Episode 47 Feb 01, 2022

A Perfect Match: CPQ + Price Optimization for Manufacturers

Today we welcome on Mike Bramble,managing consultant for commercial performance applications at Enigen. Mike introduced himself to our host Lindsay Duran by proclaiming, “CPQ is very much in my blood.”

Which made him the perfect guest for this episode’s topics, namely customer and sales rep self-service, elimination of rework, and faster, more accurate quoting in the rapidly changing manufacturing sector. Listen along as Mike and Lindsay discuss recent trends such as inflation and the rise of digital commerce, and how those trends have accelerated the urgency for manufacturers to adopt CPQ and price optimization solutions.

View the demo mentioned in the episode here: Zilliant Oracle CPQ Integration

Mike Bramble

Mike Bramble

Change is necessary. And dare I say, constant. That change doesn't have to be scary or just too difficult. If you get the right applications with the right implementation partner, with the right experience and breadth of knowledge, you should be in a great position to make tangible changes faster than you think in a way that minimizes risk.
- Mike Bramble, Enigen

Episode Transcript

Mike Bramble: It's an expectation of high quality and that demand is not going away. So change is necessary or inevitable. And dare I say, constant. That change doesn't have to be scary or just too difficult. If you get the right applications with the right implementation partner, with the right experience and breadth of knowledge, you should be in a great position to make tangible changes faster than you think in a way that minimizes risk.

Moving to CPQ is both challenging and exciting. It's time to embrace it, I think.

Lindsay Duran: Welcome to B2B Reimagined. My name is Lindsay Duran and I'll be your host for this episode. I'm joined today by Mike Bramble, managing consultant for commercial performance applications at Enigen. Mike, welcome to the podcast.

Mike Bramble: Thank you very much. Great to be here

Lindsay Duran: Before we get started. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your role at Enigen as well as more about the company itself.

Mike Bramble: I'm a managing consultant, as you say, for the commercial performance applications at Enigen. My role is to manage a team of consultants, delivering cloud implementation products in Oracle CX sales, CPQ, and subscription management products. I [00:02:00] manage a team of guys and girls delivering that out to various customers in various industries.

So Enigen are an Oracle CX and supply chain consulting partner. We've been around for about 15 years and we mainly operate in the B2B market. Prior to that, I was seven years with Oracle consulting, where I delivered CPQ implementations across the UK and Europe. And even prior to that, I was actually at Big Machines before Oracle bought the product and turned it into CPQ cloud. So I'm afraid CPQ is very much in my blood.

Lindsay Duran: Well, before we get into our main topic for this episode, I always like to ask a more personal question so our listeners can get to know our guests a little bit better. Mike, can you share with us, what is your favorite travel destination?

Mike Bramble: Oh, that's an interesting question.

I'm going to answer it in three ways very quickly. If I may, I have young children though, for a family holiday, I would say anywhere with a pool, sunshine and ways to entertain them would tick the boxes. Ideally, [00:03:00] a water park next door to the hotel would work in that scenario. For myself. I do like the west coast of the USA, especially the Pacific coast highway and San Diego in particular, having been there many times. Vancouver and British Columbia is also another one of my favorite parts of the world. For a chill out, I would say you can't go wrong with a Greek island or too, especially the island of Apollonia, where I've been a number of times. Great scenery, amazing food, and a wonderful and interesting history.

Lindsay Duran: Excellent. Well, I've not been to that particular Greek island, so I'll need to get that on the schedule and hit you up for some recommendations.

Mike Bramble: I certainly would recommend it.

Lindsay Duran: Well, the next time you make it to the US, not to take us too much off topic, there's a very large water park, not too far from the Zilliant headquarters in Austin called Schlitterbahn. So I highly recommend that if you're a fan of waterparks and your kids are.

Mike Bramble: I am not as much as my children, but again, it's part of the world I'd like to go and visit as well. [00:04:00] So I could tick a couple of boxes in one go there.

Lindsay Duran: There you go. Well, let's go ahead and dive in. Very excited to have you on today to discuss a few pressing topics related to the manufacturing industry and the applications that are really necessary to drive a customer empowered self-service experience.

To start out, can you share your perspective on how you see the world changing for manufacturers?

