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Ventana perspective: using data to enhance the entire revenue lifecycle

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A revenue intelligence guide

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Managing revenue instead of sales 

Organizations are increasingly realizing a singular focus on traditional sales execution is not enough to ensure growth. Shifts to subscription models and the advent of omni-channel selling mean that the old way of managing sales is transforming into managing revenue, whether the channel is direct, indirect, or e-commerce, and whether it comes from new or existing customers. The buying experience itself is a key part of the overall customer experience, critical in ensuring customer retention and leading to opportunities for expansion. While much attention has been put on using technology as an asset in the early stages of customer interaction, less attention has been paid to downstream activities such as the configure, price and quote (CPQ) and contract lifecycle management (CLM) experience.  

A smooth, automated quoting and contract process is key to building a constructive buyer-seller relationship. Organizations often have mature automated processes for top-of-funnel sales activities with the ability to derive targeted insights into process performance and efficiency. Many of these sales stages are focused on prospecting, discovery, qualification and conversion of interest to active sales negotiation. But problems still arise in the quoting and contracting phase of the sales cycle. These steps often involve other teams, such as finance and legal, and include processes that are typically not yet automated. This leads to a risk of errors and delays at an equally important part of the revenue lifecycle management. To ensure a smooth buying process and compliance with cross-team organizational policies, this process should be digitized and automated as much as possible to avoid errors, delays and potential re-work. If a smooth and frictionless process is not achieved, it can result in lost customers and collapsed sales. 

By 2024, fewer than 1 in ten organizations will deploy an automated and integrated CPQ and CLM systems, reducing their competitiveness and resulting in poor initial customer experience.

Stephen Hurrell
VP and Research Director
Ventana Research

There are tools available to optimize these crucial phases, but our research leads us to assert that by 2024, fewer than 1 in ten organizations will deploy an automated and integrated CPQ and CLM systems, reducing their competitiveness and resulting in poor initial customer experience. A recognized 
obstacle is the need to work across teams. Effectively automating this part of the business will require stakeholder alignment across sales, product and operational departments. With a more integrated process, supported by technology, an organization can reduce the adverse impact of many of these issues. 

Characteristics of an effective CPQ process 

Organizations will find that success is achieved by putting into place processes—supported by technology—that align the sales, product marketing, finance and legal teams. This will optimize the CPQ process. 

With an intelligence layer unifying the CPQ and CLM process, organizations can identify trends in their most common and profitable product and SKU combinations, potentially reducing the overall product catalog. This simplifies offerings for the sales team and enables higher velocity in selling processes since custom products and SKUs become the exception, not the rule. Manual spreadsheets cannot provide the control necessary for this process to be smooth and error-free. The overall aim is to ensure that flexibility in pricing is available, but in a way that complies with company objectives and policies. This will benefit everyone, including the customer. 

Technology to automate contracting 

Contract negotiations are a critical moment in the sales continuum. This phase is potentially fraught, especially because many buyers think of it as adversarial, with winners and losers. A protracted process or error-prone quotes can reinforce these customer perceptions at precisely the wrong time. That alone can cause a sale to fail, regardless of market fit. 

Proposals that advance with faulty terms, give-away pricing, or get-out clauses risk slowing negotiations, contract walk-backs and protracted red-lining. To mitigate these risks, the process by which an accepted quote becomes a draft contract can be streamlined by digitization. Unique elements of a sale can be merged with templates reflecting standard terms and conditions, creating a reliable draft as the basis of the approval and amendment process. 

Once the process is fully digital, the contract terms are more easily shared among provisioning, onboarding, and fulfillment teams and systems.  

Key benefits of intelligent revenue lifecycle management 

Organizations that automate and digitize CPQ and CLM systems will see a number of benefits. Once digital sales and contract information is available for analysis it will allow managers to improve and enhance existing processes. Historical CPQ and contract management data can be used to establish which parts of the process are working, and which take too much time or result in errors, rejection, or remedial corrective actions. 

Customer experience is important to the entire revenue life cycle, and first impressions have a strong impact on the overall customer relationship. It is therefore critical for organizations to recognize that the CPQ process is a key part of sales. Manual systems are too often disconnected or poorly executed, and even if the sale is won, an extended and contentious CPQ and CLM process can start the relationship on the wrong footing. 

It’s important that organizations examine their existing processes and focus not just on early steps, but beyond to configure, price and quote and contract management. Consider options in the market that will make sales-improvement investments really pay off. As they say: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. 

About Ventana Research 

Ventana Research is the most authoritative and respected benchmark business technology research and advisory services firm. Ventana Research provides the most comprehensive analyst and research coverage in the industry; business and IT professionals worldwide are members of our community and benefit from Ventana Research’s insights, as do highly regarded media and association partners around the globe.