Are Your Quotes Hitting the Spot?


Sandeep Singh

HubSpot is one of the most popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms around, but its output and utility can only be as good as the data that users feed into it.

There’s an old expression in computing – Garbage In Equals Garbage Out – (GIGO) and that’s never more important than when a company is producing a quote for new business. Whether it’s for an existing customer or a new prospect, whatever figures get fed into a company’s HubSpot platform, the accuracy of that data via the HubSpot CPQ is paramount.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the HubSpot product suite, here’s a brief introduction:

Variously, HubSpot brings marketing activities and customer service efforts under one roof by integrating social media marketing, lead generation, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), web analytics, content generation & management, account histories, live chat and customer support. In theory, one glance at a HubSpot dashboard enables salespeople and marketers to be aware of efforts, results and sales strategies without having to stray away from one or two screens.

More than just a checklist

That’s straightforward enough, but where does CPQ come into the equation? CPQ stands for Configure, Price, Quote. It deals with the process of ensuring that absolutely every potential factor is considered when a new quote is being produced. In its simplest terms, CPQ could be seen as a simple checklist of costs, which could easily be managed via a basic spreadsheet package. Let’s imagine that a small business of two employees, Loggit & Son, was selling firewood and delivering it to customers around a rural area of Loggit’s hometown.

Loggit offers barn-seasoned logs at USD$200 per Cord (128 cubic feet). The cost of delivery using Dan Loggit’s only trailer might be, say, $2 per mile round trip, plus the labor cost of the delivery at $17.50 per hour. If a customer 20 miles away from Loggit’s depot enquires about ordering 2 cords of logs, then a very simple calculation is likely to be:

Cost ($200 x 2)+ (40 miles x $2) + 2.5 hours labor (2.5 x $17.50) = $400+$80+$43.75 = $523.75

A grand total of $523.75 covers everything and still turns sufficient profit. You don’t need a CPQ platform or CRM software like HubSpot to deal with calculations like that.

Don’t let your profit go up in smoke…

But now imagine that Loggit starts to expand. Old man Loggit starts to offer various qualities and types of different timber; spruce, ash, oak, plane, and pine for that extra pop and crackle in the hearth. The company then offers coal, smokeless fuels and fuel-oil for heating systems. Loggit decides to replace its own growing stock as it harvests the wood by planting. Buying in new saplings adds another layer of complexity to ongoing business costs.

Then Loggit uses kiln-drying for its timber along with simple ‘seasoned’ log aging. The company then builds a sawmill, buys a fleet of vehicles, takes on forty or fifty employees and creates a marketing department. Suddenly, all those simple calculations shown above aren’t going to account for the huge extra costs of the upscale of the business. Technology needs to come to the rescue in the form of a CPQ platform.

CPQ software not only considers all the complex interrelationships between various products and services on offer, but it can also flag up important incompatibilities and health-and-safety related contraindications for sales teams and engineers. A simple spreadsheet package couldn’t cope with such facilities, but a CPQ platform can be programmed from the outset to ‘understand’ every individual customer’s needs at a personalized level. The CPQ uses an artificial intelligence (AI) based ‘decision tree’ to ensure that every relevant factor is considered before any quote is produced.

Artificial intelligence for real results

For example, the CPQ might already have been programmed with the information that regular customers Mr. & Mrs. Smith live within a town’s ‘smoke free’ zone, so it is important not to quote them with regular coal or non-kiln dried wood, which produces more smoke per ton than the civil ordinance allows. In that case, if a rookie sales clerk received a call from Mr. Smith asking for two tons of coal and three months’ worth of timber, the CPQ would not offer the cheaper raw products, saving an expensive potential mistake of delivering erroneous goods and preventing anger and frustration from two dissatisfied customers.

Once the CPQ has created a price, it is fed into the company’s HubSpot platform, so that dispatch, accounts and safety teams can be sure that all necessary requirements are met. At the same time, HubSpot operators could note the ZIP code of any smokeless zones in their delivery remit areas, and check that no other customers living in those regions are emailed with quotes for products they would not be able to use.

When quoting customers for goods and services, it’s not only profit and efficiency that’s at stake. Another wise expression heeded by experienced sales professionals is:

“Dissatisfied customers generally don’t complain, but they hardly ever come back…”

Using a CPQ along with a company’s CRM system helps to ensure that those customers don’t ever become dissatisfied in the first place.