Mike Bramble: Yes, I think for manufacturers as well as most businesses, I think that they're looking to have an online presence and a digital sort of first view of the world. The need for the applications is that they can enable that change where that customer demand is wanting.

So front-end, and back-end are under pressure to deliver on such things as UX and also handle such things as the subscription economy, people are not just manufacturing to sell items anymore. They're also manufacturing items to lease in all sorts of industries. So again, different ways of selling in the digital shopfront.[00:05:00]

Lindsay Duran: And certainly the inflationary pressures that we're all seeing and feeling I think are hitting manufacturers particularly hard.

Mike Bramble: Yes. With inflation, of course it's an opportunity to review many aspects of the way that businesses run because inflation puts pressure on bottom line costs, as well as the pricing at the end.

So again, everything in that area is now up for consideration and discussion. And again, that is also a bit of a pressure on the manufacturer.

Lindsay Duran: So what challenges did these changes bring and conversely, what opportunities do you see for forward thinking manufacturers?

Mike Bramble: Well, there's an old saying isn't there, that a challenge is actually just an opportunity you haven't realized you've got, and it's true. I think actually from my consulting background, it's certainly the case. The biggest challenge, I think you're seeing, is this whole quote to cash process as well. It helps you achieve more efficiency. Take an example of, it's not just the equipment that you need to manufacture your goods. You also need the right [00:06:00] supporting applications. It's no good having a state of the art factory that gives you five times production capacity if you can't sell five times faster because your outdated applications and sales processes, they inhibit that sort of innovation. So there is always opportunity to streamline downstream processes as well.

And just as importantly, and key, I suppose, is the customer experience from a sales perspective, the correct choice and use of applications gives you that platform and environment to make those changes.

Lindsay Duran: Indeed. So how does Enigen and Oracle CPQ work to ease those challenges? And what do you recommend for companies that are looking to get started with a CPQ?

Mike Bramble: We are an Oracle partner. As I said before, we deliver implementations across the entire B2B CX suite through marketing, CRM, commerce service, and CPQ, but it doesn't stop there because we're also delivering and able to deliver across the entire supply chain management piece. So that puts us in quite a good position to enable a seamless process for both customers and [00:07:00] internal users, sort of front and backend.

Now our experience in terms of the applications and the industries we've delivered in, added to the breadth of process we can cover. It gives our customers a much wider perspective on what's possible. Rather than some other implementation partners who may specialize in a smaller part of the process.

Now CPQ is a key piece in this equation because it sits in the heart of that whole lead to cash process. And yeah, and its main benefits are pretty much baked into its name CPQ, as you know, configure price and quote, enables users to configure the things they're selling with both guidance for that user and technical accuracy in the output.

They can price those goods knowing that correct pricing rules have been applied and they can quote them with a professional looking document containing the right information. It's about accuracy to avoid rework and delays in getting a quote to a customer, basically. So CPQ acts as a bit of a logic master in these areas to create a single source of truth for that sales process.

Oracle CPQ has a rich feature set that allows a company to sell with [00:08:00] confidence and increase customer satisfaction. The good question you asked is about starting on the CPQ journey. It is a transformational product because it touches so many parts of your it and business infrastructure. Yeah. If you start with CPQ, you need to look objectively at all your sales processes through a sort of a critical lens.

What does, and doesn't work for you. And you should challenge your prospective implementer, like Enigen, to demonstrate how CPQ is going to resolve those problems. You then layer on the future needs. And then match them to the CPQ capability. That way you can be confident that CPQ is the platform you're going to need now and for the future, and look at like any big projects, don't try and do everything at once.

Consider implementing CPQ by region, product group, specific users or whatever is best for your company to give you the confidence in the speed that you are changing. What are critical processes?

Lindsay Duran: Given the nature of those critical processes. I would imagine that there's quite a bit of change management and training that needs to go along with the CPQ implementation.

Especially If [00:09:00] you're trying to get a large team to adopt and actually use that solution, what have you seen work best for companies when they approach this?

Mike Bramble: Yes, you're absolutely right. Change management for CPQ projects is very, very important, mainly because it is such a big change. For example, you are beginning to centralize your sales logic so that, the guy who's joined the company and selling goods on day one can sell the same as the guy who's been there 20 years.

