboration between engineering, manufacturing, and sales.

Visual configurators need to push beyond the veneer of delivering shock-and-awe and enable real-time collaboration between PLM, ERP, and CRM & CPQ systems to achieve their full potential. Visual configuration providers need to pursue the goal of enabling engineering, manufacturing, and sales to be collaborators in creating accurate products and challenge themselves to deliver the following:

  • Improve sales performance while increasing margin per deal by providing only the options that are the most buildable at the lowest cost.
  • Eliminate disconnects between what engineering designed and what manufacturing can produce leads to more sales at higher gross margins.
  • Close product configuration gaps and improving fulfillment speed and product quality, creating greater customer loyalty and follow-on sales.
  • Automatically propagate product and design changes across all functional areas to accelerate new products to market while improving product quality.
  • Real-time fine-tuning of new product features to the model level that specific customers want becomes possible when engineering, manufacturing, and sales are collaborating in real-time.
  • Update work instructions and BOMs in real-time based on changes customers make in product visualizations.
  • Improve the balance of revenue across configurable products to sell higher-margin models based on real-time collaboration between PLM, ERP, CRM, and CPQ systems.
  • See in real-time how changes in product design, Bill of Materials (BOM), and delivery dates impact the financial performance of a manufacturer.

Predicting Visual Configuration’s Future

Shortening cycle times from product concept to completed product is the secret to succeeding with visual configuration. And when each manufacturing cycle time has its cadence or speed depending on how little or much a customer wants a product customized, visual configurators need to flex and deliver what customers want when.

Companies defining the future of visual configuration today include CDSDERWID, and SAP Visual Enterprise. These three companies are defining the future of visual configuration by enabling real-time integration between PLM, ERP, CRM, and CPQ systems.  I recently spoke with John Major, CEO of CDS to get his insights into what’s driving visual configuration’s success today.  “What we’re seeing in the marketplace now are two things. One is the clients want to understand how our visual configuration solution is going to fit into their change management as it’s rooted in PLM, because to any manufacturer, PLM reigns supreme,” he said. He continued, “The second is about staffing. When you’re a manufacturing company, and you buy a visual configurator toolkit that requires you to create your app, a few things happen. You need to staff up a software team to now run that toolkit and write development. So your long-term cost is fairly significant versus a company that can deliver an entire solution at scale.” 

CDS is partnering with eLogic, who is regarded as the leading system integration partner in CPQ and product configuration and is considered a global leader in delivering business solutions for manufacturers across SAP configuration technologies and Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power Platform & Azure. Together they are delivering next-generation visual configuration solutions for their shared clients. Examples of the work they are doing are shown below:

  • Real-time model updates keep engineering, manufacturing, and sales in sync. When customers are designing a new product in a CPQ session, the model is updated in real-time and saved, so engineering, manufacturing, and sales can see how their changes affect the product. An example of this is shown below:

  • When the product is configured “to scale,” 2D proposal drawings are automatically generated, and the product model is updated in real-time, making augmented reality visualizations possible. 3D models are also made available in a variety of CAD formats. Additionally, an Augmented Reality model is created that can be placed in any virtual environment. What’s noteworthy is that while the model’s appearance is changing, all relevant changes to the work instructions and BOM are happening in real-time using the SAP Visual Enterprise

  • When product models are the catalyst enabling real-time collaboration between engineering, manufacturing, and sales, selling into the aftermarket becomes profitable. Aftermarket selling has a complexity all its own. Taking on the challenge of shortening cycle times from product concept to completed products in the market is what’s needed today. The example below shows a piece of equipment selected in CPQ, then rotated, zoomed in, and exploded to see the internal components. Internal parts can now be selected, quoted, ordered and delivered for replacement.

Conclusion

Visual configurators are capable of so much more than they are delivering today. It’s time to graduate beyond the shock-and-awe stage, which has been very successful in driving leads, generating MQLs, and closing deals. It’s time to get down to the hard work of making all those impressive models buildable at scale and profitable. And that comes by doubling down efforts at shortening cycle times from product concept to completed product. That’s the true north of this market and the secret to succeeding. Getting engineering, manufacturing, and sales collaborating using product models as a single source of truth is the best place to start.

