Last year on this blog we wrote about the comparative value of ERP vs. CRM. I’d like to expand upon that, with the assumption that the “Customer” of CRM is the pivot for business transformation; not The “E” of ERP. In fact, McKinsey published research in October highlighted that the personal interactions with sales reps remain more influential than all other digital innovations.

We couldn’t agree more: CRM’s salesforce automation combined with CPQ will drive sales effectiveness. CPQ uniquely provides a customer-facing catalog unifying products with services in one experience. It empowers the sales team to be more responsive to customer needs by pulling together quotes and orders based upon multiple products and services under the umbrella of the brand. It also enables product managers and marketers to drive new relationships by bundling and providing a dynamic configuration experience to cross-sell and up-sell more effectively.

Sound familiar? Communication providers like AT&T and DirecTV delivered a customer catalog like this for many years, by first providing TV service through partnerships, such as home phone, DSL and TV, to later supporting the customer with their own TV, Internet and Phone bundle service.

Simple right? Not really. I’ve worked with customers with as many as eight different ERP catalogs that need to be unified into one customer experience. That’s the easy part. The challenge lies with listening to your sales team and your customers to understand the customer perspective on product and service relationships. This investment begins the omni-channel transformation; pivoting from an informed, responsive sales force to an equally informed, e-commerce customer. It’s your customer base that will tell you better than anyone in product, marketing or engineering the relationship between the products and service you provide and their derived value.

That’s step 1.

Step 2 is the fun part – Hit that easy button because it’s time to apply good ol’ scientific method to your customer base. The sales catalog, particularly one tied to CRM like CPQ, new products, marketing offers and options can be added to regions, industries, and renewing customers with the sole purpose of growing revenue. Products can be introduced or retired in a matter of hours vs a long project when managing those 8 ERP catalogs. Reporting, like Apttus and Salesforce.com provide as part of the customer-centric selling can transform sales dramatically, we’ve seen results upward of 20%.

How is this possible? One sales catalog, with configuration capabilities gives customers the choice, and marketing and sales the power to respond to unmet needs. When we engage with customers, we often refer to this as “Speed. Agility. Control.”

Effectively, it is as simple as that – Speed to meet customer needs; agility to respond to competitive pressures, including acquisitions or new partnerships; control and visibility over the sales process, pricing structures and product relationships to ensure that every order is perfect.

The fun then, is providing that same customer-centric experience for order and billing which I will discuss further in my next post.

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