May 11 2015

Why it’s time to bid the sales spreadsheet goodbye

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.

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 often leads to delays and frustration for the customer, and costly manufacturing errors.

But the more important question is this – what value does the spreadsheet bring to a business and its customers? By nature, a spreadsheet is designed to cope with sequential logic. This means that the order in which a product is configured is determined by the spreadsheet, not by the business needs and priorities of the customer.

So why are so many companies still using spreadsheets?

The reasoning typically goes something like this – it’s familiar and easy to useit’s the inexpensive optionit’s easier to stick with what we know…and…no one from the outside can  truly understand all the intricacies of our products.

These are all perfectly understandable arguments. And they often override the opinion that Excel isn’t the best tool for the job. Let’s take a look at each of 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 solution 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 requirements, 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 revenue growth opportunities, improved customer service and reduced ongoing operating 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 past experience of software projects that haven’t delivered the promised benefits and ended up being costly and hard to maintain. While the up-front cost of the CPQ software implementation must be absorbed, a company should be able to easily maintain the CPQ solution and 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 many solutions out there that will leave you short of your expectations. By ensuring you chose a solution and supplier that meet the above criteria and truly address the inherent issues with the sales spreadsheet, 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 farewell and to start a new era in your company. An era of customer focus and growth.



To find out more on this topic, download the Yaskawa customer success story. Yaskawa has said goodbye to sales spreadsheets, manual quote preparation, lengthy quotation cycles and costly errors. Instead, the sales team is armed with the knowledge and information they need to produce accurate, high-quality quotes in no time.


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