How To Improve Your CPQ Pricing Strategies

Manufacturers can get more than their fair share of channel sales and margins by improving price management for every dealer, distributor, and reseller they sell-through. It’s possible to expand earnings by 50% on slight increases in volume when pricing is consistent channel-wide. McKinsey’s latest research on the topic, Pricing: Distributors’ Most Powerful Value-Creation Lever, shows how the highest performing distributors use pricing to create value. For manufacturers competing for more sales through distributors, they share with competitors, improving their channel partners’ margins is the single best strategy to win more sales and long-term loyalty.

  • A 1% price increase yields a 22% increase in Earnings before Interest & Taxes (EBITDA) margins for distribution-based businesses.
  • It would take a 7.5% reduction in fixed costs to achieve the same 22% increase in EBITDA that a 1% increase in pricing achieves.
  • A distribution-based business would need to increase volume by 5.9% while holding operating expenses flat to achieve the same impact as a 1% price increase.
  • Channel partners are more loyal to margin than manufacturers, which is why price management needs urgent attention on CPQ roadmaps.

CPQ Strategies Need To Deliver More Margin Back To The Channel

The typical manufacturer who has over $100M in sales generates 40% or more of their sales through indirect channels. The channel partners they recruit and sell through are also reselling 12 other competitive products on average. Which factors most influence a distributor or channel partner’s decision to steer a sale to one manufacturer versus another?  The following are the steps manufacturers can take now to improve price management and drive more channel sales:

  • Upgrade the pricing module in CPQ to deliver more than configurable price lists to include pricing waterfalls, automated approval levels for pricing requests, and discounts. Distributors drive more deals to manufacturers whose CPQ systems are designed to give them greater freedom in tailoring pricing to every customer and selling situation they have. Automating approval levels using machine learning-based supervised algorithms that serve as pricing guardrails on every quote a channel partner creates is proving effective at delivering a 1% price increase which drives margin back to resellers. The more a manufacturer can make margins flow back to its channel partners, the faster the channel partners can grow. The following graphic from McKinsey’s latest pricing research illustrates why.

  • Distributors will drive more deals to manufacturers who automate pricing approvals, guiding their sales teams to the largest and most profitable deals first. One of the best ways to compete and win more deals through channel partners is to achieve the ambitious goal of delivering pricing approval within seconds on a 24/7 basis. Pricing needs to provide guardrails that guide channel sales reps to the largest, most profitable, and most ready-to-buy new and aftermarket sales opportunities. Manufacturers capturing more channel sales are relying on machine learning-based pricing systems that optimize price approvals while recommending only those new and aftermarket deals that will drive a 1% or greater price increase. Machine learning is making solid contributions to automating pricing approvals. It’s proving most effective when it is balanced with the flexibility of responding to subjective competitive situations where pricing on specific products need discounts to win deals in aggregate. The following workflows from Deloitte explain how this is being accomplished today:

  • Helping distributors solve sales compensation problems by improving price management drives more deals in the short-term and keep distributors in business long-term. Distributors start out building their sales comp plans on volume and growth alone. The problem is comp plans reward revenue growth at the expense of profits. That’s making it harder every year for distributors to stay in business. Manufacturers delivering new pricing management and optimization apps in their CPQ platforms need to provide real-time guidance on margin potential by the deal, pricing waterfall logic that includes margins, contract pricing overrides for margins and more if they are going to help their distributors stay in business.

Conclusion – Pricing Is the Engine Powering CPQ’s Market Growth Today

Manufacturers who excel at growing indirect product and services revenue through channels realize that every one of their channel partners is more loyal to pricing and margins than any specific vendor they resell. Providing a CPQ application or platform they can personalize, and automate workflows is just the beginning. The bottom line is that manufacturers need to put more intensity into improving pricing today if they’re going to hold onto the distributors they have and attract new ones.

