4 minute read
Selecting technology to underpin global sales potential
Many manufacturers now operate in complex, global ecosystems and when it comes to selling their products, they need tools that can help them service their channels wherever in the world they may be. Adam Hatch from FPX looks at the technology & solutions available to manufacturers to support growth.
Across all global B2B enterprises, approximately 35% of sales come through ecommerce systems, but many of these organisations, including many manufacturers want to see that number increase to about 50% and take advantage of the B2B ecommerce opportunity.
There are different ways to bridge that gap. CRM, ERP and ecommerce platforms all bring something to the table in terms of solving the B2B complexity problem. But at the same time, disparate systems like these introduce complications of their own. They can be siloed, isolated and independent from one another, creating discursive pathways users must navigate to configure solutions, price them accordingly, manage the portfolio across a dealer or vendor network, and still offer dynamic updates to proposals, contracts and other documents throughout the sales cycle. In addition, most ecommerce solutions are not designed for the challenges of the B2B market.
Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) applications are a solution to many of these issues because they can help industrial organisations implement omnichannel capabilities that cater to a more customer-facing sales model. However, there are two important considerations, one is whether the solution is globally-ready or just designed for a specific market or region, the other is whether it will work with other existing technologies that are being used.
Ensuring Global Capabilities
For B2B manufacturers, business either already is, or may be, global in the near future. When a business has an emphasis on internationalisation, those searching for solutions need to think about managing foreign currencies, languages, and localised product and service catalogues.
The right enterprise CPQ solution will streamline the management of regional catalogues, allowing manufacturers to access multiple currencies, localised languages, and regional terms and conditions all from a central location. This is important, and it should be a feature that is available out of the box, or manufacturers will be looking at expensive and time-consuming upgrades in the future. Furthermore, solutions that are retrofitted to accommodate multiple regions may compromise the user experience for both the company’s internal users and the customers who may be engaging with the solution through a dealer portal or ecommerce platform.
It’s important not to underestimate the CPQ solution’s ability to integrate with other existing technology being used by the manufacturer, including the CRM and ERP systems.
This way, instead of adding yet another solution to an existing suite of tools that complicates good processes and/or means employees have to relearn how to use existing systems in different ways, the right solution will work with the platforms to make all the technology and platforms more efficient, the sales team more effective, and help the business remain agile in the ever-changing B2B world.
What to Look For
Manufacturers need to ensure they don’t end up investing in something that isn’t right for their organisation by looking for solutions that include the following features.
1 – Platform Agnostic
Look for CPQ solution providers that are platform agnostic (also commonly referred to as non-native) and are able to easily integrate with most major solutions. It’s important to be aware of whether a solution is native or non-native, as native solutions are built to function within a specific platform (e.g. Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP Hybris, etc.).
It’s also important to note that many vendors (both native and non-native) often offer pre-built connectors to a select group of technology ecosystems for quicker implementations and a lower overall cost of integration, essentially rendering a non-native application, native to that particular technology ecosystem.
2 – Flexibility
Certainly, the solution chosen should integrate with the company’s current applications, but it is possible to switch from an existing application sometime in the future. It’s best for manufacturers to think about what other applications they may add, how they will manage changing solutions, and whether the solutions are flexible enough should changes occur during a merger or acquisition.
The key is to make sure the new solution is agile and flexible enough to evolve with the business, not hold it back. A CPQ solution that is native to Salesforce CRM, for example, may not be compatible with SAP ERP, which means that instead of benefiting from a solution that connects the front and back office to streamline the quoting process, the organisation is stuck customising the application over and over again, draining resources and killing ROI.
As key applications change or update, such as CRM or ERP solutions, the solution should continue to work with the new or updated systems. In short, manufacturers can future-proof their CPQ solution by selecting a vendor with an open platform.
The Bottom Line
The right CPQ solution will work with current tools, platforms, and systems, making them more efficient; it won’t work against them, making life for the manufacturer more difficult or the sales team less effective.
Look for a solution that will:
• Establish a Master Commercial Definition by utilising the organisation’s vital information, including price books, product catalogues, customer definitions, and business logic (rules, attributes, governance, etc.)
• Extend and connect the capabilities of front and back office CRM and ERP systems, allowing the sales cycle to flow seamlessly between both
• Allow the organisation’s Master Commercial Definition to be leveraged by all end users (internal sales, customers, channel partners, etc.) across all channels (direct, indirect, online, etc.)