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How to Keep Up with Salesforce CPQ

How to keep up with Salesforce CPQ

The demand for CPQ solutions is growing exponentially. According to a Gartner report, market revenue for CPQ tools is expected to grow by 20% year over year through 2020. This is for good reason, too. Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions allow businesses to accelerate sales and recognize revenue faster by quickly configuring products, defining pricing and discount structures, and integrating back-office billing systems.

In competitive industries where the customer can shop around with the swipe and touch of a finger, it is more important than ever to be able to provide a quote with speed and accuracy. The same Gartner study mentioned that being able to quote quickly provides the “highest probability of winning the deal.”

If you are one of these companies considering a CPQ solution such as Salesforce CPQ, you may have already begun your due diligence and research to get an idea of what it takes to implement. You may have even met with an implementation partner or consultant.

If you have, chances are they mentioned that a CPQ implementation is not just a matter of flipping a switch, installing a package or purchasing licenses. From a business point of view, there will be a substantial amount of requirement gathering to determine how CPQ will fit your business needs all the way down to defining your product and pricing structure.

From a technical point of view, implementing CPQ will require data analysis, transformation and loading, reporting, and the technical resources necessary to accommodate any custom business logic.

Maintaining your CPQ solution after implementation leads to an entirely new set of requirements that companies should also prepare for. Some questions you should ask yourself are:

Do you have the IT infrastructure to support the solution?

With Salesforce CPQ, it is important to have defined processes regarding ownership of the solution – who is responsible for changes, enhancements and adoption. It is not uncommon for companies to leave the ownership of Salesforce to the Business users – such as your Sales or Operations team. This may be fine for many implementations, especially ones that utilize out of the box Sales Cloud functionality.

However, CPQ is considerably more complex. With Salesforce CPQ, a technical team is highly recommended. A recent study provided by IBM Bluewolf noted that when IT has control over the use of the Salesforce platform, the business is ‘3x more likely to be optimized for ongoing innovation, use more of its features, as well as ‘coordinated process improvement’ (The State of Salesforce, 45).

Do you have the bandwidth to hire or train permanent Salesforce resources?

In an article by Salesforce about preparing for CPQ success, the author recommends Admin and User training as two of the five necessary components of maintaining a successful CPQ implementation (How to: Prepare for CPQ Success).

Finding the necessary professional resources can be expensive and training current employees may not be feasible for your business. In addition to the hours of training necessary to become a competent platform user, CPQ will demand users to keep abreast on areas to improve and optimize.

For these reasons and more, it may be appealing to contract your CPQ ongoing maintenance. Check out our other blog post on reasons to contract Salesforce work: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-reasons-contract-your-salesforce-project-grant-ongstad/

What are other important Maintenance activities your team should be aware of?

From a maintenance standpoint, most professionals agree that on-going house cleaning activities will need to take place in the following areas:

Products and Pricing: Is your product and pricing structure accurate? This includes cleansing of duplicate products or contradicting pricing rules.

Workflow and Approvals: Do the approval processes still reflect agreed upon business rules?

Quotes and Contracts: Is the language and terms accurate in quote and contract templates?

Conclusion

There is plenty of work to be done before and after implementing a CPQ solution, including creating support plans and assigning maintenance responsibilities.

The key to success is often careful and diligent planning. Although an investment in Salesforce CPQ can yield a significant return on investment, it is important to consider the long-term investment that will have to be made to keep things running smoothly.

Whether you are just beginning your CPQ implementation or have already gone live and could use some additional support, visit Pinkus Partners at www.pinkuspartners.com and get matched with a Salesforce Certified CPQ Consultant within 24-48 hours.

Life After Launch: 8 Ways to Maximize Your Salesforce CPQ Investment

Copy of 8 ways to Maximize your Salesforce cpq investment

After spending time, energy, and resources on an effective Salesforce CPQ roll-out, the time has finally come to enjoy all the benefits your new configure, price, quote software has to offer (and is expected to deliver).

So, what are the most important items to focus on to ensure smooth sailing with Salesforce CPQ?  Here is what Salesforce CPQ customers and Certified Salesforce experts consider to be most important in Life after Launch.

Life After Launch

If you completed a Salesforce CPQ implementation, you may remember the feeling you had on the day the solution was launched into production – aka ‘go live.’

All the planning, the effort, the project that was on your mind 24-7 – now finally complete. You may have wanted to take a nice vacation after that, maybe a trip to Cabo, maybe even tour Europe.

