Blog Category: CPQ

Quick…are you selling products or solving customer problems?

Companies don’t want products – they want solutions to their problems. Meet Vencomatic, a Tacton customer who knows the difference a good sales tool can make.

 

Vencomatic is a Dutch equipment manufacturer for the poultry farming industry. The company’s products are highly customized and no two customers buy the same solution.

With a presence in more than 70 countries and an extensive network of partners and re-sellers, Vencomatic needed a CPQ sales tool that was smart, quick and accurate. But more than that – they needed a tool that could answer their customers’ questions.

 

The Challenge: Providing a solution, not just a product

Vencomatic’s customers have chickens in common, but that’s where it ends. Each has their own very unique set of requirements. There isn’t even consistency in terms of how they approach Vencomatic. And herein lies the challenge.

 

Koen Boot, CIO at Vencomatic explains:

“Some of our customers come to us with a building specification and say, ‘I want to house chickens in this building, which system should I use? And how many birds can I keep?’ While another might ask, ‘I want to produce X number of eggs per day, which system should I use and how large should the building be?’ This requires a degree of flexibility and sophistication that our existing sales configurator just couldn’t provide”.

 

What Koen describes here is a common thread for many of the manufacturers that we work with. Customers often ask how you can solve a problem, or meet a need, rather than coming with an idea of which product they want to buy. And in this situation, you’d better know your offering inside out.

 

But even this isn’t enough. You also need to understand the unique business context your solution should fit into. This may sound obvious, but with complex products (even with not so complex ones!) it’s far from easy.

Koen explains the situation like this;

“If you take one of our standard nest products – we might have 20 different options for each nest. Consider then that we have 25 different product lines and that we’re active in 70 countries, each of which has its own country-specific regulations and requirements…it makes for a pretty complex equation.”

 

A sales tool that loves the complexity

What’s needed is a CPQ tool  that can handle this level of complexity, and also one that’s smart enough to capture a customer’s needs and translate that into the optimal offering. And that’s Tacton.

 

Tacton’s technology has the ability to connect customer needs to specific product features and functions. You can offer solutions that provide an answer to your customer’s questions – and crucially, you can do it every bit as quickly and profitably as you would with standard products.

 

Unexpected benefits

Embarking on a configuration project like this one often acts as a catalyst that sheds light on issues and brings unexpected improvements.

Koen explains:

“The project with Tacton highlighted a lot of issues with our processes, but in a good way. It forced us to really examine our products from a logical point of view, and to think about what is the core and what we should offer as options. We had always modularized to some extent, but this really made us rethink. It was a big eye-opener for us to look at our product line in this way and to really consider what we could and should offer our customers. We’ve adapted Tacton’s ideas to our product architecture and it’s already looking very promising.”

 

The main takeaway for Vencomatic was this – if your customer wants you to build a custom solution, you need a clear understanding of your building blocks.

 

Time savings of up to 60% – and that’s just the beginning 

Even before the Tacton solution was fully implemented, the project had already started to show efficiency gains in both production and sales. The first phase of the project handles six complete product lines, including country regulations and many other important parameters. This work is already producing time-saving of as much as 60% per quote. Koen says,

With our new solution, all the product and configuration knowledge is captured in the system and not just in the heads of our product experts. We are very happy. It is saving us a lot of time and we are a more competitive business as a result.”

 

Does any of the above resonate?

If you’re nodding yes, then our smart CPQ tool could be a good fit for you. Read about it here or drop us a line. We’d be happy to arrange a demo.

Are you smart like Einstein? Can you solve this logic puzzle? Or is it time for CPQ?

The Challenge

Do you like solving logic puzzles? Great! So do we and we would like to give you a challenge today.
You may recognize this classic puzzle, The Einstein Riddle, as it sometimes appears in the quiz section of newspapers etc. It is often claimed that Einstein came up with this puzzle and has said only 2% of the world’s population could solve it. Although that probably is not true it still offers a fun challenge.

The Einstein Riddle is not only a challenging puzzle to solve but also offers a great way of understanding the attributes and constraints that are important features of a configurator. Many manufacturers struggle with the constraints of their product portfolio, using spreadsheets to track changes between sales and engineering. This leads to quoting errors and incorrect product configurations. With Tacton Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions its easier than ever to make these errors go away. But we’ll give you the chance to see if you’re smarter than Einstein and our configurator before you see if you need a CPQ. Good luck!

For that reason, the puzzle has also been modified to an easy to understand the product that is also often configured: cars.

Your task

Your task is to figure out which car is Environmental Friendly (a Sales Pitch) using the given situation and clues.

