CPQ SOFTWARE

The Evolution of CPQ Software for Modern Business

Effective CPQ software should be able to handle complex contract structures, allow finance to invoice and recognize revenue accurately, and manage subscription modifications. It should provide the needed flexibility and guardrails for sellers to close deals rapidly. 

Let’s explore how CPQ software has evolved to meet the demands of modern business and the benefits it can deliver to SaaS companies.

What is CPQ, and how does it work?

CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote. CPQ technology helps businesses streamline their sales process by automating the configuration of complex products, determining accurate pricing based on various factors, and generating customer quotes. It integrates with native CRM and ERP to enable customer self-serve.

But what exactly does that mean for modern businesses? Let’s break down the core components of CPQ software:

Configure: During the sales process, CPQ tools enable users to choose and customize various components, features, and options according to specific customer requirements. 

For instance, suppose you’re a customer looking to purchase a computer. You have specific requirements regarding processor speed, memory capacity, storage options, and graphics capabilities. 

A CPQ solution provides a user-friendly interface to configure your ideal computer system. 

You start by selecting the base model, and then you can customize it by choosing the processor, memory, storage, graphics card, and any other desired features.

As you make each selection, the CPQ software ensures that the chosen components are compatible with valid options for your chosen base model. 

It also provides real-time feedback, displaying the updated price and specifications of the configured system.

Price: CPQ software automates the pricing process, combining recurring or subscription, usage-based, and one-time pricing models in complex hybrid methods such as consumption-based, prepaid, drawdown, or minimum commit plus flat fees. The power of CPQ is clear when calculating complex price changes for contract modifications. 

Quote: Once the product has been configured and priced, CPQ software generates a custom quote that includes all relevant details, such as product features, pricing, and terms and conditions. 

CPQ guardrails ensure that quotes are accurate, comply with company rules, and follow required internal approval processes before being sent to the customer for review and approval.

When should you use CPQ software?

CPQ software proves valuable in various scenarios, particularly where traditional CRM systems struggle. It makes the quoting process exceptionally fast and easy. 

A CPQ is particularly useful if your company has:

High-complexity configurable products

CPQ software shines when handling products that offer numerous customization options, variations, and interdependencies. Its systems are specifically designed to tackle the challenges posed by product complexity. Companies can use CPQ to simplify and automate customizing and pricing these complex products. 

Multi-channel sales

When a company operates through multiple sales channels, such as direct sales, resellers, and e-commerce platforms, it can be challenging to keep track of all the moving parts. Salespeople face many challenges, such as inconsistent pricing, fragmented customer data, channel conflicts, and inventory management challenges. 

CPQ tools help them tackle these challenges by:

  • Providing a centralized platform to ensure pricing and quoting consistency across these channels. 
  • Integrating with various systems to ensure real-time inventory visibility and streamline order management.

High-volume quoting

As companies scale, requests for quotes (and the sales team’s workload) increase. CPQ comes to the rescue by automating various aspects of the quoting process, reducing the time and effort required to create each quote. This enables sales teams to scale more efficiently, even when faced with a high volume of quoting tasks.

Reduced sales performance

If your sales team’s performance is suffering even with an influx of leads, you might need a CPQ tool to make their workflow more efficient.

With a solid CPQ tool, your sales team can focus more on selling and less on generating quotes. This will improve their overall performance and drive more revenue.

How can CPQ help improve the sales process?

Good CPQ tools can do much to improve the sales process. According to Aberdeen Group, businesses that use CPQ software often experience a 28% reduction in time required for product configuration and 49% higher proposal volume.

Here are other specific ways using a CPQ tool can boost your sales process:

Sell more quickly

The Gartner report shows that sales reps have only 5% of a customer’s time during the buyer journey. CPQ systems speed up the sales cycle and increase revenue by reducing time waste. This means that sales teams can focus on closing deals faster. Here’s how CPQ achieves this:

  1. Maximize client interaction to reduce wasted time: CPQ solutions streamline time-consuming administrative tasks by providing a straightforward, error-proof process for configuring and pricing products or services. 
  2. Build sales momentum: CPQ helps maintain momentum by enabling quick response times when prospects request quotes or information. Providing relevant materials quickly keeps prospects engaged, which is crucial as market conditions and customer needs can change rapidly.

Delays in the sales cycle create opportunities for agile competitors to seize prospects’ attention. CPQ solutions simplify the sales cycle, reducing delays and ensuring a continuous flow. This reduces the risk of lost prospects and increases profits.

Streamline the approval-deal process

The B2B sales cycle is notoriously long and involves several decision-makers. Integrating CPQ into your sales process can improve and shorten the deal-approval process for operational efficiency. 