That can be an interesting change, an interesting sort of paradigm for the staff members and like a lot of projects and products that you implement, it's really about getting the buy-in from the users earliest. And a good example of that is regular show and tells when you're implementing to just get some validation back from the users and the stakeholders that yeah, what you're doing is absolutely right. And it gives them and their internal teams a chance to work with an implementer such as us to say, okay, what are we doing here? Why are we doing it? And how best can we [00:10:00] demonstrate its benefit? So realistically the answer is just early buy-in from all the stakeholders.

Lindsay Duran: We've talked about the sales channel and the importance of prepping the sales rep to make sure that they're delivering on a good customer experience. But we're increasingly seeing that customers are looking for more self-service, right. And that, the trends in B2C really start to infiltrate the trends in B2B.

So let's explore that topic of self-service a bit more. Is the rise of self-service capabilities in your opinion, driven more by customer demand or manufacturing necessity? And how does Enigen help manufacturers help their customers be more self-sufficient when buying from them? Especially when you have potentially complex products that they're providing and manufacturing.

Mike Bramble: Yes. I think it's both actually. I think customer demand is driving necessity on the part of the manufacturer, but also the manufacturers are seeing the necessity to actually drive a bit of customer demand at the same time. [00:11:00] The change from that necessity to it drives further demand through improved processes. Looking at it again, a slightly different way to what we're used to because it's more forced rather than sort of evolving into change. I think there's some pressure that actually triggers that change. Now customers expect a more responsive sales experience, which could be through a portal or through a streamlined standard negotiation process with a sales rep.

It could be a hybrid of both. There's good examples of that. And I'll talk a bit more about where we're seeing some value in a moment, but a really simple example is where a manufacturer may have a lot of items they sell that are off the shelf, but some require configuration. So let's take a different example.

A manufacturer who sells pumps for example, are going to be looking at complex configurable items. However, their spare parts might be more off the shelf with no configuration needed. For example, the Oracle CPQ, we integrate with commerce platforms to provide that configuration experience where they need it while allowing them to actually sell [00:12:00] more of the off the shelf stuff that doesn't need it.

And this is where we're seeing the biggest value for CPQ is when it's embedded within self-service portals. With the post COVID push for end customers to do more through a single interface, including self-serve CPQ, is offering a way for clients to be able to configure and price their own orders and check it out on their own through e-commerce.

We can then connect that supply chain data in the backend to give both the businesses and the end customer more information about the part product availability, oversight into global ordering tracking, et cetera, all within that same self-service portal.

Lindsay Duran: We're definitely seeing the same trends with our manufacturing customers Mike. Some of our customers are deploying what we refer to as intelligent automated negotiation, particularly when it's a manufacturer selling through distribution channel to really free up their internal team from the time-consuming tasks of negotiation with those distributor customers, to give them a [00:13:00] more seamless experience, really creating a predefined set of parameters in which prices can fall, but then negotiation can happen with the machine, if you will, as opposed to always going directly to a sales rep or a deal desk. What do you think are the consequences in the digital commerce age of not offering these types of self-service or automated negotiation ability?

Mike Bramble: Yes we’re in a customer-driven world. And that's where we are. We have been for a while, but again, this acceleration towards an even more customer-focused world, we constantly see these sort of complaints that people put out about perceived shortfalls in customer service.

And that could be in sales, manufacturing, delivery. In the manufacturing world, for example, if a customer can, they will go somewhere else for what they need, if they can get it quicker or at a better price. Those are standard drivers in any sales environment, which are magnified I think with the way the world is at the moment, the challenge of course is to keep the [00:14:00] customer focus.

We need innovative ideas and services. Zilliant and Oracle CPQ are both utilizing AI and machine learning more and more to achieve this. And the benefits of that are clear and easy to articulate, such as getting to an agreeable price much quicker, minimizing the negotiation cycle and speeding up the entire quoting process.

So long gone are the days of companies saying, “Let's do it this way because that's how it's always been done, or it's fine as it is.” You can't sit on those laurels anymore. The consequences of not improving the speed of the sale cycle are obvious. Customers are more and more used to the rapid sales cycle where anything you perceive to be slow will cost them sales and money.

