Most businesses begin because a person has a skill which produces a product
or service which other people or businesses want to buy. If the product or service is of a high standard and competitively priced, the business grows by reputation. Quotations are provided verbally over the phone, or perhaps by email, and the costing / pricing process depends heavily on the personal expertise of the business principal, even past the time when employed staff have been engaged to do the actual work.
Right at the start of the business, invoices may even be handwritten and sent off to the local book-keeper at the end of each week or month. When the business reaches a size where it requires to employ its own book-keeper, that process is likely to be the first to be automated, and there are many accounting packages available to do this– Sage, QuickBooks, Xero, MYOB to name but four. The costing – pricing process, however, remains in the hands of the business principal and perhaps one or two senior people.
It is at this point where many businesses can, understandably, “get things in the wrong order”. The next part of the business to be automated tends to be Customer Relationship Management – focused on marketing, sales and the recruitment of new customers. This is because there is a vast array of Customer Relationship Management software on the market and it has a high profile.
Better, we think, would be to implement CPQ at this point in the business evolution. There is little purpose served, and brand damage may be caused, by recruiting additional customers whilst losing others “through the back door” due to not being able to get quotes out in time, and the problems caused by the issues referenced here > .
When those hurdles have been overcome, and a system in place whereby enquiries can be handled efficiently, effectively and accurately with a seamless workflow from quote to cash, then a CRM / PSA system can be commissioned to increase the input of enquiries, thus increasing turnover and improving profitability. To implement CRM before CPQ is to be open to the risk that the CRM system will never be fully utilized and will serve merely as a repository of customer contact details; a number of small and medium-sized businesses have CRM systems which serve only that purpose, and this represents a part-wasted investment.
The workflow from enquiry to quotation to order, to Sales Order Processing, to billing and thereafter to the preparation of statements, trial balance and management accounts is universal. Customer Relationship Management to achieve maximum sales is undoubtedly very important, but more important still is the management and retention of existing customers, and for that some sort of CPQ system is essential.
Quintadena Ltd would recommend that, in general, businesses should seriously consider implementing automated CPQ before automated CRM, taking care to choose a CPQ system which integrates – or can be made to integrate – with their accounting software, and which has the potential to integrate with a wide variety of CRM / PSA solutions in readiness for when the time comes to advance the automation of workflow into that segment of the business process.