The following CPQ features expedite approvals, enhance collaboration, and ensure efficient operations:

  • Automatic approval notifications: Many CPQ tools notify stakeholders and decision-maker when a deal reaches the approval stages. This  eliminates the delay caused by manual communication.
  • Comprehensive deal details: CPQ presents comprehensive deal details such as pricing and specific terms and conditions on one screen or in concise emails, facilitating informed decision-making.
  • Deal-approval visibility: CPQ tools support transparency by tracking approval progress, which enables effective communication and prevents delays.
  • Compliance and audit readiness: CPQ software provides sales teams with a detailed audit trail which can be invaluable for scrutiny and regulatory oversights.It also allows sales teams to evaluate the decision-making process, showing who, when and why a decision was made.

Related guide: How to bridge the gap between sales and finance 

Enhance sales with accurate branded proposals and quotes

Creating accurate proposals or quotes with corporate branding and personalization can improve your business sales. According to a survey, branding equals more customers’ trust as 46% of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for a brand they trust, up from 30% in 2021.

For many salespeople, a quote and proposal are all about accuracy — they care little about how aesthetically pleasing the documents are to their clients. 

This could lead to seemingly small, but reputation-damaging errors  in customer-facing documents, such as outdated or low-resolution logos and images, misspellings, inconsistent adherence to brand guidelines, and amateurish layouts. 

But with the right CPQ solution, you can access a comprehensive document tool tailored to your brand compliance. This tool enables your salespeople to provide customers with accurate quotes or proposals and visually appealing documents that present your brand as it is. 

Enable guided selling

CPQ systems automatically simplify customer needs by examining them through simple, user-friendly questions. Once the customer enters their response, the CPQ intelligently presents the seller with suitable choices. 

This method follows a well-defined logic connection between a customer’s needs and product selections. 

Here’s why it is useful:

  • Selling is initiated purely by relying on customer-centric questions rather than product knowledge — leading to more conversion.
  • It also facilitates onboarding and minimizes the cost of training new salespeople since salespeople don’t need to memorize an extensive list of product names and codes.
  • It leaves almost zero room for wrong product selection.

Ensure error-free orders

One of the biggest selling points of CPQ is that it ensures error-free orders. A CPQ eliminates the need for manual orders. For example, it integrates with the CRM system, allowing sales teams to access customer information directly. It also configures the accurate product such that feasible product combinations are presented to customers, eliminating the risk of errors in the order.

Simplify subscription management

With CPQ subscription-based revenue, companies can manage their customer subscription without going through the pains of manual processes. 

CPQ systems effortlessly enable tracking of customer renewal dates, adjustment of pricing based on different subscription tiers, and handling upgrades and downgrades. 

It also supports renewals, up-sells, and cross-sells, increasing revenue and profits. This makes it easier for businesses to identify opportunities to offer additional services or upgrade subscription plans. 

CPQ software accurately calculates pricing adjustments. It can then send instructions to supporting systems to remove or alter MACD (Move, Add, Change, Delete) records, ensuring accurate pricing changes and updates.

These features allow businesses to minimize errors and provide a streamlined subscription management process.

How CPQ tools integrate with your modern tech stack

The right CPQ software can unify sales, revOps, and finance into a streamlined process integrated with the rest of your tech stack. The most common integrations and downstream operations of CPQ are: 

Billing/payments solutions

CPQ should integrate with a business’s billing and payment systems to avoid manually re-keying orders into the accounting systems. While most CPQs can send a new order contract to a billing system, many struggle to amend an existing contract. 

That requires CPQ to pull data from the billing system, modify it within the CPQ tool, and push it back to billing after approvals. Zuora CPQ is the only quoting software purpose-built for quoting any combination of subscriptions, products, and services for the entire subscriber lifecycle. 

Related: How CPQ supports complex contract modifications and drives NPS

CRM

Leading CPQs integrate natively and deeply with CRM, with a bidirectional data sync deep enough to handle complex upgrades and midterm changes. Simplifying the sales process in CRM, sellers quote on a single screen in their CRM tool with Zuora CPQ.

Product catalog

CPQ software is only as strong as the integrated product catalog. Many SaaS businesses lack the tools to support contract terms on the contract such as ramps, start dates, and renewals. They cannot construct complex recurring products with multiple rates plans and elements such as one-time fees, usage-based fees, and tiered pricing in their product catalog. 

Zuora boasts an incredibly flexible and powerful product catalog that is purpose-built to handle modern business.

Real-time metrics

Good CPQ tools provide rich real-time reports where you can slice and dice data into powerful views like Monthly Net MRR by rate plan to see what plans are performing best. With Zuora, you can…

Electronic signature

CPQ software often includes or integrates with electronic signature software, enabling customers to sign contracts and close deals remotely.

Provisioning

CPQ software can integrate with your provisioning system to automate provisioning according to your contracts. This is particularly important in a contract with multiple time-based terms requiring multiple provisioning steps.