If you add in the poor customer service feedback on all the review sites. Well, you know where that goes.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. Yeah. It's no longer acceptable to take a week or even multiple days to turn around a quote. Even if it's on a long list of items or a complex quote, it really needs to be, often instantaneous or, or really in a matter of hours in [00:15:00] order to win the business. And I think that, that, yeah, that speed and the precision and the accuracy of the quote with competitive pricing, I think is so key.

So Mike, we've been partners now Zilliant and Enigen for a little under a year, so relatively new, but why should companies work with us together from your perspective?

Mike Bramble: Yeah, it's another good question. It's about complementary functionality, I suppose, and knowing what each product Zilliant and Oracle are capable of, and I always refer to these as product boundaries and let's take it again. CPQ is an example, clearest application, probably out there to define it in terms of what it does.

It's there to configure products to sell, price those products and quote for those products. Is CPQ good for order management? Not really. Is it good at mastering customer data? Should it be implemented to do deal with these? Definitely not, because there are other applications that are far better at those things.

So you use the right application for the right purpose. If we take Oracle [00:16:00] CPQ and Zilliant, there is clearly a commonality because both products are more than capable in the pricing area. The key is utilizing the best features here, but from both to maximize the benefit. So let's take an example.

CPQ is great with raw pricing data and applying logic to it, to give the end customer the correct price. Zilliant for example, would be able to create and optimize that raw pricing data in a way that gives the business what they need, usual things, margin floor ceiling price, et cetera. So that's a natural synergy where Zilliant creates the raw pricing data and CPQ applies additional logic over the top.

Another example would relate to what we've already touched on using the intelligent, automated negotiation functionality. To further speed up the sales process and calculate them in CPQ whereby some of that negotiation process is effectively automated. The point is it's about getting the best of both to create that compelling, seamless process and offering to the customer through our partnership between us, we have the knowledge and experience and capability to deliver that. I think you [00:17:00] explained that.

Lindsay Duran: Well, Mike, I like to think about things in terms of the user and the persona, right? So CPQ being the salesperson or the deal desk, the person actually creating the quote ultimately, and presenting that to the customer, as opposed to a price optimization or price management solution like Zilliant is really more used by the pricing persona or more of a middle office type function, where they're going in and setting the prices. So I think your characterization works quite well.

Mike Bramble: Yeah. And I think it's important if you think of it that way, because product boundaries, as I said, are really, really important to make sure you're doing the right thing with the right tool and CPQ can actually be used in a headless way basically to use the benefits of its pricing functionality and its configuration functionality. So again, we don't even have to limit it to just that sort of internal sales user, portals can access CPQ or any application can to do a configuration, to get the prices. And if we're using Zilliant as part of that [00:18:00] process from a CPQ point of view, that's baked into it as well.

So yeah, the possibilities are there indeed.

Lindsay Duran: Well, this has been a very insightful conversation. Mike, do you have anything else you'd like to leave our listeners with before we wrap up?

Mike Bramble: The demand for improvement in sales and manufacturing processes is customer driven, it's an expectation of high quality and that demand is not going away. So change is necessary or inevitable. And dare I say, constant, that change doesn't have to be scary or just too difficult. If you get the right applications with the right implementation partner, with the right experience and breadth of knowledge, you should be in a great position to make tangible changes faster than you think in a way that minimizes risk.

Moving to CPQ is both challenging and exciting. It's time to embrace it I think. It's a powerful tool with many benefits. And I think couple that with the functionality that the Zilliant complements it with, we have a powerful offering.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. Well, Mike, I want to thank you again for joining [00:19:00] us to have this timely conversation and for sharing your perspective.

Mike Bramble: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.

Lindsay Duran: And thank you all for listening to another episode of B2B Reimagined. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes for a demo video of how Zilliant integrates with Oracle CPQ. If you'd like to discuss how we may be able to help your business address pricing and sales challenges please reach out to us on Zilliant.com. And if you're enjoying the content, please rate and review the show as it helps us to continue to put out great free content, we hope you'll join us for the next episode of B2B Reimagined.

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