The situation

  1. We have 5 car brands, with five different Colors, parked in a parking space next to each other.
  2. Each car uses a specific type of Fuel, is a certain Car Type, and has a specific Sales Pitch.
  3. No car uses the same Fuel, has the same Color, the same Sales Pitch or is the same Car Type.

Clues

The Volvo is Red
The Land Rover is Safe
The Toyota runs on Diesel
The Green car is parked Left to the White car
The Green car runs on Hydrogen
The Truck is Exclusive
The Yellow car is a Van
The car parked in the Center runs on Electricity
The Ford is parked in the First (leftmost) parking lot
The Sports Car is parked Next To the car that is Fast.
The Economical car is parked next to the Van
The Compact car runs on Natural Gas
The Renault is a Station wagon
The Ford is parked next to the Blue car
The Sports Car is parked next to the Gasoline car

As you may notice, the Sales Pitch does not in itself hold any logic towards the Car Type, e.g. the Sports Car does not necessarily have to be marketed as the Fast Car just as the Truck is obviously the Exclusive car.

The contest

Solve the puzzle and fill in the form below with the answer to ”Which car is environmentally friendly” as soon as you are done.
Next week we will publish the correct solution and the week after we will explain how the Tacton configurator can be used to solve this puzzle as well as far more complex versions of the puzzle.

The Hint:

*Here’s a helpful hint: By now, you may have figured out that the logic used in this puzzle is quite similar to the way the Tacton Configure, Price, Quote tools works. The clues in this puzzle are similar to the rules (or constraints as we call them) we use in the configurator. These rules are hard to figure out without some help. Imagine struggling with this daily, that’s what many manufacturers do with their product variance. Tacton CPQ makes it easier than ever to solve any riddle, even Einstein’s Riddle!

Interested in learning more about how manufacturers can solve the riddles that hamper efficient operations and great customer experience? Check out our Manufacturers’ Guide to Smart Commerce eBook that covers the essentials of CPQ, visual configuration and much more!

Know your ABCs of Manufacturing Sales Software (ep.3)

What do ERP and BOM have in common?

In case you missed here you can find the post on CAD & PLM and the post on CRM & CPQ.

Acronyms are meant to simplify things. However, every day there seem to be new ones popping up. Nowhere is this truer than in software, especially in manufacturing software.

Manufacturing software is a domain where acronyms are everywhere. The recent developments in new software solutions have multiplied the number of acronyms that are used daily. For example; a few years ago, the terms “CPQ” was still uncommon among large manufacturers. Today, “CPQ” has become indispensable for large manufacturers’ growth strategy.

Whether you are new to manufacturing, sales (or both), or you are simply having trouble keeping up with all the different types of software solutions available, we’ve created this series of posts to help get familiar with the lingo.

Let’s us know what you think (mateo.bornico@tacton.com)

ERP – (Enterprise Resource Planning)

Focus area: Internal Processes

What it is?

ERP is your organization’s Main Operating System (i.e. the brain). It is the software that is used to help manage all internal and external resources such as financial records, materials, and human resources. The ERP main function is to track business resources — cash, raw materials, production capacity—and the status of business commitments: orders and purchase orders. ERP provides an integrated and continuously updated view of core business processes using common databases maintained by a database management system.

If you work for a large organization, you certainly have an ERP system. Its central role in the organization makes integration with the ERP indispensable with all other software including CRM, CPQ, PLM, and PDM (hopefully these acronyms will start to feel familiar by now).

Its role in the Sales Process:

ERP operates in the background of the sales process. For salespeople, the ERP may be their primary source of feedback data for things like delivery status or order tracking. Sales tools like CRM and CPQ may also connect to the ERP to obtain this important data (such as current stock levels, new price models, etc.), that can influence the quoting process.

Once a quote is approved, the ERP system can track this order (along with its many documents and specifications, for example, BOMs). It is the ERP to continuously have the updated information on the status of a particular order. It’s worth repeating here that any other software tool that is used for moving the sales forward (CPQ, CRM, PLM for example) are well integrated with the ERP.

BOM – (Bill of Materials)

Focus Area: Product

What it is?

Simply put, a BOM is the list of the materials/components that come together to form a product. Unlike other acronyms in this series, BOM is NOT a software, rather a type of document that is vital for all areas of manufacturing. Since complex and high-variance products require deep customization, the BOM for a customized product will be different with each different customization. It’s important to distinguish 3 major types of BOMs.