Customer communications

Besides initiating provisioning, CPQ software can kick off customer communications, such as welcome emails and onboarding materials, earning higher customer satisfaction and retention.

Custom workflows

Last-mile custom workflows can replace manual engineering and efforts enabling businesses to tailor their sales processes to their specific needs and requirements.

When and why should startups consider adopting a CPQ solution?

CPQ is often the first opportunity for startups to connect the silos between sales and finance. Once startups establish product market fit and are ready to scale, they should consider CPQ to scale and achieve the following goals.

Scale enterprise/assisted sales

Successful B2B and Product-Led Growth (PLG) startups often move upstream to grow revenue, increase contract sizes and increase their customer base. To transition successfully, startups should turn to CPQ software to standardize deals, implement guardrails for sales, manage complex deals, and operationalize approval processes.

Iterate pricing and packaging

To capture more market share, increase revenue, and hone in on optimal pricing, startups need the flexibility to iterate and refine pricing regularly. Openview recommends that SaaS companies assess pricing for improvement opportunities at least annually.

For many startups, the tech debt to iterate pricing and packaging for sales or product-led sales is too great. Zuora’s product catalog and Zuora CPQ enable business users to iterate and launch pricing and packaging rapidly to stay competitive.

Automate the quote-to-cash process

At scale, startups struggle with time-consuming and error-prone manual processes for quoting, invoicing, and payments.

Automating the quote-to-cash process with Zuora CPQ helps reduce errors, improve accuracy, and speed up sales while freeing finance teams to focus on more strategic activities.

Standardize with key hires

Many startups wait until experienced sales and finance leaders are hired to standardize the sales and finance processes. However, adopting a CPQ solution early on can expedite the standardization process and provide a solid foundation for future growth.

Enhance customer experience

Most startups have a lean team, and providing customer experience can be daunting. CPQ software improves startups’ sales experience by enabling them to create standardized deals, streamlined approval processes, and accurate pricing and packaging. Startups can deliver a frictionless and satisfying experience, improving customer satisfaction and retention.

Related: Why startups should consider CPQ

Choosing the right CPQ platform for your business

Before you choose any CPQ platform, there are certain essential features the right platform for your business must have. Here are the things you need from a CPQ platform:

Completely automate the sales process

Arguably, the primary function of a CPQ — is the ease and fast quote generating tool. If a CPQ still requires manual labor for generating quotes, it’s not flexible enough. Keep searching for a more suitable solution.

Speed

Have you heard about the sales reps that take days to generate quotes? When customers ask for a pricing proposal, they want it fast. You need a CPQ that enables sales agility. Choose a CPQ solution that allows sales agility by providing a fast and efficient quoting experience. The system should quickly guide sales reps to the right set of products and prices, eliminating the need to sift through extensive SKUs.

Scalability

As your business grows, you need a platform to handle your increasing workloads and demands without impacting your performance. A scalable CPQ saves you from costly, disruptive system upgrades and migration—factors such as the number of users, products, and pricing configurations the platform can support tell you how scalable the vendor is.

Native CRM integration

Sales ops work with different tools depending on your business models and requirements. So, the CPQ platform must integrate with CRM and ERP to facilitate seamless data transmission. This offers the follow benefits:

  • Sales and finance team to get detailed insights into customer data, deal history, and pricing information. They can track customer interactions, analyze the sales pipeline, and make data-driven decisions.
  • Facilitates effective management of prepaid drawdowns, subscriptions, and amendments, ensuring accurate and timely execution.

Customization and flexibility

Consider a CPQ solution that allows your sales team to structure deals to satisfy customers and accommodate various pricing models (bundles, recurring, usage, promos, etc.). Such a solution should enable your sales team to sell, price, and execute renewal according to their preferences.

The solution should also support different price packages in different ways (bundles; one-time, recurring, usage; promos; different options for different channels). Each business has its unique product configurations, pricing models, or approval workflows requiring customization options and specific requirements.

Great user experience

A great CPQ is intuitive, user-friendly, and enables fast quoting for your sales teams. The CPQ platform with great user experience includes guided selling, dynamic pricing, and a visually appealing interface.

Pricing and ROI

Watch out for CPQ tools with hidden fees. Some CPQ solutions have low initial costs, but you incur other fees to use certain features as you scale. Before you commit, determine their pricing structure, implementation costs, licensing fees, and ongoing maintenance expenses. Compare the features and functionality different platforms offer to ensure you get the best value for your investment.

Industry expertise

A vendor with industry expertise is likely to have a CPQ solution with the needed features and components that align with your business needs. However, a lack of industry expertise often results in a CPQ solution with inadequate customizations and configuration capabilities.

Support and training

As you explore CPQ solutions, you may need help at times. Choose a responsive vendor that offers comprehensive training assistance and effective customer support when needed.