But then a couple days passed, the excitement wore off, and you came back down to earth and realized that the journey with Salesforce CPQ was just beginning.

While I may not be able to promise you that vacation to Cabo, I did compile a list of what Salesforce CPQ customers and Certified Salesforce experts consider to be the most important items to focus on during life after launch with Salesforce CPQ.

1. Increasing User Adoption

With all the benefits Salesforce CPQ adds to a business, if users are slow to adopt this new technology, your company pays the price. It can be challenging to get users away from what they’re accustomed to. Ask any sales rep if they rather spend their time selling or learning a new system, and you’ll be met with more than a few eye rolls. But if that new system is Salesforce CPQ, your sales reps should be itching to get their hands on a tool that is built specifically to help them close deals faster and make their jobs easier.

Therefore, companies need to ensure a smooth transition to increase adoption. Capturing and analyzing usage metrics, providing relevant training resources, and soliciting user feedback to improve outcomes is essential. In addition, providing quick resolutions to any problems your users may encounter is necessary to ensure they are less likely to revert back to old habits.

2. Ensuring Clean and Accurate Data

Data cleansing itself can be a full-time job, especially when dealing with large volumes of data from multiple channels. Validating and maintaining clean and accurate data is essential for your business. Luckily, Salesforce offers a variety of tools and functionality to help manage duplicate and incomplete data. This functionality, when leveraged by your team’s experienced Salesforce professionals, provides your company with invaluable information. Clean and accurate data ensures insightful and accurate reporting.

3. Leveraging Insightful and Accurate Reporting

Sales teams can effortlessly create their own reports and dashboards. Unfortunately, they may not always be useful or accurate. It is not uncommon for companies to spend thousands of dollars on Business Intelligence reporting professionals. Make sure to utilize your company’s Salesforce resources for their expertise when building reports and dashboards that are useful at every level – from the rep on the field interested in their pipeline to executive interested in quarterly performance.

4. Driving Innovation and Improvement

Salesforce knows that the way to stay at the top is by constantly improving and innovating. Make the most of your implementation by keeping abreast on Salesforce news and by identifying ways new or upcoming Salesforce products, services, or functionality can help improve your process. As your business evolves, so will your solution requirements.

Leverage your Salesforce employees to effectively manage and reinforce your current state, but also provide a road map to future innovation. As your product line or pricing structure evolves, your reports will stay relative and up-to-date. In addition, you are preparing your company to take advantage of Salesforce AI capabilities (Einstein) to help identify new insights. See our article on Salesforce Einstein for a good read!

5. Managing Workflow

Salesforce CPQ is all about the workflow – a succinct handoff from the sales rep through the hierarchy of approvers and all the way to billing. In a growing company, this workflow may change quite often. As your process, team, and products change – you’ll need to stay on top of automated workflows. Make sure you have a team in place that can quickly address any holdups in your automated approval process and can make the necessary updates and changes as needed.

6. Managing Templates

Your legal team may need to add a new addendum to a contract, make a change to terms in your quote templates, or your design team may agree on a new header design. Between all these changes, it can be difficult to manage accurate templates that are used in multiple places. Ensure that the most accurate templates are being used by your team so your customers receive consistent and accurate messaging, and your legal team isn’t hit with any surprises.

7. The Development Lifecycle

Your typical Salesforce user and potentially even your power user may not understand best practices of the development lifecycle. With growing expectations and regulations being put on businesses, it is important to be able to point to a clean audit trail of changes made to your production environment. Salesforce experts can help build and maintain a clean deployment plan from development, to stage, to production as well as properly store, deactivate, or remove old metadata.

8. Integrating with Other Applications

If your company’s data doesn’t only exist in Salesforce, you’ll need to put some effort in managing your integrations. We know many vendors may brag about their ‘seamless’ integration, but mistakes happen! Between incorrect mapping, user errors, or data anomalies, a hold up in the integration process can lose you a potential customer. Make sure you understand the common applications that integrate with Salesforce CPQ to keep everything running smoothly.

Managing so many moving parts can be a challenge without the right resources in place.  Stay tuned for more content in the coming weeks to help you stay on top of the most relevant Salesforce CPQ and Quote-to-Cash news and updates. If you missed out on reading through the 485 pages in the Salesforce Spring 2018 release notes, you can find a summary of the 9 changes for Salesforce CPQ and Billing in the newest release right here: Coming Soon: 9 New Salesforce CPQ and Billing Changes

 

AI and Salesforce Einstein: 3 Things Every Company Should Know

The increasing adoption of artificial intelligence has lead more and more executives to ask what role the powerful technology could play in their organization. It is no question that AI is and will continue to revolutionize the way businesses interpret data, interact with customers, and discover opportunities. However, before making the switch to becoming an AI powered organization, there are a few very important questions organizations should ask in determining readiness.