  • – Engineering BOM (eBOM): This BOM is developed during the design of the product and it is often generated by the CAD software. The product may not have a specific configuration, rather it lists all the different parts that can be substituted or assembled depending on the configuration. As you can imagine, this BOM is highly detailed and can include CAD drawings, technical specifications on each individual component.
  • – Sales BOM (sBOM): This is the Bill of Materials that is included in a detailed quote. In the latter stages of the sales process, the BOM will list in detail exactly what the customer is buying, and for this reason, it is important that BOMs highly all relevant details required for the sale to be approved.
  • – Manufacturing BOM (mBOM): This mBOM is required for transferring the product sold to the manufacturing phase (building the actual product). This mBOM contains all the information required for the product to be built. It can integrate with ERP in order the various components to be ordered (that can transfer to a material resource planning tool), or even to a manufacturing execution system. The mBOM may also contain assembly information (although this is more for the Production BOM).

Its role in the Sales Process:

Clearly, the sBOM is one of the vital documents of the sale of complex manufacturing products. It’s important to ensure that the sBOM can easily be integrated into the ERP system so that other BOMs can be generated for the manufacturing of the product. Generally speaking, the BOM is one of the central documents that link the ERP with CPQ, PLM and other manufacturing software together.

In case you missed here you can find the post on CAD & PLM and the post on CRM & CPQ.

 

For our next issue, we will define ERP and PDM.

If you found this useful or have some additional comments, please send me an email: mateo.bornico@tacton.com

Bridging the Uncertainty Gap

Buyers journey

How you can help your customers before they contact you.

“57% of the purchase decision is complete online before a customer even calls a supplier.” (CEB)

Let that sink in a little bit more.

If you work in B2B sales this fact should give you goosebumps.

Your customers, by the time they contact you for the first time, have already a pretty good idea of what they want. Whether you believe this or not, there is one thing you can do to ensure that you remain the front runner.

Here’s what you can do about the 57%

It is obvious that you, as a vendor, cannot control exactly what your customers will learn about you. After all, the internet is filled with helpful expert reviews, or even peer review sites that will have an opinion on your product. (BTW: Did you know Tacton was named the Go-to software by Gartner and is also highly ranked on G2Crowd? #shamelessbrag)

The one thing that you CAN control is what they see on your website. More specifically, your entire website should focus on answering “yes” to this question form your customers: Does this company have the product that is going to solve my problem(s)?

Until recently, vendors have tried to answer this question by describing their products and services. However, despite their best efforts, customers still had to do some guesswork or attempt to match these descriptions to their problems. The harder it is for them to figure out if your products are right from them > the more uncertainly > the less eager they will be to contact you.

Describing your product isn’t enough, you must SHOW your products

As we’ve just hinted, uncertainty is one of the things that vendors must try to eliminate. Uncertainly is generated when there is a gap between what the solution that you are offering and the problem they need to solve. The bigger the disconnect, the bigger the uncertainty, the less likely they’ll contact you.

Product descriptions (text, images, and videos) can only get you so far. If you want your customers to be certain that your product is going to solve their problems, you must show them exactly what they need.

 

By describing your product, you are asking your prospects to embrace uncertainty.

 

Man jumping a chasm

Whereas, by “showing” they can see exactly how your products solve their problems.

Crossing with a helping hand

Showing requires some level of interaction. Until recently, it was simply impossible to “show” the product before the customer contacted the vendor.

Showing your products with an online configurator

In B2B, especially for manufacturers of complex solutions, Product Configuration is an indispensable part of the sales process. It wasn’t until the customer saw a customized product that there was certainly in their purchasing decision.

This situation meant that the customer had to engage with the supplier without having certainty that the product would be able to meet their specific needs.

Today, thanks to advancements in configuration technology, vendors have a way for “showing” a configurated product without the need of the vendor’s interaction. We are referring to, as the subtitle suggest, to an online configurator where visitors can configure a complex product to match their specifications.

This means that the customer can have a higher level or certainly by the time they contact the customer.

Some examples of B2B companies using an online configurator to help their customers during the initial 57%

  • Piab – A Swedish manufacturer of air-conveyors, and production machinery. Their online configurator allows the visitor to select the type of use and performance, and the visitor can obtain a 3D image of the product, along with the product’s specifications.
  • Mercedes Benz Trucks – Trucks and other heavy vehicles require a high degree of customization depending on the performance, type of use and lifecycle maintenance that is preferred by the customer. Here the visitor can explore various options and configurations available.

Aside from the ability to eliminate uncertainly, these companies experience an added bonus to having an online configurator. They were able to tap into what is commonly referred to as The Ikea Effect. An unconscious bias that was explained in more detail here.

Conclusion

Currently, 57% of the buyer’s journey is done independently without the vendor’s engagement, a number is likely to increase. B2B companies selling complex products should embrace the fact that consumers today are using the internet to guide them. It is in their best interest to provide ways to not just describe their product, but also to show them that their product is right for them. The goal is to eliminate uncertainty and help them move closer to have them engage with you.

Are showing or merely describing your products?