Security and compliance

What are the vendor security measures and data protection capabilities? Great CPQ vendors comply with industry regulations and standards to safeguard sensitive customer and pricing information.

References and reviews

Do they have past customers? Ask for reviews from past customers and existing customers of the CPQ platform. Asking for references from those in your industry can go a long way to helping you choose a good or bad vendor. Ensure you gather valuable insights into the platform’s performance, reliability, and customer satisfaction.

Future roadmap

Innovation is key. Consider the vendor’s future roadmap and commitment to innovation. A forward-thinking CPQ platform will continually enhance its features and functionality, keeping up with evolving market trends and technology advancements.

FAQ about CPQ

Can CPQ integrate with e-commerce platforms for online sales?

Yes, CPQ software with e-commerce management integrates with e-commerce platforms. Here are a few CPQs software with e-commerce capability:

Zuora CPQ: Our CPQ solution works with many platforms, from modern e-commerce platforms like Bigcommerce to an online meeting platform like Zoom. Zuora CPQ lets you set up dynamic pricing for different services at a breakneck speed.

PandaDoc: A SaaS platform with over 50,000 users that enables users to create, easily manage and e-sign documents. Its payment features are claimed to reduce average payment time and fast close.

Cincom CPQ: Cincom CPQ integrates with popular e-commerce platforms, including Magento and Shopify, to provide a seamless product and pricing information flow.

PROS Smart CPQ: PROS Smart CPQ integrates with e-commerce platforms, empowering businesses to deliver personalized and dynamic pricing and quoting customer experiences.

QuoteWerks: Another leading CPQ solution to enable you to search and build quotes on many platforms. It works with ecommerce, vendor & distribution, accounting, and payment gateway platforms.

For a more comprehensive list, visit: Best CPQ software with ecommerce Management

CPQ across industries

CPQ is used across a range of industries. It’s quite common among businesses that sell complex products or services specifically in the manufacturing industry due to its complex product and services configurations –– but it’s also used in others.

The industries listed below can implement CPQ in order to streamline their sales process, enhance their customer experience, and grow their revenue:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Technology
  3. Automotive
  4. Human Resources
  5. Construction and Engineering
  6. Business Services
  7. Healthcare
  8. Financial Services
  9. Telecommunications
  10. Software & IT
  11. Computer & Networking Security
  12. Food and Beverage
  13. Logistics and Supply Chain
  14. Marketing and Advertising
  15. eLearning

Is CPQ scalable and suitable for businesses of different sizes?

Yes, most CPQ solutions are scalable. Due to their flexibility, modular approach, integration capabilities and scalable infrastructure, most CPQ solutions are designed to be scalable and suitable for businesses of different sizes.

Whether you’re a small start-up, mid business size or a large enterprise, most CPQ vendors can meet your specific business needs and scale as your company grows.

Can CPQ handle global pricing and multiple currencies?

Yes, some CPQ vendors like Zuora and Salesforce CPQ platform support global pricing and multiple currencies.

Learn how to handle multi-currencies and global pricing with Zuora: How do I handle multi-currency in Zuora

Does CPQ support mobile access or have a mobile app?

Yes, most CPQ vendors support mobile access and have mobile apps.

Can CPQ generate customized proposals and contracts based on customer requirements?

Yes, aside from fast quoting, the oft-touted function of a CPQ is to generate customized proposals and contracts tailored towards customers’ needs.

What is the cost of implementing a CPQ system, including licensing, implementation, and ongoing maintenance?

There’s no unified cost or fee for implementing a CPQ system. Pricing varies across different vendors.

Is CPQ part of ERP?

Yes, CPQ can be part of an ERP system.

ERP systems may include finance, HR, inventory management, CRM, and CPQ modules/integrations. This streamlines the data flow process between various departments, such as sales and pricing.

Is CPQ part of CRM?

Yes, CPQ is often considered a part of CRM. It provides a unified solution that equips sales teams with tools to create quotes quickly and accurately based on predefined rules.

CPQ resources

Strategic guidance

Financial controls start with a strong CPQ and deal desk
When approached as a cross-functional alignment between the people making a product, the people selling a product, and the people billing a product, finance teams can empower sales success while mitigating risk throughout the quote-to-revenue (QTR) process.

Blog

How CPQ supports complex contract modifications and drives NPS
Contract modifications are crucial for businesses with recurring revenue, and they can have a positive impact on the business and improve customer satisfaction. With an integrated CPQ, reps are empowered to make changes quickly and efficiently.

Strategic guidance

Bridging the gap between sales and finance
Modern Businesses need a quote-to-revenue (QTR) approach that can help them scale efficiently by adapting pricing strategies and onboarding new revenue streams quickly. But your finance team also needs to be able to reconcile bookings, billing, and revenue efficiently.

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The Evolution of CPQ Software

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