The average sales team’s time is sucked up by a variety of administrative tasks that take away from the time they spend actually selling. Besides engaging with customers, sales teams are responsible for generating quotes, entering data, and rectifying discrepancies and problems with customer records. This administrative burden is so high, in fact, that the average sales professional today spends just 34 percent of their time actually selling, according to Salesforce industry research. Thus, it’s incumbent on businesses to do everything they can to reduce this administrative burden and free up more sales reps’ time to focus on selling.
One key, often-overlooked strategy for reducing the administrative burden of selling is to improve the user experience (UX) of the company’s product catalog. Sales reps rely on complex product catalogs in most organizations to generate timely, accurate quotes for customers and better understand options for how to put together product bundles for customers. As important as a product catalog is, most companies don’t invest in properly building and maintaining their product catalog. Consequently, the average product catalog quickly becomes filled with redundancies, bloat, and logic fallacies. Companies end up with non-intuitive SKU structures and naming conventions that undermine a sales rep’s ability to navigate and understand how to use the product catalog effectively. Let’s explore four ways that organizations can enhance the UX of their complex product catalogs to improve their bottom line:
Map out governance processes for managing product catalogs
The first step to improving the UX of a product catalog is to understand the governance processes and policies that shape how the catalog gets managed. It’s important to understand who actually creates products, who’s responsible for entering these products into the catalog, and who’s responsible for updating SKUs. Each of these roles should be mapped out, with a focus on understanding which specific governance processes and policies dictate how these roles get carved out. Once the governance processes are mapped out, it becomes easier to critically examine what’s inefficient, what’s problematic, and what’s confusing about how the organization is managing its product catalog. Teams can collaboratively decide where the biggest pain points lie and prioritize implementing changes to these governance processes.
Keep SKUs up to date
A perpetual source of frustration and confusion for sales reps are the SKUs they can select that are no longer intended to be active and/or available to be selected. The most effective way to get rid of outdated SKUs is to remove them. First, businesses should periodically run a report that extracts all products that have been used in quotes and compare this list to the existing product catalog. Any SKUs that have never been used in quotes should be flagged for follow-up investigation and possible removal. Second, businesses should identify SKUs that have been replaced by newer versions. The older versions should be deleted by deactivating them in the CPQ (configure, price, quote) system, or, if the older versions are available only as a legacy product, a simple product validation rule should be written for the older version to throw a validation error when a sales rep tries to select this SKU.
Make SKU assignments more streamlined and logical
When sales reps put together a quote, they must be able to follow the logic of the SKU nomenclature. In other words, sales reps must be able to intuitively understand how products are labeled in the catalog and consistently and readily navigate to the SKU they’re looking for. But oftentimes, duplicate SKUs have been created, or SKUs have been created for what is actually a product bundle. Duplicate SKUs need to be eliminated, and product bundles must be separated back into their components. For example, instead of two SKUs that have the same description and usage but different attributes, companies should merge the two SKUs into one and create a configuration attribute that enables the sales rep to apply proper CPQ logic to the quote. When companies invest in streamlining SKUs and making SKU assignments more logical, it enables sales reps to find the correct products and to prepare quotes for customers faster and easier.
Stress-test major catalog updates
To ensure a product catalog is designed well from the user perspective, it’s important to stress-test any major catalog updates as an end user. In other words, every time a company updates its catalog structure or SKU nomenclature conventions, quality-control checks should be built into the process, and the company should test the system to ensure it’s functioning as designed. Going through these steps has an added benefit: It ensures the company fully understands the UX ramifications of the updates being to the catalog. During every catalog update, the team should be asking questions like: “What completely different bundles of products might we be producing in five years, and do we have a logic structure that will allow them to fit into our existing catalog in a way that makes sense?” and “If an entire sales team were to use this product catalog for the first time, where are they most likely to be confused and get stuck?”
The UX of a product catalog has direct, consequential impacts on both sales volume and the length of sales cycles. That’s why it’s so important for companies to focus on continually enhancing UX for the benefit of their sales team—and, by extension, for the benefit of their customers. To enhance the UX of a product catalog, companies should be mapping out the governance processes that control how the catalog gets managed, develop protocols for keeping SKUs consistently up to date, focus on assigning SKUs in a consistently streamlined and logical manner, and continuously stress-testing major catalog updates to ensure the catalog is working as designed and optimized for the end user.
Simplus specializes in helping businesses optimize the UX of their product catalogs. To learn more about how we accelerate sales for our clients through improving their product catalog UX, please reach out to Simplus today. We look forward to helping you eliminate redundancies, bloat, logical fallacies, and any outdated information that is standing in the way of your sales team’s ability to sell.