As your business grew, you recognized the need to bring in a CRM—enter Salesforce. As a leading client relationship management software, you’ve been able to run your business efficiently for a while now using their internal CPQ tools. But lately, as you’ve started to scale and bring on more clients while expanding the scope of your MSP/VAR projects, you find yourself wondering if the native Salesforce solutions available are enough or if it’s time you start to bring in a powerful integration to get you to the next step. 

What is CPQ Software? 

Configure, Price, and Quote software is a sales and planning tool for companies that offer managed IT solutions to other businesses providing technical services. CPQs allow the pre-sales and sales teams to scope and price the details of a project faster and more accurately. 

Instead of manually searching through product catalogs and services, looking for up-to-date prices, and documenting all the minute requirements for a project, CPQ software generates custom quotes and statements of work (SOWs) with minimal input from a sales rep. The estimates also outline expectations, project conditions, and deliverables, allowing clients to review an accurate quote and delivery teams to schedule the work effectively. 

The best CPQs offer automation within workflows. Typically, with minimal input—like choosing a level of effort, entering custom pricing, and adding topline services required—a CPQ software will generate a custom estimation that includes all nuanced configurations needed for each project. This process can trigger other workflows, drastically reducing the time necessary to close sales deals and begin development work. 

What is Salesforce CPQ? 

In 2015, when the Salesforce CRM had limited functionality, the company acquired Steelbrick, a maker of CPQ software. The acquisition allowed Salesforce to repackage the product within its ecosystem, thus beginning its internal CPQ offering.

Today, a user can log on and use Salesforce’s native CPQ tool to select the solutions a client needs and build a priced quote. Typically, this starts with adding the services, tools, and conditions the sales rep knows should be included. The program will query current prices from the database and add applicable discounts to the estimate. Once a client approves, the quote gets passed to the delivery team and translated into actionable project sprints, allowing developers to begin implementation work. 

Pricing for Salesforce CPQ starts at $75/user/month for the basic plan. If a more robust package is needed (with features like advanced approvals and usage pricing tools), the price jumps to $150/user/month. This does put Salesforce on the high-end for a CPQ subscription service, as many other CPQ software top out at $75 for their most elite tiered offering. 

Why use Salesforce CPQ? 

Guardrails: Many MSPs, VARs, and contractors work with Salesforce. With so many service providers, Salesforce needed some oversight on the sales teams’ price promises. The CPQ tool within the CRM provides guardrails, so sales teams cannot offer discounts and product prices that the internal salesforce account team hasn’t approved. 

Stay within the ecosystem: The CPQ tool exists native to Salesforce’s platform, meaning it is created and hosted by Salesforce within the CRM and passes data smoothly to other platform areas. A developer can begin work directly from the estimate, adding triggers, configurations, and sandboxing. Some sales teams decide not to add another platform or pay for third-party integration and instead just use Salesforce’s CPQ, so further setup isn’t required.

Client Request: Some clients prefer ‘the way it’s always been.’ If that’s the case and delivering estimates to clients from the Salesforce CPQ is the path of least resistance, then it is worth the business to keep using the tool for sales and pre-sales quotes. 

Why not use Salesforce CPQ? 

Editing difficulty: It can be challenging to iterate and manage different quote versions. Sometimes, users report being unable to make a needed edit, causing them to abandon the first quote and start afresh, wasting time. 

Neglected updates: Users often complain about outdated UI/UX elements and an unmaintained codebase. The deprecated code leads to problems that could be avoided with more regular updates. 

Difficult workarounds: The features don’t always work intuitively, causing unexpected behaviors. This sometimes requires a user to employ creative, though unnecessary, workarounds. 

Benefits of integrating a third-party CPQ software to Salesforce

Internal Salesforce developers spend their time across many initiatives, and outside contractors aren’t aware of all the internal priorities. For example, the CPQ tool might not be touched for months if those sprints are dedicated to releasing a new project management feature that is prioritized higher by the tech teams. 

Conversely, third-party CPQs intensely focus on maintaining and scaling these niche features.  If you’ve been struggling with Salesforce’s native estimating process, using a SaaS that integrates with Salesforce but specializes in CPQ workflows could smooth the sticky points within your processes. 

