How people do business
Let me tell you the ancient truth according to an even more ancient man I once met. “I always try to visualize the final solution for the customer. All I ever needed was a pen and a piece of paper.” Just to prove his point, he grabbed a napkin and sketched out a few words that were truly impossible to read. “Everything that’s important to the customer can always be written on a napkin,” he said in a subdued yet authoritative voice.
“And, um, what about order management and pricing?” asked the curious business consultant (that would be me…). “I just gave this sketch to our engineers and they figured out what to deliver. The customer is always right you know, so they just needed to solve it and give me a price. And if the price was too high we could always increase it to get the desired discount.” Working with sales processes, I had to admit that this was a very effective way of doing business. Just write down some overall requirements, promise to deliver and adjust the price to match expectations. The problem is that this process is optimized for a single person (in this case, the sales rep). It will always be sub-optimal for everybody else in the company.
Guided selling brings simplicity back in style
The core problem of this approach is that not many companies can afford to operate in this old fashion nowadays. Competition is razor sharp, the need for standardization is crucial and speed gives an important competitive edge. Because of its ineffectiveness for the organization as a whole, the napkin is a thing of the past. But let’s not forget it’s a proven way of doing business.
When discussing guided selling solutions with customers, I often refer to the napkin and how we adapt it to the 21st century. What would you write on a napkin? Whatever the answer to this question may be, that is what should be included in the guided selling app. The napkin in the 21st century enables sticking to what’s essential without complicating matters with awkward technical questions. The trick to ditching the details is to let them act silently in the background. In other words, let the app focus on customer needs while the CPQ keeps track of all the techie parts.
This is how we bring the napkin back in business – as a role model for simplicity. The only difference? We make sure it’s aligned with an efficient, modern way of doing business.
Author’s note: All ancient persons in this blog post are fictional, and any similarities to people I have met are somewhat accidental.