Why Quoting Speed Matters

quoting at speed

In a recent McKinsey survey of 1,000 B2B decision-makers, lack of speed in interactions with their suppliers was the number-one “pain point.” Speed was mentioned twice as often as price.

Perhaps the phrase “time is money”, should really be changed to “time is more valuable than money”.

At Tacton, we regularly highlight how our digital commerce solutions let our customers deliver “fast, error-free quotes” at a fraction of the time of traditional means. We do this because we understand that speed matters, especially during complex B2B sales cycles.

When does Speed Matter?

To clarify, we are not arguing for a “speed at all costs” approach. In the world of B2B commerce, solely focusing on speed, without taking the time to invest in relationships, quickly misses the point.

When selling complex-configurable products, establishing strong customer relationships requires time, consistency and hard work. There are, however, many interactions with the customer where speed and being able to respond quickly to your customers can build stronger relationships and cultivate trust.

One of the first and most important interactions where speed can leave a profound impression is in the quoting stage. If “first impressions” are correlated to the success of long-term relationships, then suppliers should ensure that the quoting stage goes as smoothly as possible.

A practical example

Take for example a construction company that is currently planning to build a skyscraper in Sydney. The procurement division of the company requests a quote to a well-known Japanese elevator company. The deal is certainly complex, given the fact that the elevator company must comply with specific technical, legal and safety requirements. There are also many pricing issues that the company should account for (currency exchange rates, date of payment/delivery, etc.).

In this example, the elevator company knows that they are going to be competing with other companies and therefore making a good impression from the start will give them an advantage. Being first signals to the decision-makers that you are efficient and experienced (and that it will continue throughout the entire project if chosen).

It is also safe to say that in complex sales deals, there is rarely just one quote presented. Normally the buyer can change their requirements or change some details of the original proposal, requiring the seller to provide modified quotes. The ability to repeat the same level of service (provide fast error-free quotes) will build even more trust.

Quoting at Speed – a catalyst for stronger customer relationships

As we just discussed, being fast at quoting signals to the buyer that you are efficient and reliable. This improved efficiency results in better allocation of your resources. In other words, simplifying the quoting process (through the help of smart software tools) allows you to spend more time on relationship-building initiatives.

As we hinted earlier, building strong relationships with the customer is imperative for B2B commerce. To achieve this, organizations should ensure that interactions with the customer are authentic and they help drive the sale closer to the signing table.

If an organization is using up its people and resources to configure a quote, it will need to invest even more resources to attend to the customer’s need. This is the tradeoff that many B2B organizations are doing, scrambling to complete quote that meets all the client’s requirements, at the expense of poor customer experience, and loss of trust.

In this sense, being able to quote at speed will give your salespeople more bandwidth to build stronger relationships. It can also give the peace of mind that if the customer changes its requirements, they will be able to respond quickly and effortlessly.

Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced world, B2B buyers are rightfully demanding when it comes to response speed from suppliers. In the world of complex B2B sales, where long sales cycles are the norm, suppliers can use speed to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Speed, however, should not come at the cost of relationships. Instead, organizations can use speed to signal to their customer’s reliability and efficiency. Simultaneously, speed can help the organization to allocate more resources to relationship building interactions and ensuring the customer’s needs are addressed properly.

One example where speed can make a profound impact is in the quoting phase. This early phase of the buying process is where many suppliers get to make a first impression. It also offers a chance for the organization to start on the right foot and create a lasting relationship.

Do you want to learn more about how Tacton helps sellers of complex products build stronger relationships? Click here.

10 Reasons why your company needs a CPQ

10 reasons why you need CPQ

If you have been looking for ways of transforming your organization by modernizing the way you sell complex manufacturing products, your search probably led you to “CPQ”. This is not just a buzzword around the sales community, CPQ is a tool that is having a profound impact in the way manufacturing products are being sold. 

What’s so special about CPQ? 

In simple terms, CPQ stands for Configure, Price, [and] Quote. It is primarily a sales tool that empowers sales teams to confidently and accurately create complete quotes from end to end 

When it comes to B2B sales of complex products (especially in manufacturing), the right CPQ ensures that the products are configured to the specific requirements of the customer. In other words, CPQ allows for 100% error-free quotes 

It then calculates the best price for that specific configuration by taking into account things like exchange rates, product availabilities, discounted pricing, etc..  

Finally, it is able to combine all this information and generate all the documents required to submit a complete and detailed quote 

The real magic of CPQ comes from its speedTraditionally, obtaining a detailed quote of a complex product took days, weeks or even months. Compare that to the top-performing CPQs today that can generate a quote within minutes. In today’s world of Smart Commerce, CPQ becomes indispensable for keeping up with increasing customer requirements.  

