We all know the tension that can be maintained between sales and operations. Even the best teams struggle with the quality of new orders and the ability to deliver on customer expectations. A slightly misaligned product configuration from a salesperson can produce quota attainment, but that same sale can translate into a missed installation interval for the project manager assigned. Round and round we go … doing our best to hit the sales number and also hit the installation-revenue numbers. All the while dealing with challenging customers who don’t understand or appreciate the complexity behind the scenes.
Telecom services are evolving rapidly and the variance in product configurations can easily support a person spending an entire career in one narrow area of the telecom product set. Sales executives are struggling to distribute complex products through direct and indirect channels. Some key areas of concern are (but not limited to):
- Productive sales representatives don’t always mean clean orders.
- Onboarding new sales representatives into complex products does not scale.
- Subject matter expertise is at a premium.
- Sales Engineering resources spend inordinate amounts of time with configurations versus discovery and closing activities
- Alternative channels want it yesterday with very little patience for what can’t be done.
All of these items (and more) contribute to painful conversations between operational employees and newly acquired customers. Despite the sales team’s best and honest attempts, they just can’t get it right all of the time. That leaves someone in operations to explain what can “really” be delivered.
Enter the Form
Our philosophy is that most of the issues that contribute to a clean sale & order can be controlled in the quoting form. A simple example can be expressed using the combination of hardware and services. For example, if a full PRI is being purchased, the product should always include an Adtran 924e at either a lease cost, or a setup fee cost. While this example is very simple and one that you would expect any sales person selling voice to understand and be able to replicate manually, the permutations and variables grow quickly and with only a few dependencies can surpass a sales person’s knowledge.
Garbage in … Garbage out is a saying most can appreciate. Using a well defined quote form for all products is essentially the opposite, Clean in … Clean out. Some in our industry have tried to build complex telecom quoting solutions with simple CPQ (Configure Price Quote) technology. What is lacking in this solution are the dependencies required to present the right options for the requested solution. Not only do you need a form, but you need a smart form that can tell you dynamically what options you really have and what selections you need to make.
Why Operations Love the Form
When sales personnel have loose guidelines and lack the tools or efficiency to quote complex services, they simply do their best. A sales person can’t wait for days to get answers back when a potential buyer wants the proposal. The pressure to perform is very real, and you cannot fight the incentive model driving the sales organization within telecom. What you can do is solve most of the problems described earlier in this post with a well prescribed dynamic quoting form.
- New sales personnel get trained simply by using the form. Only supported configurations are allowed and the sales rep learns complex products much faster by using the guardrails of a form.
- Orders cannot be completed in configurations not supported by the form. If you control the inputs and that translates to the order paperwork, you always get supportable product configurations.
- Sales Engineering can help consult versus researching and building configurations. This leads to better solutions for customers that solve their business need.
- Alternative sales channels can scale without much training when they can quote complex services quickly and without assistance.
It is refreshing to pick up a new order from sales knowing it can be done and it is the right solution for the customer. Operational teams that deliver on the interval can’t live with Garbage In … they want sales to have a smart dynamic form.