When comparing native Salesforce Approvals versus CPQ Advanced Approvals, the advantages of a modern CPQ application are clear when paired with streamlined office approvals processes. In this article, I will illustrate the benefits and impact of CPQ Advanced Approvals on the sales process
When time means money, the additional functionality in Advanced Approvals offers these important benefits:
Parallel approvals: This means the sales team can notify multiple approvers at the same time. This helps reduce the approval cycle, and therefore your sales cycle.
Dynamic approvers: A properly configured system will easily determine who is the approver based on the context of the quote. It could be products quoted, account or opportunity information, or any data that is linked to the quote. The appropriate approver will be determined on the fly based on this contextual information.
Smart approvals: If a quote is first rejected then re-submitted for approvals, this functionality avoids requesting approvals already obtained.
Preview approval tree: Users can preview who will need to approve and why before even submitting for approval. This can help drive user behavior.
Although your Quote-to-Cash platform can be customized to meet your unique business needs, there are common approval reasons that can be implemented into your system.
Common approval reasons
The most common type of approval is related to pricing. Often driven by the discount level, it can also be based on margin or deal size, or a combination. Price-related approvals are very often tiered: for example, your sales reps might be allowed to discount up to 10% without approval; above 10% and up to 25%, their direct manager might have to approve; and beyond 25%, the VP of Sales or the CFO will need to approve.
It is important that you define how these prices will be considered for approval, either on a line item per line item basis (e.g. maximum discount given to any product in the quote) or at the quote level (e.g. blended discount across all line items). This information can then be leveraged by your system for streamlined approvals.
Keep in mind that company-driven discounting policies should not require approval. For example, if you give the same volume discount to all your customers, such discounts should not require approval each time they are in effect on a quote. On the other hand, if you allow your sales reps to override the default volume discount, you might want the custom volume discount to be approved. Take advantage of the rich data model in Salesforce CPQ to detect the correct scenario.
Finally, each company should define the “discount eligible for approval,” which will normally include the discretionary discount, but also any deviation from company policies or pre-agreed customer- or partner-specific discounts.
Other typical approval reasons include:
Finance approval: For payment terms or billing terms, for example.
Legal approval: If you allow custom Terms and Conditions to be specified on a quote-per-quote basis.
Product-specific approvals: For when an approval is required to quote a product regardless of its price or discount.
Use approvals smartly
A properly implemented computer system is only a portion of a well-run sales approval process. A solid design will do much of the work for you. Here are some time-saving features of an organized approvals system:
Configurators guarantee a technically viable solution. If your configurators are robust, you should no longer require an engineering desk to approve the solution quoted to the client.
Pricing policies are enforced by the price engine. Policy-based calculations are logic enforced by the system and should not need approval. For companies coming from a manual approval process, this will require a change in mindset. You have to know what degree of automation was implemented, and you must learn to trust such automation.
Use approvals as a mitigation tool so that approvers only need to look at deviations from company policies or to address requirements that are not implemented yet in the system.
Reduce the number of approvers. Fewer approvers mean a shorter sales cycle.
A streamlined approval process makes it easy for your approvers to perform their task. Here are some recommendations:
Email notifications to approvers should contain the key information the approvers need to make their approval decisions.
Keep in mind that an approver might need more information than just what they are approving. For example, if your CFO is responsible for approving payment terms, she might also need to consider overall margin for the quote before accepting longer payment terms.
Include a link to the Quote page in case the approver wants to check the remaining information that is not included in the email notification.
Keep it simple. Less is often more!
Speed up the process by enabling email approval. Approvers will be able to respond to the email notification by just indicating “Approved” or “Rejected” in their email response, along with comments justifying their decision.
Make it easy for your sales reps, too.
Sales reps act mostly on discretionary discounting, which ultimately triggers approval. Provide them with a visual indicator (green/yellow/red for example) that clues them into who will need to approve.
The visual indicator encourages sales rep to discount less, therefore improving your overall margins and shortening your approval and sales cycles.
I have witnessed the positive impact a strong approvals process has on a sales team. By designing a direct sales process, bolstered by the CPQ Advanced Approvals application, your sales team will have the tools and resources necessary to capture profitable sales leads and secure a solid business relationship.