So, yes CPQ is indispensable to remain competitive in today’s B2B commerce landscape. But how do you know if CPQ is right for your organizationTo answer this, we came up with the most common reasons why you should consider getting a CPQ 

Here are (just) 10 reasons why… 

1) You wished quoting was less labor-intensive. It currently requires ‘too many’ stakeholders to complete a detailed custom quote. 

2) In recent past, your organization has lost deals for not meeting deadlines

3) Your organization has lost deals due to quoting errors or misconfigurations 

4) You sell complex products that require customization for every customer 

5) Precision matters – The quote needs to include technical/detailed specifications

6) Only highly trained, experienced salespeople are able to produce a quote 

7) You have an international sales team and the information is equally scattered 

8) Your sales teams, who are pressed for time and results, end up offering too many price discounts to customers

9) You sales teams struggle to quote maintenance costs, or product lifecycle management into the sales quote 

10) Your customer requires visuals (including color realistic imaging, 3D visuals, etc.), before making a purchasing decision.   

If one (or more) of these points sound familiar, you should definitely look into buying a CPQ. In this case, we encourage to look at places like G2 Crowdor Gartner 

In fact, Gartner, following a comprehensive study with industry experts and scholars, has named Tacton as the “go-to” for CPQ in the manufacturing industry as part of their “Magic Quadrant”. It’s an achievement that we are working hard to repeat for years to come.  

Original photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@akipotpot

Expert Series: 3 Ways to Remain Competitive in the Production Lines and Packaging sector

Packaging and Production Lines is perhaps one of the most important sectors of the manufacturing industry. Having a fast, efficient, and effective production systems in place can give manufacturers a strategic advantage over its competitors. 

The high demand for faster and better packaging and production equipment means that there is a lot of competition for suppliers. Whenever there is high competition, margins tend to be tight and competitors are forced to find different ways to gain a competitive edge.  

To understand this industry better, we sought the expert opinion of Tacton’s Chief Product Officer, Nils Olsson. Nils brings a deep knowledge of the Packaging and Product Lines sector, with more than a decade’s experience at Tetra Pak. During his tenure as e-solutions and portfolio manager, he’s helped this global enterprise to revolutionize their sales process. 

If you are interested in reading the full version of this interview, you can download the PDF directly from here.  

3 ways to rise above the competition: 

1) Shorten sales cycles by selling exactly what customers need 

Time and speed are two of the most important factors in packaging and production lines. Nowhere are the sayings “faster is better” and “time is money” truer than in this sector. This demand for speed and efficiency also applies to the sales process. Here, buyers are interested in getting the product they need faster and on schedule. The faster this can happen, the faster they can get to a Return on Investment (ROI).  

Understanding the needs of the customer from the first contact is key to shortening the sales cycle. This requires a lot from the ordinary salesperson. It’s about allowing the customer to describe what their ultimate goal and targets are. During this exploration phase, the salesperson should be able to identify which solution will help the customer achieve those goals.  

This certainly sounds simple, however, in this industry, the solutions and equipment themselves are complex. Often products require a customized solution for every customer. This customization generates a challenge for companies that are not equipped to quickly generate detailed, error-free quotes during a sales meeting. To learn more about Needs-Based-Configuration and Guided-Selling, click here 

 In summary, in an industry where competition is fierce, being first and effective can really make you stand out from the pack. When a talented salesperson that can quickly understand the needs of the customer, and is also able to configure, price and quote the proposal during a sales meeting, it can really make an impact.  

[Don’t just take our word for it, seek how shorter sales cycles has helped MEYN] 

2) Compete on Value (not on Price) 

Once your sales team is able to determine what product, components and configurations will be offered, it’s important to ensure that the customer understands the value being provided. 

To understand this distinction, Nils likes to quote Warren Buffet, “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get.” 

So when one takes into consideration the value one receives, it changes the way we look at the price. As everyday consumers, we see this play out whenever we buy a car or eat at a restaurant. We tend to overlook the price tag when we believe the item gives us a higher value from what we’ve paid.  

How to communicate value: 

Here is a quick list (not conclusive) of the type of information that a sales rep should convey during the quoting process:

  • – How well the equipment works 
  • – How easy it’s to operate 
  • – How well can you maintain it 
  • – How adaptive and versatile is the equipment 
  • – How compliant is it with legal and regulatory requirements. 
  • – How it’s installed – steps, costs, and timeline of the installation project 
  • – When will the investment start generating revenue for the customer 

While these factors apply to any sales processNils remind us that communicating value plays a bigger role in the production line and packaging sector.  

“Companies competing in this field often operate at marginal costs, they have high installation costs, and are subject to ever-changing regulations.”  

