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Everything you need to know about configurators

by Gilles Muys

Any new solution you implement for your business is only as good as how well that solution provides for its users. This is true especially for your CPQ platform—it needs to be configured and tailored to your specific needs. Your CPQ platform can empower you to be productive and drive value into your business. But if it is not configured correctly, you could be looking down the road to a whole host of other issues with your CPQ practice.

That is where configurators come in. A configurator is a tool within your CPQ platform that allows you to combine products and services that make up part of (or the entire) solution for the end customer. These tools guarantee that every solution quoted and priced by your sales reps is technically and commercially viable—and free of any human error.

muysUsing configurator tools within your CPQ platform can greatly simplify your pricing and quoting efforts. Let’s take, for example, the manufacturing industry. A manufacturing company is more than likely going to have numerous products and services that can be mixed and matched in order to fulfill a solution for a customer. And all of these components have instances in which they can or cannot be bundled into a solution. These are called product dependencies. They can take many shapes and forms, but they are the core rules that lie at the heart of CPQ configurators.

 

Types of configuration constraints

To start, let’s discuss three basic types of configuration constraints: dependencies, exclusions, and quantity-based constraints. From a technical perspective, you have to make sure the products and services are compatible with each other. Between the use of these three types of constraints, you will be able to create rules and exceptions that dictate the ways users can create product bundles.

Dependencies: Just as the name implies, these constraints will help you develop dependent relationships between certain products and services. That is to say, if you wanted two products to be sold together, you could bundle them together automatically. Conversely, if a user were to select an item in the product catalog that can’t be sold on its own, you could prohibit the item from being added to the quote. For example, if you wanted to ensure that the sale of a CPQ platform is bundled with a CPQ training service, you could build that into a dependency.

Exclusions: The exclusion constraints exclude items that are not compatible as part of a solution. For example, let’s say you buy a car and need to choose an engine. You would not be able to select both a V6 and V8 engine for your car, as the car has room for only one engine.

Quantity-based Constraints: A quantity-based constraint restricts the sale of a product if a certain quantity isn’t met. Using the same car purchase example, you could have a maximum quantity constraint of four or five for tires, depending on whether you allow your customers to purchase an identical spare tire. As another example, if you sell a modular software platform, you would want to make sure the number of licenses for a specific module does not exceed the total number of licenses for the core platform itself.

It is important for your CPQ platform to be able to take multiple parameters into account when configuring products and services. For example, all the above constraints might need to be considered in the context of what your customers have purchased from you in the past. Other parameters might include consideration of market segments, geographic location, whether a partner or distributor is involved in the transaction, local regulations, and so on.

These rules are important to your business and exist for a reason. Make sure your CPQ platform offers a rule-based configuration engine that is flexible and easy to maintain to enforce your business rules.

Related: Ryan Westwood and Gilles Muys Q&A with Frank Sohn

 

Optimizing configurators for user experience

There’s no sense in implementing new systems if they are not adopted by the user. For a CPQ platform, your user would primarily be the sales rep, and you want to make sure you are optimizing the workflow and closing sales faster. As an administrator, you have to think about reducing the number of clicks or minimizing horizontal and vertical scrolling, and thus allowing users to configure the solution as quickly and as intuitively as possible. There are a few things you can consider when tackling this objective:

Organizational workflow: In the case of a complex solution, you can have a user interface that groups options together. It has been found that a tabbed interface is well received by sales reps because it allows them to group products that go together in the same tab. For example, all hardware would be in one tab, software in another, and services in a third. Make it intuitive for your sales reps!

Automating common items: Admins should preselect options that are most frequently selected for end clients. If 80% of clients usually get premium support, preselect that to eliminate one click to manually select the premium support in most deals, making the process easier for the user. Similarly, you can flag specific options that cannot be removed from the solution because they are mandatory.

Guided configuration: As the sales rep progresses into the configuration of the solution, either by selecting specific options or answering questions, think about opportunities for the system to automatically show or hide additional configuration options, or even automatically select or deselect such additional options.

Use nested configurators sparingly: A CPQ platform supporting nested configurators provides a great time saver for CPQ admins through re-use of configuration artifacts. However, experience shows that users of the system often get confused if you go too deep in the hierarchy. After three or four levels in the configuration hierarchy, you get diminishing or even negative returns. Plan carefully when designing your configurators!

 

Maximizing revenue for the company through upselling

At the end of the day, the reason a company is looking to implement a CPQ solution is to maximize profits through streamlined processes and reduction of manual errors. The automation of your CPQ operations through the utilization of configurators will ensure this goal becomes a reality.

You can think of your CPQ environment as an automatic upselling tool for sales reps. By bundling various items, products, and services together through the use of configurators, you are increasing your chances for more revenue. If you sell a certain software application, you can configure that product to be sold automatically with training for different services or software.

This is a great tool, especially for new users. Where an experienced sales rep might remember all of the add-on services that bundle with a product, a new salesperson might be focused on selling the product but forget to add the additional items or services associated with that bundle. When your CPQ is configured just right, you can help ensure that no details are falling through the cracks, which increases your bottom line.

Configurators are the ultimate tool for ensuring that all of the rules and restrictions for the configuration of your products and services are enforced. However, it is only one piece of the equation that makes the Salesforce CPQ platform the best-in-breed. Normally, the structure of the configurator should apply to every solution and should compile to the sum of the price of the components. But this is not always the case. In my next blog, we will go into the big P of CPQ—pricing—and we will discuss how to resolve those discrepancies.

 

gilles muys what is cpqGilles Muys is VP of Customer Solutions at Simplus and an experienced executive. He knows CPQ across various industries, has extensive startup experience, and was one of the first three SteelBrick employees. Gilles is the only Salesforce CPQ Black Belt in the world.

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