Pricing is the primary catalyst driving the CPQ market’s growth as well. According to Gartner, the CPQ grew 36% in 2017, reaching $1.084B with the majority of growth attributable to cloud-based solutions. It’s no wonder CPQ is considered one of the hottest CRM technologies for the foreseeable future, projected to grow at a 25% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) through 2020. Supervised machine learning algorithms capable of providing guardrails in real-time for every potential deal a reseller sales representative has is what’s needed to protect a distributor’s margins. Winning more deals with channel partners starts by respecting how vital margins are to their success and improving pricing management as part of a broader CPQ strategy that delivers results.

Sources:

Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) Capabilities: Why the right CPQ capability is key to transitioning to a flexible consumption model, 8 pp., PDF, no opt-in, Deloitte, 2019.

Pricing: Distributors’ Most Powerful Value-Creation Lever, McKinsey & Company, September 2019.

What Needs To Be On Your CPQ Channel Roadmap In 2019

Bottom Line:  Adding new features to your CPQ channel selling platform directly benefits your resellers and channel partners, driving greater revenue, channel loyalty, and expansion into new markets.

Personalization Is Key To CPQ Succeeding In Channels

Sustaining and strengthening relationships across all indirect selling channels succeeds when dealers, multi-tier distributors, resellers, intermediaries, and service providers each can personalize the CPQ applications and platforms they use. Larger dealers, distributors, and resellers are adept at personalizing CPQ selling portals by the various roles in their organization. Personalization combined with a highly intuitive, configurable interface improves CPQ applications’ ease of use, enabling channel partners to get more done. The more intuitive and easy a CPQ application is to use, the more channel partners rely on it to place orders. When distributors are representing, on average, 12 different manufacturers,  the one with the most intuitive, easily used CPQ system often gets the majority of sales.

Another aspect of personalization is defining levels of resellers. When many organizations first launch their CPQ channel selling strategies, one of the first requests they have is to organize all channel partners into performance categories. Differentiating channel partners on sales performance, customer satisfaction, and aftermarket revenue then gamifying how every one of them can move up a level is proving to be very effective at increasing channel sales. Competing with one another to be the top reseller for the manufacturing and service companies lifts an entire channel network to higher performance.

Every dealer, multi-tier distributor, reseller, intermediary, and service provider also has a unique way of selling that works best for their business. Another must-have feature on any CPQ channel roadmap is greater workflow flexibility to support increasingly complex, IoT- and AI-enabled configurable products. Smart, connected products are the future of manufacturing and channel sales. Capgemini estimates that the size of the connected products market will be $519B to $685B by 2020. Workflows like the one shown below of an internal sales rep using a multichannel CPQ system to order a customized product are due for a refresh to support even greater flexibility for more channels and greater product options.


Most Valuable Features For A CPQ Channel Roadmap In 2019

There’s a direct link between how effective a CPQ platform is across multi-tier distribution networks and the productivity of sales teams using them. 83% of sales teams are using CPQ apps today based on Accenture Interactive’s recent study, Empowering Your Sales Force: It’s Not Just Automation, It’s Personal (8 pp., PDF, no opt-in). There’s ample evidence that the more effective a CPQ platform is at equipping dealers, multi-tier distributors, resellers, intermediaries, and service providers, the greater the sales they achieve. The 2019 B2B Buyers Survey Report, by DemandGen in collaboration with DemandBase, found that B2B buyers are more likely to purchase from sales representatives who demonstrate a stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape (65%) compared to competitors. B2B buyers also give high praise for sales teams who can provide quotes quickly and respond to their inquiries promptly (63%), in addition to providing higher-quality content (61%). Each of these benefits is derived from a CPQ platform that can scale across every phase of the selling lifecycle.

