16 Jan 5 important questions to ask your CPQ implementer
by Erich Rusch
Choosing an implementation partner for Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) can be a daunting task. On the surface, CPQ (or quote-to-cash) appears to be an extension of your chosen customer relationship management (CRM) system, but many organizations quickly learn that it is so much more. The right CPQ implementation can accelerate your business by providing economies of scale across sales and operations and provide competitive advantages. For those of you charged by your company to make true on the promise of sales transformation, Simplus understands that it’s an endeavor that represents as much risk as it does reward.
So how do you evaluate potential vendors before you make a selection? How do you choose the right system integration (SI) partner who can help mitigate your risk and safeguard a successful outcome? To answer that looming question, you need to ask your candidates some questions, too. Here are five key evaluation points to inquire about with potential partners:
1. Ask for the methodology
How you approach and set up initial phases of the implementation is one of the most important parts of a CPQ project. If the SI you’re evaluating has been implementing CPQ for a significant length of time, they will almost certainly have a tried and true methodology. Typically, the SI will present a one-pager that has some variation on design, build, test, and launch, but your job in due diligence is to dig deeper:
“What does it mean to “kick off” the project?”
“Do you have a use-case template or library that I could see before selecting your organization?”
“What is the exit and entry criteria for each phase?”
If your SI doesn’t have these components or can’t give you succinct answers to these queries, then they aren’t using their experience to increase your chances of success.
2. Analyze the scoping session
One critical part of the pre-sales process will be the scoping call or pre-sales design sessions. Many customers I’ve spoken with say that this area of the sales process is often the most tedious because we’re diving into more of the details. However, this is your opportunity to assess if the SI is truly absorbing your use case and bringing their own experience to your advantage. Proper scoping of a project should not be about the SI just saying “yes” to everything but should instead focus on the SI advising if certain elements can or can’t be done exactly the way you expect them. You need to be prepared to listen to the implementer’s guidance and validate it against references. If the SI cannot help guide you to the right scope, then they won’t be able to effectively guide you to the right solution.
3. Assess references in depth
The reference process can be a useless part of due diligence if not leveraged correctly. No SI has a perfect record, but what defines a good integrator is how they partner with customers to guide and lead them to a successful outcome. Ask the customer reference about the CPQ journey, including the hurdles and roadblocks, rather than only asking about the outcome of their experience with the SI. Don’t hesitate to ask the reference if they believe the implementer was truly guiding them to the right outcome, even if the solution was something slightly different than what they initially sought.
You can learn a lot about the character of an implementer by how they handled the product’s most challenging areas of complexity.
Ask for specific examples where the project hit a roadblock:
“Why did the project run into obstacles? How was it handled?”
“Did the implementer escalate proactively?”
Inquire about how successful the reference has been post-launch:
“Did the solution hold up to the production environment well?”
“Does the SI know how to help customers adopt and maintain the solution?”
You’ll learn more about the SI and understand how they handled the easy and the difficult situations by asking these questions. Conversely, by not asking the hard-hitting questions, you run the risk of simply hearing all praise from hand-selected references.
4. Choose an expert in CPQ
Examine the team’s experience. What depth of CPQ expertise does the SI have on their team? Deploying a CRM or cloud system is not enough to justify having a specialized CPQ practice, and often these integrators don’t have the experience needed to properly assimilate the CPQ components of the solution. Ask questions and review resumes.
“What are the past experiences of the leadership team?”
“How many collective years of experience does the team have specific to CPQ?”
“Have they worked together and worked effectively?”
All of these questions are important to understanding how the project will be executed.
5. Inquire about intellectual property
What tangible assets does the SI provide that will help accelerate time-to-value? At Simplus, we’ve invested accelerators for the Salesforce platform that enable us to get our customers live faster than ever—just check out our partner portal bolt for manufacturing. Additionally, ask if the SI is starting from conception or if they are able to leverage tried and tested assets? No SI should be starting an implementation from scratch. Put simply, understand what your SI brings to the table before you begin an engagement.
If you want to ensure the best CPQ outcome for your business and accelerate your time-to-value implementing, then it’s necessary to assess key areas and ask the right questions. On the surface, implementers can look the same if you only get to see the results of their most successful projects. To make an informed selection, you need to look deeper, understand the unique insights the SI brings, and assess their ability to tackle roadblocks that will ultimately lead to a successful outcome. By identifying the implementers’ core values, you will be more likely to align them with your own and select the partner that gives you the greatest chance of success.
To find out more of what Simplus can do for you, reach out today.
Erich Rusch is Director of CPQ Presales Solutions at Simplus. Co-founder and CSO of CirrusOne until joining Simplus, Erich has years of experience in the CPQ space and has unparalleled expertise in cloud solutions.