“When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Here are 3 crucial components that should be thought of as prerequisites before taking the plunge into AI, so let’s dive in! After listing each component, I’ll provide detail on how to approach them – allowing your company to be one step closer to making the most of Salesforce Einstein.

#1 Your Data: 

It’s not a question of having data, but how quickly you can find, access, and leverage it.

To take full advantage of the capabilities of Salesforce’s AI product suite, there needs to be a significant level of unification among data. Many companies, having built their solutions in silo, are left with disparate systems where important data resides. This leaves some companies experiencing a downside to owning so much data.

That’s right! In some cases, data could be a culprit. According to a report by IBM’s Bluewolf – 72% of salespeople from small businesses report data inconsistencies as the No. 1 cause of their incomplete view of their customers” (The State of Salesforce, 22)In cases that involve multi-step, longer sales processes that depend on many variables – salespeople are required to search for information in places they haven’t had to look before to meet customers and prospects with relevant interactions. This can prove to be an issue in a sales cycle where time is crucial.

On the other hand, a sales team powered by artificial intelligence and backed by accurate and organized data can leverage powerful tools such as Salesforce’s Einstein Opportunity Insights and Lead Scoring – which can accurately determine the likelihood for a new conversion or give recommendations when a customer is likely to buy.  

For this reason, many companies are finding the value in efforts of consolidating, standardizing, cleaning, and reorganizing the way data is captured and stored, including finding ways of integrating their disparate systems. With a 6.5 Billion Dollar acquisition of MuleSoft, Salesforce is poised to be the premier one-stop solution for both integration and AI solutions.

#2 Your Business Process: 

Your business processes determine the success of your organization. Identify bottlenecks in your process and eliminate them.

When your business has been doing things the same way for a long period of time, it’s difficult to change, which is why it’s imperative to take a proactive approach when evaluating your business process.

So what’s the first step? While it may have made Simon Sinek famous, 3-year olds have been using this technique for years: Start by asking why.

To see how ‘why’ can help you, take your current sales process as an example. Start with the time you qualify a lead to the time they pay their first invoice. For each step in your process, ask yourself why it is done that way.

Repeat the ‘why’ question at least 5 more times and you may begin to gain new perspective. Go to the next stage of your process and repeat. This is a simple way of looking at an important business process that at its core is a way of reasoning from first principles. It breaks down a complex process into smaller, fundamental parts, getting to the heart of an issue. Bring in your Director of Operations, Sales, Business Development, and IT, and try the same exercise to see what they come up with!

Many companies have taken the first step toward a faster sales process by adding configure, price, and quote (CPQ) application suites. And while implementing a CPQ solution results in higher close ratios and greater revenue, it’s only one piece of the larger quote-to-cash solution.

To review vendors that are strong players in this market, head over to G2 Crowd for more insight into which applications are the best fit for solving your most pressing business challenges. There is also a deep pool of talented Salesforce professionals who can guide your company through the discovery process to maximize your investment with Salesforce.com.

#3 Your Customer Relationships:

Artificial Intelligence is and will continue to change the way companies interact with their customers. Know how your customers will react to AI.

Despite the positive ways that AI is impacting the world, there is still a lot of hesitation to adoption. The world is in the middle of what tech leaders, including Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, are calling the fourth industrial revolution. All aspects of life are being transformed by a new era of technology. A lot of people, understandably, are critical of AI’s ability to replace jobs, skills, and human interaction.

It is the organization’s job, therefore, to understand the relationship they have with their customers and determine how they will react. A prospect for a new Aerospace technology may react differently to being told that they were discovered by a machine learning algorithm than a contractor – who prefers personal interaction.

In addition, consider how your sales team communicates with clients. Is your sales cycle a long, multi-faceted process? Or is it based on a series of one on one conversations. These questions are important to your organization and provide insight to how Salesforce Einstein will score leads. As an organization, Salesforce recommends taking into account a customer’s unique journey with their organization” (The AI Revolution, 13). How you build relationships with customers should determine how your organization approaches a Salesforce AI strategy.