The following are the key features needed on CPQ channel roadmaps in 2019 to stay competitive and scale sales and revenue on pace with market growth:

  • Greater personalization for each type of partner portal supported by real-time integration to CRM and ERP systems, designed to scale for sales team turnover across multi-tier distribution networks. Channel partners’ sales teams tend to churn quickly, and it’s best to design in intuitive, easily configured portals by sales role to help new hires get up to speed fast. Channel sales associates are typically the fastest-churning area of any selling business. With greater personalization comes the need for greater integration to provide the data needed to enable partner portals to have a greater depth of functionality. The following graphic from Deloitte’s recent study, Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) Capabilities illustrates this point:

  • Support for multi-tier pricing, price management, price optimization, price enforcement, and special workflows, including Special Pricing Requests (SPR). Baseline CPQ platforms support price management and have successfully transitioned multi-tier distribution networks off of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to a single pricing model that scales across all products and channels. Consider adopting advanced pricing logic to support SPRs so sales operations teams don’t have to do this process manually. In manufacturers who have transitioned from manual to automated SPR approvals, average deal sizes have increased over 60%, and productivity jumped over 76% according to a recent Gartner survey.
  • Augment advanced product configuration tools by making them more intuitive and easier to use to sell the more advanced products in your catalog. It’s time to push the boundaries of CPQ channel selling systems to sell more complex products and drive greater revenue and margins. Forward-thinking manufacturers are taking a virtual design and 3D-based design approach to accomplish this. Enabling channel partners to take larger orders for more complex products is paying off.
  • Upgrade guided selling strategies to be more than catalog-based selection systems, mining customer data using machine learning to see which products they have the greatest propensity to buy when. It’s time to migrate off of the guided selling systems that are selecting products from catalogs that may deliver the best gross margins or have a traditionally high attach rate with the product the customer is buying. Machine learning is making it possible to provide greater accuracy and precision to recommendations than ever before.
  • Improve the usability of sales promotions, rebates, and most importantly, Market Development Funds (MDF). It’s amazing how much time manufacturers are spending manually handling MDF claims today. It’s time to automate this area of the CPQ channel roadmap and save thousands of hours and dollars a year while enabling resellers to get reimbursed faster or get the funds they need to grow their businesses.
  • Contract management is a must-have for CPQ channel roadmaps today. Integrating a cloud-based contract management system into a CPQ platform is vital for taking one more step towards an end-to-end quote-to-cash workflow being in place. Real-time integration to contract management can save days of waiting for contract approvals, all leading to more closed deals and faster, more lucrative sales cycles.
  • Manufacturers can realize greater revenue potential through their channels by combining machine learning insights to find those aftermarket customers most ready to buy while accelerating sales closing cycles with CPQ. Manufacturers want to make sure they are getting their fair share of the aftermarket. Using a machine learning-based application, they can help their resellers increase average deal sizes by knowing which products and services to offer when. They’ll also know when to present upsell and cross-sell offers into an account at a specific point in time when they will be most likely to lead to additional sales, all based on machine learning-based insights. Combining machine learning-based insights to guide resellers to the most valuable and highest probability customer accounts ready to buy with an intuitive CPQ system increases sales efficiency leading to higher revenues.

Conclusion

Now that the solutions exist for resellers to simplify CPQ selling strategies, it’s up to each manufacturer to decide how competitive they want their channel partner roadmap to be. Any given manufacturer’s quoting and configuration tools today are competing with 11 others on average for a reseller’s time, it is clear that roadmaps need a refresh to stay competitive. Suggested options include offering greater personalization, multi-tier pricing and a more thorough approach to price management, advanced product configuration support, revamped guided selling strategies and improved usability of sales promotions, rebates, and Market Development Funds (MDF). Manufacturers need to prioritize each of these features relative to their product- and revenue-specific goals by channel. A fascinating company who has deep expertise in designing, implementing, and scaling analytics, service, sales, IoT, and CPQ solutions for manufacturers is eLogic. The company’s mission is to enable manufacturers to achieve the highest value customer engagement and product & service lifecycle performance. eLogic is regarded as the leading system integration partner in CPQ and product configuration and is considered a global leader in delivering business solutions for manufacturers across SAP configuration technologies and Microsoft Dynamics 365, Power Platform & Azure.

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