Strategies for Automated Quotations in B2B CPQ

For business-to-business (B2B) sales processes that revolve around customizable products and different type of unique quotation/order information (blueprints, 3D-files, charts, quotation documents, etc) there are some proven ways to design the workflow when the customer should do the work themselves through digital sales channels.

Since there are numerous ways to connect all your different online systems it can be hard to pick a workflow that makes sense to your customers. You might have a web page with both content, catalogs and perhaps some calculators and configurator applications. On top of that, you might be considering an e-commerce platform or a customer portal.

Three of our favorite strategies are described below and can be used as guides in the decision-making of what setup fits a B2B organization best. All three can also be used with or without user login.

Strategy A – Configurator + Checkout Form

Adding a single configurator to a homepage, together with a checkout form that sends an email, is an easy way to get started with a digitized sales process!

By attaching auto-generated drawings and other documents from an online configurator, together with optional meta-data about the request, the sales team will need less effort to process each quotation request. Using email as the system behind the scenes is a quick start that can transition into a proper integration in the future, connecting with a customer portal, CPQ or ERP system.

Benefits with strategy A
+ Simple setup for a web-configurator
+ Looks fully automated from the outside
+ A good start setup that can evolve into a customer portal strategy (B)
+ Simple checkout form at the end of configuration that sends an email
Drawbacks with strategy A
– Saving and loading a configuration usually is limited to links in the users own email inbox
– Often experienced as limited for recurring customers
– Difficult to combine multiple products in the same quotation
– Instant pricing tough to implement
– Customer needs to wait for somebody to reply to the email with the quotation

Strategy B – Configurator(s) + Customer Portal

Having a customer portal where the users can do most of the quotation work themselves is a dream for many B2B companies. Today there are a number of platforms out there for this. Most of them are easy to integrate with web applications like CAD configurators and can be synced with modern ERP systems.

The customer portals open up more possibilities for the professional B2B customers that have clients of their own. The need for sales to handle every single quotation request can be reduced to a more complementary role to help customers that get stuck, have special requests or are extra important to the company.

Benefits with strategy B
+ Makes it easy to work with multiple configurations in the same quotation
+ Makes it easy for professionals to come back and do repeat orders
+ Makes it easy for professionals to work with multiple quotations
+ Pricing and instant quotations possible to add
+ Logged in users can have different price-lists
Drawbacks with strategy B
– Requires login and user handling
– Big investment to bring out full capabilities of a customer portal

Strategy C – Configurator(s) + Shopping Cart

For some companies, the use of a traditional cart in a B2C manner can be good enough for digital sales of a customizable product. It fits well for companies that have a mix of standard parts and configured parts that are ordered directly by the customer.

Sales personnel wont need any involvement before the actual purchase, except for help answering questions.

Benefits with strategy C
+ Multiple configurable products added to the same order
+ Pricing always shown directly in the cart
+ Highly automated
Drawbacks with strategy C
– Not suitable for professional B2B customers
– More difficult to work with different price-lists
– Purchase needs to be completed

Summary

Enabling the customer to fill in the details and start doing the customization themselves is one of the biggest gains when automating the quotation process. A lot can thus be handled by a simple automated email at the beginning (strategy A).

But as the number of digital customers grows, the path to fully automated configurable sales is mainly decided by how long lead time the customers need between configuration and the actual placement of order. For some industries, it would be impossible to checkout and pay right away since it might even not be the same person doing the configuration (architect) and purchasing the product (contractor). Other industries have customers expecting the configuration and checkout to be done instantly.

Start small and iterate together with your clients! The strategy best suited for your business will evolve over time.