Spreadsheets are at the core of the sales quotation process at many companies. Big companies, industry leaders even.
It never fails to surprise me – because when it comes to capturing customer requirements and translating them into a buildable solution – Excel is a very blunt instrument indeed.
The problem with the sales spreadsheet
Relying on sales spreadsheets is a highly manual process. Version control is a real issue. Not only is it hard to keep on top of constant product and pricing updates, but you can easily end up offering incorrect product combinations. This leads to delays and frustration for the customer, not to mention costly manufacturing errors.
But the biggest problem with the sales spreadsheet it this:
By nature, a spreadsheet is designed to cope with sequential logic. This means that the order in which a product is configured or specified is determined by the spreadsheet, not by the needs and priorities of the customer.
In 2018, I’ve got to ask…
Why are so many companies still using sales spreadsheets?
The reasoning typically goes something like this – it’s familiar, it’s easy to use…it’s inexpensive …it’s better to stick with what we know…and…no one from the outside could understand all the intricacies of our products.
These are all perfectly good arguments. But let’s take a closer look…(I’m going to debunk them)
Familiarity and ease of use: Most people today, whether new recruits or experienced staff, have a good working knowledge of Excel. No argument there. But a good sales configuration tool should offer a user interface and dialogue that supports the sales rep and the customer in a far more intuitive way that a spreadsheet. By this I mean a solution that centres on customer needs, not product features and functions and how they are assembled in the factory. You shouldn’t settle for anything less – and you shouldn’t offer your customer anything less either. Getting new sales reps up to speed should be almost instantaneous, and rollouts to channel partners, much the same.
It’s inexpensive: It’s hard to argue with the low cost of spreadsheet software. But we can only form a complete picture if we consider the value of a sales spreadsheet versus a modern CPQ solution. The added value in terms of customer expererience, revenue growth opportunities, and reduced admin costs typically outweighs the cost of software and implementation. And by miles.
It’s easier to stay with what we know – People don’t like change. But it is important not to allow our preference for the status quo to stand in the way of progress. Many companies will have experience of software projects that haven’t delivered the promised benefits and ended up being costly and difficult to maintain. A CPQ solution should be easy to maintain and allow you to make instant product and pricing updates – without a team of IT ninjas.
We built it and no one else can – there’s probably someone in the company who is extremely proud of the Excel sales tool and how ‘sophisticated’ it is. There’s likely a whole team who believe that outsiders will never get to grips with your product and pricing structures or understand how your products are configured. And the truth is that many “outsiders” won’t. But the right partner will not only understand your business and your configuration challenges, they’ll offer insights that will bring productivity gains that you hadn’t thought possible.
Time to think about a different approach
At the end of the day though, there’s an even more compelling reason to say goodbye to the sales spreadsheet – Excel is not helping you to grow your business. A good CPQ solution will. And it’s as simple as that.
I’m underlining the word good here, because there are plenty of CPQ solutions that will come up short of your expectations.
A good CPQ solution will be able to handle the intricacies of your product portfolio. It will be easy to use and easy to maintain. It will take care of the sales process and also smooth things along in engineering and manufacturing. But most importantly, it will place the customer and their needs front and centre.
By ensuring you chose a solution that meets the above criteria, you are in a great position to get your entire company on board and start delivering real business benefits…
The time has never been better to bid your spreadsheet goodbye and to start a new era in your company. An era of customer focus and growth.
To find out more on this topic, read this interview with Michael Klos, General Manager at Yaskawa. Yaskawa has said farewell to sales spreadsheets, manual quote preparation, lengthy quote cycles and costly errors and is seeing results across the business.
And if you’d like to see the difference a customer-focused sales tool can make, get in touch, we’d be happy to arrange a demo for you.