13 Tips for Selecting Quoting/Proposal/CPQ Software

If you search the web for "quoting software", "best proposal software", or "CPQ software" you will see many results. These terms are used interchangeably even though they are very different.

The fact that these companies advertise their products as "quoting software" and "proposal software" and "CPQ software" makes the whole process of a selecting the right software for your company more difficult than it needs to be.  At first, it looks like all the solutions are similar, but there are some key areas where they are very different. Below we've listed some core capabilities that separate the various solutions, so that you can use them as a guide to choose the right solution for your company.

Quote-To-Cash CPQ Diagram - QuoteWerks

Quote-To-Cash is the entire range of business processes involved in selling, from creating a quote to collecting cash (payment).

CPQ is the first 3 steps of Quote-To-Cash, which is to configure a list of products you are selling, to determine pricing of those products, and lastly to generate and deliver the quote

Quotes and proposals are just the last step of CPQ ( the QUOTE step). So now you are probably asking "What is the difference between a Quote and a Proposal?"

A quote is shorter and more to the point. A quote lists the seller, the prospective buyer and the items they are buying with a total. Sometimes the quote will include some specification sheet or literature about the products or services being quoted. Terms and conditions are sometimes also included. Often, companies sending out quotes are sending out lots of them that are very similar.

Proposals in contrast are longer and more detailed. They will include information introducing the seller, differentiating factors of the seller vs the competition, generalized benefits to the solution being proposed, a scope of work, and a service agreement. It will usually just list a single price total for the entire solution, although sometimes it will also include line item detail similar to what you would see in a quote.

Is it really Quoting/Proposal/CPQ Software?

Many of the solutions, especially the ones that come up when you search for "proposal software" are not really proposal creating applications; they are more of a document generation, document signing system like DocuSign. They do not handle product pricing schemes like discount from list, markup from cost, points (margin), volume pricing, formula based, customer price levels, customer/product price matrix, etc. and they do not allow you to create formulas or complex calculations on the items in the proposal. If you need these more advanced calculations (like just tracking your cost and calculating your profit margin), many of these solutions won't do that and you can rule them out. Additionally most all of the actual quoting/proposal/cpq solutions also offer the electronic document signing.

Make sure that you can customize the format of your quotes and proposals

Surprisingly, many solutions show you a nice looking proposal, but do not allow you to make changes to it! The look of the quote that you present to your quote to your customers represents your company so it is very important that it looks professional, and includes exactly the information that you want to include on it. When doing your research, this is an important element to consider.

Some quoting software has pre-defined quote templates that you cannot customize at all. Others allow you the limited ability to modify some of the aspects of the quote format like changing your company logo. Some proposal solutions require that you pay them to make changes to the look of your proposal template. Some solutions have a really complicated form designer that requires that you know a programming language just to make small changes. Some quoting software allows you complete and comprehensive control over the look of the quote using a simple designer, including the ability to create formulas that calculating things like monthly leasing figures, and more.

Does it integrate with the Contact Management system you use?

If the solution does not integrate with the CRM system you use, that is probably a deal breaker. The integration is such an efficiency booster because you no longer have to type in your customer information into each quote, and the integration can update your CRM with opportunity information and follow up calls.

Closely examine the advertised contact management integration features to make sure that they meet your needs. For some quoting software packages, the extent of their integration may only be to retrieve the contact name and address information from a contact record in the contact management software. While other quoting software will do more like writing back forecasted sales/sales opportunities, schedule follow up calls, etc in your contact management software.

Does it integrate with any Accounting Software?

Accounting software integrates increase efficiency and reduce errors. Once the quote becomes an order you will need to move it on to your accounting system. If this is important to you, definitely find out what accounting software the solution integrates with.

If your quoting software does not integrate with your accounting software, you will have to print out these orders, and then have the accounting department re-type the orders into the accounting software which is time consuming and error prone.

How important are products to you? Do you need bundle and configurator capabilities?

If you have lots of your own products that you sell and also purchase products from multiple vendors, you will need a way to keep track of all this. If you need to bundle items together for a package or kit, your solution will need to have these capabilities. If the products that you sell are actually complex and require that you assemble a list of part numbers that is different each time based on the customer's needs, you would benefit tremendously from a Configurator. Configure is what the C in CPQ stands for. A Configurator will guide the sales rep through a step-by-step process of selecting items to include on the quote. Based on the items selected, the Configurator may then offer new choices based on the last choice made.

For example, if you select a 19 inch car tire rim, the next step in the Configurator would only show you 19 tires that would fit on the 19 rim that you selected. Configurators are extremely useful for making sure that all the correct items are included in a quote, and they make your sales force highly efficient and reduce sales rep errors. Only a few solutions include a Configurator.

Tips for Selecting Quoting/Proposal/CPQ Software - QuoteWerks

Can you import your products or retrieve real-time prices from your vendors?

Usually the products that you quote and then sell are purchased from vendors or distributors. These vendors and distributors usually change their pricing regularly. The quantities of the items that they have in stock fluctuate daily. Find out if the solution allows you to import this information from your vendors and depending upon the industry you are in, your vendors may allow you to electronically receive real-time pricing and availability for their products from within the quoting solution.