With easy access to clean data, a clearly defined business process, and fundamental knowledge of your customer, you are on the right track towards leveraging AI to accelerate momentum within your organization.

If you are challenged with getting the most out of your Salesforce investment, reach out to Pinkus Partners to speak with a Salesforce consultant today.

Coming Soon: 9 New Salesforce CPQ and Billing Changes

Salesforce Spring 2018 release notes show 9 improvements on the way for Configure Price Quote and Billing tools. Get the full scoop here.

Salesforce recently published its Spring release notes (all 485 pages of them). It took a couple pots of coffee, but I was able to hone in on the #1 concern of Salesforce users – Salesforce CPQ.

Instead of having you slog through all 485 pages of release notes, I’ve pulled the most relevant CPQ news together in the post below.

An Expanding Market 

Most people in the SFDC ecosystem know that Salesforce acquired SteelBrick for $360 million. This is a clear signal from the SFDC powers that be that Salesforce CPQ is a key area of opportunity for the company. Both users and analysts seem to agree. Gartner predicts the CPQ market will continue to increase at a compounded annual growth rate of 20% through 2020. If those numbers hold true, you’ll be hard pressed to find a company not using a CPQ tool in a couple years.

Ever looking to round out its company-wide utility, Salesforce also revealed enhancements to Salesforce Billing. These updates will provide SFDC users with “flexible invoicing, custom reports, and simplified payments.”

By automating both quoting and billing, Salesforce is leading the way in providing companies with a full quote-to-cash solution. Why is that important to SFDC users? The sooner you can provide a quote or send out a bill, the sooner you’ll be able to realize revenue from customers (and the sooner your customers will realize the value of your services, of course!).

If you’re interested in tapping into this CPQ revolution before you end up labeled a laggard, read on to learn more about the 9 Salesforce CPQ and Billing changes launching this spring.

Salesforce CPQ: Improved Line Selection and Contract Status Visibility

Create and manage your quotes and orders with Salesforce CPQ. These changes apply to both Lightning Experience and Salesforce Classic.

1. Choose Multiple Lines in Salesforce CPQ Visualforce Pages

Your sales reps now have an easier way of selecting several options in certain Salesforce CPQ Visualforce pages. Users can shift-click to select several lines at the same time.

2. Track Contracting Job Status

You can now track the status of background contracting jobs. The spinner provides visibility by showing your contracting job progress. Add this component to your existing order page layouts.

3. Use the Prorate Multiplier for Order Products

Salesforce CPQ order products now show the prorate multiplier field. This field inherits its value from the quote line and is used to calculate the order product’s total price.

Other Changes in Salesforce CPQ

Changes made to order product fields and line-level contracting

4. Line-Level Contracting on Related Orders Products Is Retired

You can no longer create a contract from percent of total, covered, or bundle products at the order product level. Instead, create a contract with these objects through the order record.

5. Customize Billing with Dynamic Invoice Plans

Dynamic Invoice Plans offer more flexibility for how and when you bill customers. Define dates, service periods, or project milestones that are outside the standard monthly, quarterly, and annual billing cycles.

For example, you can bill 10% of an order product’s total amount upon activation, 25% on first delivery, and the remainder after final delivery.

6. Manage Tax for Your Credit Notes and Debit Notes

Our tax calculation process lets you estimate tax for your credit notes and debit notes before you apply it. If you need to change fields that factor into tax calculation, you can do so before you commit tax to the credit note or debit note record.

7. Use Improved Reporting Tools

Useful reporting tools and out-of-the-box templates show snapshots of your accounts and transactions, and provide examples of how Salesforce Billing can help you work better.

8. Manage Invoices and Payments Seamlessly in the New Payment Center

The updated Payment Center offers a more intuitive and faster process for settling accounts. Customers have more flexibility for paying all or part of an invoice, crediting an account, changing credit card or bank details, and tracking payments in a simplified, intuitive user interface.

9. Added Flexibility with Prerated Usage for Order Products

If you have usage ratings that are defined by another source, or charges not covered by standard usage ratings, you can include them as prerated usage.

So what do these changes mean for Salesforce customers?

Salesforce.com’s CPQ and Billing is an offering that will only continue to get better. With an automated, end-to-end, quote-to-cash-solution, expect your business to see accelerated sales cycles, more closed deals, and quicker revenue recognition.

Are you struggling to get the most out of your Salesforce instance? Learn how we can help match you with a SFDC expert to help you get the most out of your investment.