Many manufacturers think of product configuration mostly as a tool to help smooth their production flows and become ever leaner. Although this is true, there are other significant benefits to be gained from product configuration throughout the organization. Product configuration, along with quoting and estimating, can be one of the best tools to improve your sales results and boost productivity.
One of the best recipes for sales disaster is to bury your sales people in mountains of paperwork and consume hours of their time in building detailed proposals. The less time they spend in customer facing activities, the less revenues they will produce for your business. And yet, salespeople continue to perform complicated calculations, prepare detailed proposals, and have it re-reviewed by management. The amount of wasted time would make a lean consultant blush.
There is a solution. It’s called product configuration, quoting and estimating (some call it CPQ). It’s a flexible, rules-based system that allows you to capture the way you configure products, and simply automate it. Once you’ve captured the method, it’s available for all to use in a simple, easy to understand screen. You can shorten the length of your sales cycle, and use less of your sales resources. Now your sales team can focus on more deals, within in the same amount of time.
Of course, there are other benefits too:
If You are Human, You Make Mistakes
Yes, sales people make mistakes (occasionally they admit them). Sometimes, the mistakes are mere typos that only make your business look sloppy. In other cases, pricing mistakes can erase huge portions of your margins (which are non-recoverable for your best customers). Worst case, the proposed product isn’t something your production shop can even create (the three legged option isn’t available for the large machine because it collapses under the weight). Product configuration can erase these errors. You simply set it up once, check it for errors, and it will run without errors for an extended amount of time.
Here is the scenario: The customer calls with a rush order and wants to know your price. You take three days to respond, and when you call to present your proposal, are told it was already given to your quicker competitor. With product configuration, you can produce proposals in minutes. Don’t damage your image or lose your business simply because you didn’t respond fast enough.
Cross and Up Sell
In some complex product offerings, there are countless opportunities to offer additional options to your customer. Unfortunately, these options are hard to capture in a catalog, and may relate only to certain products. Product configuration can solve this with simple rules that present these options at the appropriate moment. Now you can intelligently up sell, and raise your revenues.
A Broader Offering
In the past, it was common to limit the offerings to customers to make them more understandable. It made sense to simplify everything for your customer and your employees. But in today’s world as the competition has intensified, customers are asking for more and more variations (they are trying to satisfy their customers varied needs). Product configuration, quoting and estimating are the tools you need to not only meet this demand for variety, but also to expand it beyond the capabilities of your competition.
Have it Their Way
The highest level of service to your customer is to offer easy, simple access to their exact needs. Product configuration can meet this need. Customers can creatively research items that satisfy their needs, and remain within the constraints that must be met.
Of course, no island solution can meet these demands. Product configuration depends on costs from production, configuration rules from engineering, and build rules from production. And, a tight integration with customer order processing is needed to pass configured customer orders. Product configuration that is tightly integrated within an ERP manufacturing system will make your system accurate and efficient.
Product configuration has many paths to benefits for the modern day manufacturer. Not only can product configuration smooth out the production flows, but it can provide a boost in your sales. Now you can offer your customer more options, with fewer errors, and in a more efficient manner. Product configuration can make the difference in winning business against your competition.