It is very important to have access to real-time pricing and availability information so that you have all the tools you need to get product to your customer fast and as low priced as possible. Having access to real-time pricing gives you the ability to deliver last minute price savings to your customer. Having access to real-time availability gives you the company the ability to know if the product will ship today, or if it will be backordered. Since a backordered product cannot be shipped to a customer, knowing that a product is backordered before placing an order will give you the tools you need to make a good purchasing decision.

Would Peer Review and Approvals be a benefit to your company?

Peer reviews let a sales rep put together a quote and then ask their peers for input on it, in case they missed something or could improve something in their quote. This helps your sales team create better quotes with fewer errors. Have you ever had a sales rep email a quote to a customer that you wished you had reviewed before the customer received it? With a solution that supports approvals, you can set approval requirements for your sales reps that require them to obtain approval before a quote can be sent. Only a few solutions have this peer review and approval capability.

Do you need Security features?

If more than one sales rep will be using the quoting software, you may want some security features that limit what tasks certain users can perform.

Do you need Reporting capabilities?

Very few of the solutions have built-in reporting capabilities. If you need to run reports on all your quote related data like a list of all the outstanding quotes, or all the outstanding quotes per sales rep, all quotes won this month, a list of all products sold this month, commission reports - then your solution needs to be able to do this.

Since you will be using the quoting software to store all your product information, and all of your quoting and ordering information, you need to be able to retrieve useful reports using all this information.

Some quoting software does not include any ability to create or run management reports. The inclusion of reporting features is an indicator of a mature and complete quoting software package. Some quoting software has pre-defined report templates that you cannot customize at all.

Some quoting software requires a third party solution to run reports. Some quoting software allows you complete and comprehensive control so that you can create reports to filter on whatever information you would like, and you can also customize the look of the report including the ability to create formulas that calculating things like monthly leasing figures, and more.

You are looking for a Proposal Solution, you might be interested in automating the ordering too

The process of ordering products can be tedious, time-consuming, and error prone. Your quoting software order will already contain all the vendor, product part numbers, quantities, pricing, and ship to location information. Some solutions will have purchasing capabilities where you can view all of the orders you've won and where you can creating purchase orders from these lists to order the items. If you have to manually place an order you would need to call your sales rep and read each part number, quantity, price, warehouse, and ship to location to your sales rep during which errors can be introduced. Alternately you could email an order with this information to your vendor if your quoting solution supports it. With some solutions you can also see the status of the electronically placed orders from within the quoting solution, giving you real-time access to shipments, tracking numbers, serial numbers of the items, etc.

Quoting/Proposal/CPQ Software What you need - QuoteWerks

Ok, you think you've found the solution for you. Can you get a trial?

Many solutions don't allow you to actually try setting up and using the proposal software yourself. They just provide a video for you to watch or a sales reps demonstrates the solution in a web meeting. Make sure that you can obtain a free trial version of the quoting software so that you can verify for yourself that the solution functions as advertised before you have to part with your money.

Last step: Pricing, Setup costs, and Requirements?

Many solutions express their pricing as monthly, but they don't let you pay monthly. If the monthly price is $30, you will have to pay them $360 up front to start using their solution. If you read the fine print, some solutions in their license agreement legally require you to pay them for 3 years, even if you find that the solution is not working well for you. You can't cancel your subscription until 3 years has gone by. Also, check for initial setup charges. It is actually surprising how many solutions charge a mandatory setup charge that can range between $300 to $3000. Hard to imagine, but it is a good idea to find out. Some solutions charge per named user, so that you have to pay the monthly amount for every user even if they only use the solution once a month. Others offer concurrent licensing where you only pay for the maximum number of users in the software that are in the software at the same time which results in tremendous savings.

Technical support (usually an after thought, but is really important)

This might sound old school, but being able to speak with a sales rep or technical support rep on the phone is so important for several reasons. It goes without saying that if you cannot reach the company’s sales team by phone, then you certainly won't be able to reach their technical support team by phone.

Many quoting/proposal solutions don't even list a phone number on their website to contact them for anything. When you're in the middle of your work day and encounter some kind of show stopper problem, it is just unacceptable to have to send an email for support and just wait indefinitely for help that may never come. Some solutions list a support phone number, but purposely never answer, so you always have to leave a voice mail with the recording that they will call you back in 24 hours.

Phone support for technical issues, especially for complicated issues, is so important because often an issue requires a real-time back and forth conversation to quickly resolve an issue. Sending an email, waiting hours, just to get an email back with questions for you...the cycle just goes on and on. It is a real drain on your time and is very frustrating. If phone support is important to you, this is something you should ask about.


About the Author:
John C. Lewe IV
President, Founder, and Lead Developer


comments powered by Disqus


The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Aspire Technologies, Inc. QuoteWerks is a registered trademark of Aspire Technologies, Inc. Other trademarks referenced are the property of their respective owners.