The ability to communicate the value to the customer is therefore key for avoiding the trap of a price war in an industry that is already operating under thin margins.  

3) Focus on building customer relationships 

In a competitive environment, maintaining solid customer relationships goes a long way. While it may be tempting to use the word “loyalty”, the fact is customer relationships are based on facts and measurable outcomes.  

In this sense, building strong customer relationships is about delivering on your promises. Certainly, getting the quote quickly and convincing the customer of the great value you are providing is certainly important. However, these two are meaningless if they are not followed through successful delivery.  

One of the best ways of achieving this level of effectiveness is to ensure that there are no errors in the quote. It is in this crucial moment when a quote is converted from a contract into a production order, that can make or break the trust that sales teams worked hard to earn.   

Another similar factor that plays a role in keeping customers loyal is by the confidence shown by the sales rep. This confidence comes from having accurate and reliable information at hand. It can also come from being able to promise a delivery date and installation costs. In this sense, Nils highlights the importance of sales teams to collaborate closely with engineering and production teams.  

It is important here for sales teams to have reliable information, readily available and accessible from anywhere. Luckily there is a tool for that!  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: 

Configure Price Quote for the Packaging industry (2 page PDF)  https://www.tacton.com/resources/cpq-for-the-packaging-industry/?via=resources 

Customer Story (infographic): Learn how Dutch production line manufacturer, MEYN, upgraded their quoting time, from days to minutes

 

In case you haven’t caught on, there exists a tool that can help you achieve shorter sales cycles (1), Compete on Value (2), and build stronger customer relationships (3). That tool is Tacton CPQ. Sound too good to be true? Have a look here: https://www.tacton.com/tacton-cpq/ 

Interview: Using AR for Selling at Manufacturing Tradeshows

Josef and Milan from Piab

They say “Seeing is believing” and nowhere is this more true than at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest Manufacturing trade show held every year in Northern Germany. This is the setting Piab chose to test Tacton’s CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) with AR (Augmented Reality). Piab, a Swedish manufacturer of vacuum conveyors and other assembly technology, have been at Hannover’s tradeshow several times with this year being the first to share a booth with Tacton. We sat down with Piab’s Josef Karbassi, Vice President of Vacuum Automation Division, and Milan Bratt, Global Product Manager, to learn more about their experience using AR.

 

Piab- Piflow AR demoAbout Tacton CPQ with AR: Tacton has created an App (for mobile and tablets) that allows companies to showcase their products virtually within its surroundings. Unlike traditional visual configurators that only display the configured product on screen, the app gives the user the additional option to place a virtual 3D image within the camera view as if they were in front of them. This 3D rendering of the product further adds value to the sales process as the buyer can see the items size, shape, and even walk around it to get a 360-degree view. To learn more about it, watch this short demo video. To try it out for yourself, see instructions at the bottom of the page.

Giving your visitors the ability to explore your latest products with an AR experience is always a good way of breaking through the noise at crowded tradeshows. It is also a great advantage to be able to have all your products (no matter how large or small) in your pocket, with the ability to turn every space into an impromptu showroom.

Piab, an early adopter of technology, understands this very well. They were more than glad to share their experience of using AR at the 2019 Hannover Messe (HM19).

How would you describe the weeks leading to HM19?

Milan: We started preparing for Hannover Messe months in advance. We, of course, wanted to make the most of it and we wanted to display our entire product range. However, this would be highly impractical, so we decided to bring one of our latest products, the ergonomic tube lifter. It was assembled and displayed in collaboration with other manufacturers, so we were happy how it turned out.

Josef: The scope and reach of HM19 is so large that we needed to be very strategic about it. We were lucky to have two displays booths set up in different parts of the fair. One in the Swedish Pavillion, where we collaborated with Tacton. In this booth, we chose to display and demo one of our complex products, a vacuum conveyor. Our other booth was our primary booth located in the robotics area where we displayed our ergonomic tube lifter.

How was your first experience using AR at HM19? 

Josef: It was great fun! Once I downloaded the app on my phone, I was able to pull it out at any time and show visitors what this tool was capable of. I would even hand over the phone so that visitors can experience it on their own. It was great to see people using the tool where they would walk around with it and view the item from multiple angles at the same time.

Milan: It was great to be able to place the objects in the room and have them see what the size and look of our products are. It was much easier for visitors to understand what we were offering by configuring it and displaying it as if they had it in front of them.

Do you think AR made a difference? 

Both: Absolutely.

Josef: It was great to have the capability of using our smartphone and table to “bring to life” the product directly on the showroom floor. I normally use the tool on the laptop during a face-to-face meeting, but the app took it to the next level. All we needed was our smartphone or tablet and instantly we can talk about our products and display them with a high-quality image that people can walk around and see it from all angles. It’s just so different than seeing a CAD image which was what the industry was used to.

