How To Set Up and Streamline Your Quoting Process with Salesforce CPQ

September 18, 2023


There are a variety of CPQ solutions in the marketplace today. It has become a common tool, leveraged by a variety of businesses across industries. Despite its popularity, many folks forget that CPQ stands for Configure-Price-Quote. The naming of the system is a reminder that its main purpose is to provide an effective process for users to construct and deliver a quote or contract to a customer themselves, without the need for additional support. While this may be the goal, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what goes into a successful CPQ architecture.

CPQ Overview

The great thing about Salesforce CPQ is that it is built in and around the standard Salesforce ecosystem. Of course, as a CRM, Salesforce is the system where sales users are already managing the sales process from leads to close. By leveraging the structure of Salesforce, all of the parts of the system can be contained in one place without the need for API integrations. It also means that data collected through the lead discovery and qualification process is available for use on quote documents and communication.

CPQ Best Practices To Consider

As with any software it is important to be aware of the critical elements of the system that will determine whether it succeeds or fails. For CPQ, some important details to keep in mind are product catalog, the needs of all stakeholders, future development, and metric visibility and tracking. 

Have Well Defined Products Prior to Implementation

By far, the most important element of an effective CPQ implementation is setting up a comprehensive product catalog. Many of the challenges that arise when attempting to scale a CPQ build by adding new products, currencies, or team members come back to the design of the product catalog itself and how it is organized. While this may seem like an exaggeration, keep in mind the fact that many of the decisions an architect makes around discounting and approval rules, document generation, and post-sale tracking are determined by the structure of the products and pricing.

The headaches that may arise in the future can be prevented by taking care to define each product correctly. This includes a consistent naming convention, which allows for users to have a clear understanding of the products they are offering. Consideration for whether a product is a renewable subscription, a one-time purchase, or some variation will also be necessary. It is usually helpful to have a hierarchy of categories, or a taxonomy, to define how products in your catalog relate to each other for the purposes of constructing a quote or reporting sales outcomes.

Get Buy In From Shareholders at the Beginning 

The construction of the product catalog provides a perfect opportunity to establish alignment between business units that will contribute to and be impacted by the CPQ system. Sales teams should be comfortable with the products as defined to confirm that they reflect the value they want to deliver and the appropriate level of flexibility for reasonable negotiation. Finance and analytics should ensure that the necessary level of detail is accounted for to inform the business on revenue performance and forecasting. The product development team can not be overlooked, as they will need to validate that all of their offerings are represented along with a structure to accommodate any plans on their roadmap.

The exercise of aligning on the products serves to set a firm foundation for the CPQ environment, as well as establishing buy-in from the variety of stakeholders who participate. This sets the stage for productive relationships that will work cohesively in constructing a platform upon this foundation. Priorities and needs across these teams can certainly change, so the more decisions that can be finalized upfront, the better chance that they will stay aligned throughout the implementation.

Be Prepared to Test and Review Regularly After Deploying

Software development is rarely a “set it and forget it” proposition.CPQ is no exception to this rule, which means you should prepare for ongoing maintenance and support. Fortunately, since it exists within the standard Salesforce framework, reporting on nearly every element of the tool is fairly straightforward. Setting up some reports to measure processes and whether they are being followed, as well as a system to receive and address user feedback, will be crucial to the long-term success of a CPQ launch.

Be intentional about defining which metrics will be leading indicators of how effective the system is. Some examples may include:

  • Approval rates - If every deal that is submitted for approval is approved, it is likely an unnecessary step. Putting a checkpoint in place is only valuable if intervention is at least occasionally necessary.
  • Quote volume before and after - Remember, the goal is to speed up the process, which should result in increased volume overall. In initial dip may be experienced as users are being acclimated to the new process, but it should not permanently slow them down.
  • Signed documents generated by the system - For teams that are used to creating their quotes manually, they may resort to old habits if the new process is too cumbersome, or not enforced. 

Consider Your Other System Integrations Beforehand

As mentioned earlier, part of the beauty of Salesforce CPQ is that it keeps your team operating within a system they are already leveraging. While limiting the need for integrations is a noble goal, it is uncommonly the case that no other tools will be leveraged within an organization. Quoting a deal and getting a signature may be the end of the sales process, but it is also the beginning of a new relationship with a customer. This means that all of the work that CPQ is built to execute is likely being done with inputs from certain tools (i.e. marketing automation or sales enablement) and what it produces as an output is the input for other tools (i.e. customer success or business intelligence).

A key to any good implementation is a clear understanding where in the puzzle your piece fits. Having well-documented descriptions of all inputs and outputs to and from your system can determine the value of adding this tool to your overall stack. This is especially important if the other tools are owned by different individuals or teams.

How to Manage a Successful Salesforce CPQ Implementation

With the groundwork laid for considerations to achieve success, how about some practical steps to execute an implementation?

Know Your Key Objectives

You can’t hit a target if you don’t know that it is. Make sure the target is clearly defined so that you can continually compare your progress against your goal.

Get Buy In From Shareholders

Avoid disconnects and silos by gaining consensus and aligning priorities across the variety of teams with a stake in the outcome.

Assign Roles Within Your Team

Just like in sports, each player has a unique role. Everyone needs to be aware of what contribution they are expected to make or where they fit into the game plan.

Ensure Sales Process Is Well Documented and Optimized

In many ways, the function of CPQ within the sales process is the culmination of all of the work the reps have invested in closing a deal. Lining up those workflows requires the entire end-to-end selling process to be established.

Define the Data

Data can feel intimidating sometimes, but it is just the information that will be needed to provide appropriate details of a sale. Consider who will need the information of what was sold and in what format. Likely recipients of this information include the customer, finance, and customer success.

Define What Functionality You Want and What’s the End Process

Having an overall understanding of what a CPQ implementation should accomplish is a good start. Specific details about how users will maneuver through the steps should be defined based on user efficiency and information required to meet customer needs.

Migration Strategy

Any existing processes or tables that are currently being leveraged to execute the quoting and contracting workflows will need to move into the new CPQ framework.

Install Salesforce CPQ

As a Salesforce add-on product, the CPQ package should be installed in your tenant so that all of the necessary objects and automations are available for customization.

Set up Key Features

This may be a bit of an understatement. The set up of CPQ is the largest part of the project. Whether you are doing this yourself or engaging a consultant, getting all of the details correct is where the rubber meets the road in turning all of the planning and design into a reality.

Test Strategy

CPQ is a large-scale change to the system and the standard process for users. It is also important to keep in mind that users will always find the path of least resistance, even if that means operating outside of the process you intended for them to follow. Giving them an environment to test, where they can do that will low stakes will allow you to fill holes in the process that you may have missed.

Adoption Planning

Like any change to a user’s experience or expectations, it will be important to have training. This should include sessions to describe the changes directly to users as well as materials that they can access on demand for reminders or answers to common questions.

Don’t Do It Alone

If this all sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone. There are a lot of moving parts, things to consider, and details that can have a significant impact. The more CPQ implementations you have under your belt, the easier it gets. Unfortunately, most of us working in a Rev Ops, Salesforce leadership, or finance role do not have the opportunity to conduct multiple CPQ implementations over time to increase this skill. Thankfully, Operatus is here to help. Reach out today if you are exploring a CPQ build.