Milan: The images were even more visually appealing. The big benefit [for me] is to place the product out on the floor. To show the customer that it is indeed possible to fit the components in the space. It’s a huge advantage.

AR: a tool that builds client Relationships

Overall, the Piab’s experience showed that AR really helped to start conversations around the products and technology. In other words, once the original “wow” of the AR experience settled, people started to ask more questions about the product itself. Visitors were interested in the various ways it can be configured, and how those different set-ups changed the way the product looked and performed.

This experience also showed just how easy it was for manufacturers to adopt AR within their B2B sales process. This is because the tool is not just a visual aide, it truly deepens the conversation about the product and all its features. The engagement and discussion around the product helped to develop and strengthen relationships, which is crucial for B2B sales.

ARdemo

If you would like to try out Piab’s AR visualizer for yourself, follow these instructions:

1) Download the Tacton CPQ AR App from the Apple App Store.

2) Scan the QR code (see below) with the app

3) Visualize the product in the environment around you

QRcode for Piab Demo

The IKEA Effect and How an Online Configurator can Drive More Sales

person proud of builing a table

The buyer’s journey. Every enterprise salesperson business knows that the typical B2C buyer’s journey just doesn’t apply to the B2B world. The tired example of buying groceries or choosing a restaurant just doesn’t happen when clients are making decisions on behalf of their company and hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars are on the table. The B2B buying journey is complicated, unpredictable and always changing.

In recent years, software has helped B2B teams with efficiency and predictability. Software platforms like CRMs and ERPs have helped in making commerce less complicated, more predictable and stable.

However, when we consider the manufacturing buyer’s journey, there remain gaps that CRMs and ERPs just can’t fill. While these do a great job and communicating with the customer, and ensuring that the orders are fulfilled, the configuration of the products and interpreting the customer’s needs is still mainly done with faulty excel sheets and old, outdated software.

Take the example of elevator companies. These manufacturers are typically big international players that sell mainly via local resellers. These resellers need tools, reliable information, and confidence to sell the equipment (over competitors). Resellers need to respond to their customers’ demands and ensure that the products are delivered on time and on budget. As you can see, the buying journey is not as straight-forward as one may think. There are many interdependencies and valuable stakeholders to consider.

So how can B2B companies simplify the buyer’s journey? What if there was a way for manufacturers to deliver a higher value with simply improving the buying experience?

The IKEA Effect and Online Configurators

One powerful and underutilized trick that B2B companies can learn from B2C world is to use the “IKEA-effect”. The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.

In other words, by allowing the customer to be partially involved in the creation of a product, they are more likely to place it with a higher value. Ikea is not the only one who benefits from this. Think of how much more you appreciate a home-cooked meal or a child enjoys playing with Lego.

I know what you are thinking, “How can a customer possibly understand all the complexities, rules and constraints of our products!”. Until recently it was simply not possible for someone with no technical background to take on such a challenge and come up with a viable product.

But what if there was a way of simplifying the configuration process? What if it was possible to make it so easy to use and transparent that it would enable customers to have a more active role in creating/configuring their products?

Luckily, there is a tool that can do just that. Below is an example of Parker Lifts, a fictitious company that we’ve created to demonstrate just how an online configurator works.

Parker lifts online configurator demos

 

Online configurators usually have 3 main goals:

1) To inform the customer of the various products, including options

2) To allow the buyer to create and design their own products, and therefore lay the groundwork for the Ikea-effect to take hold.

3) To collect valuable insights on prospects, in order to better understand the sort of options that they were exploring and the configurations they are most interested in.

As we have just seen, even a complex, high-variant industrial product like an elevator, can benefit using an online configurator to achieve it. Resellers, who deal directly with buyers (and sometimes the end-users) will certainly benefit from having a selling tool that puts the customer at the center for the buying journey. The configurator will also ensure that the options selected, and features are viable, as technical constraints and incompatibilities are counted for.

A visual configurator on which resellers and customers alike can play around with gives them the confidence and the pride of authorship (IKEA effect) that will drive them further down the buyer’s journey towards purchasing your products.

Expert Series: 3 Advantages CPQ Brings to the Power Industry

Power industry

Imagine you need to sell a product the size of a small town, millions of components that are all interconnected. The deal is HUGE, often in the USD millions. And your customer not only sits on the other side of the globe, but they also expect this deal to last them a generation.

 

This is the reality of the Power Industry. An industry that literally powers the world.
Powerplant chimney

This is an industry that is obsessed with efficiency. From the way they build and install the equipment, to their output and performance.

UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGE

 

There is, however, an area where efficiency can still be improved: the sales process. Some might argue that the inefficiencies in the business side of things are mainly due to human factors. Just think of long negotiations, cultural/language difficulties, governmental bureaucracy, travel-time, etc.. While in part this may be true, there are still many technical tasks where huge gains can be achieved.

Matti Stoor TactonTo get some real insight, we asked Matti Stoor, one of our Tacton experts, who has over 30 years’ experience in the power industry. Matti currently Manages our customer relations and was happy to weigh in on the matter.

In Matti’s experience, selling in the power industry is never straight-forward. The challenges are many, and each negotiation tends to take on a life of its own. Nevertheless, they often share these common traits.

3 PRINCIPAL DIFFICULTIES OF SELLING IN THE POWER INDUSTRY

1) Global companies with dispersed teams – Most companies competing for the deal are multi-national global players, with experts often spread out throughout the world. Their efforts need to be coordinated to minimize selling costs and deliver quotes on time.

2) Too many meetings and countless communications – Negotiating these deals can be a lengthy process. Often, the negotiations undergo alterations to technical aspects required by the customer. Sometimes one alteration to a component can impact numerous other aspects of the project, changing not only the price, but also the basic terms of the negotiations.

3) Heavily loaded with technical aspects, many variables and many dependencies between the parts.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the sales process is the sheer variance of the products, equipment, and installations. Since no 2 clients are the same, many require customized solutions. Configuring the products to fit their needs is a challenge on its own.

HOW CPQ DISRUPTS THE SELLING PROCESS

Most Customer Relation Management (CRM) software have done a great job at improving efficiencies around connecting and coordinating global teams. Traditional CRM tools, however, lack the ability to cope with the technical aspects of the negotiations.

“Here is where a Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solution that integrates to your CRM and ERP system can transform the sales process. It improves the quote accuracy and make the negotiations more efficient, and therefore more effective.”Matti Stoor

A CPQ solution aims to simplify the handling of large amounts of technical data, models, and metadata. This applies especially for high-variance, complex products such as Gas Turbines, distribution grids, or even entire power stations. In this industry, CPQ software needs to be robust enough to cope with infinite variances, combinations, and constraints. And the faster and more accurately it is, the better.

As Matti Stoor points out, the benefits of a CPQ solution for companies in the Power Industry are many. What’s more, when a CPQ solution is cloud-based, integrated to all major CRM and ERP systems, and based on a powerful AI-engine, it makes it a true game changer.

This may not be the place to discuss all the benefits that a CPQ brings to the Power Industry.[to learn more about how other industries have benefited and read some concrete examples click here] However, we think it’s worth highlighting here the top 3 advantages to incorporating CPQ into your sales arsenal.

TOP 3 ADVANTAGES OF USING CPQ IN THE POWER INDUSTRY

1) Time/resource savings

Today there isn’t a software in the market that doesn’t promise to save you time and resources. However, when it comes to CPQ, the time saved is in a different order of magnitude from other software solutions. The time it took for changing an existing quote could go from weeks to minutes. The savings are also based on costly engineering resources.  The AI-powered configurator not only ensures each new configuration is accurate, complete and reliable, it also opens the possibility to respond to customer specifications faster, and in real time. Read more about how Siemens was able to reduce quoting time by 99%.

2) Bandwidth – Handling of infinite variance

When it comes to variables and technical complexity, few industries compare to the energy production industry. Companies quoting for a specific project need to also consider the client’s specifications,  current environmental regulations, and all regulatory compliance variables. Negotiations and quotes are even dependent on market forces such as the price of gas, tax laws or foreign exchange rates. A robust CPQ solution would be able to make it simple for the sales team to account for all these variants confidently.

3) Reliable information and ability to configure remotely

In large-scale projects, such as a new power generation station, competing companies rely on expert teams that are spread around the world. A company might have local representatives on the ground that don’t have access to the lasts price information or that can reconfigure the quote. Since a CPQ reduces the dependency of scattered/precious engineering resources, the negotiating team on the ground can confidently prepare complex quotes using reliable, updated information. This means that sales negotiations can progress smoothly, without the need to refer to remote teams located half-way around the world. It is not about eliminating the need for experts, it’s about lightening the load for those experts so that their interventions can be more strategic.

Image Courtesy of The American Power Association

These 3 advantages are just the tip of the iceberg when implementing CPQ within your sales tools. Overall, a CPQ solution enables companies to save time and resources. These saving can then be better spent focused on ensuring your clients’ needs are met and all other activities are optimized. In an industry that prioritizes efficiency, CPQ will give your sales team the efficiency that is necessary during the most lengthy and difficult negotiations.

HOW WOULD YOUR SALES CHANGE IF YOU DID IN MINUTES WHAT USED TO TAKE WEEKS?