1. Reduced time-to-quote

Sales teams like to strike while the iron is hot. CPQ software reduces the barriers to creating a quote, so the sales team can get an estimate to the client much quicker instead of fiddling with formatting or hunting down the latest service prices. 

2. Easy to read SOWs

Whereas some internal CPQ tools are geared toward tech-minded developers, they’re not easy for laypeople to understand. Most CPQ software tries to close this gap by translating a detailed estimate into an easy-to-understand SOW you can share with a customer. The more the customer understands the deliverables, the more stakeholders will be on the same page, and the chance of confusion down the road will be reduced. 

3. Standardization across quotes

A CPQ platform is typically designed for quick and intuitive quoting, which comes with a level of standardization. This software creates consistent, high-quality quotes with accurate service pricing, so each estimate delivered to a client maintains the standard set by the providing company.  

4. Optimized platform features

Third-party platforms benefit from working with many users across MSP industries, soaking in a helpful variety of feedback and becoming experts in the CPQ game. Using best practices across fields creates a CPQ platform with optimized workflows, ensuring any quoting and SOW process is as smooth as possible. 

5. Detailed analytics

Third-party CPQ software wants you to continue using their platform, so the development teams try to provide a more robust suite of features. Often, this includes more data insights and detailed analytics around the sales cycle, quoting, and pricing. 

How to integrate CPQ software with Salesforce 

Each CPQ software will have its integration process, differing in how each was designed and outlined in the API documentation. As most APIs though follow a similar procedure, after choosing the right CPQ software for your business needs, the integration steps with Salesforce will likely look something like this: 

  1. Installation and setup: Download any packages the CPQ software needs into Salesforce to prepare for the integration. API documentation provided by the CPQ company should outline what is needed and clarify each step. 
  2. Create a sandbox environment: Establish a separate environment within Salesforce for testing the data integration so live data is not affected or impacted during development. 
  3. Authentication and security: Ensure the data exchange between Salesforce and the chosen platform is protected by secure authentication methods (such as OAuth) and establish user role permissions around accessing information. 
  4. API configuration: Specify endpoints for data exchange and determine the data structure. This process can involve RESTful APIs that enable actions like creating and updating information, for example. 
  5. Mapping data fields: Map the data fields between the CPQ and Salesforce to ensure the data flows correctly. Custom objects or fields may need to be created to accommodate specific data points unique to one system. 
  6. Determine any automation: Adding a new workflow within Salesforce allows further automation. A user could configure defined triggers to cause certain responses when conditions are met.
  7. Review and deploy: After beta testing in the sandbox environment, when the API is proven to function properly, the CPQ integration will be deployed live so all users can begin using the new features. 

Alternatives to Salesforce CPQ 

For a less cumbersome alternative to Salesforce’s CPQ, look for platforms designed to automate the CPQ process. Top platforms in this space share baseline functionality but still offer unique features. Below are some leaders in the field, with their notable differences: 

  • ScopeStack: Provides automation and streamlined quoting catered specifically to the nuanced needs of IT service professionals. 
  • QuoteWerks: Integrates with many CRMs and PSA tools, aiming to streamline the quote-to-cash process across industries. 
  • DealHub.io: Embeds the CPQ process within a larger comprehensive sales engagement platform, including dynamic playbooks and sales processes. 
  • PandaDoc: This platform combines CPQ functionality with document automation and engaging documentation elements. 
  • Conga CPQ: Offers a highly configurable, optimal platform for businesses that deal with complex pricing scenarios and intricate sales models. 

How do these alternatives work with Salesforce? ScopeStack, for example, lets a user combine pricing information and the development level of effort needed to create custom quotes. The automation capabilities in the system reduce quoting time from hours to minutes. Sales team members can use the statement of work (SOW) template library (or previously saved custom templates) to shorten the sales cycle and send customers accurately priced estimates for Salesforce service solutions. The API integration allows for seamless data sharing between platforms, so your company gets the best of both worlds. Additionally, ScopeStack integrates with other commonly used platforms, making it cross-functional and a CPQ that scales with your business. 

If you’re looking to improve your operational efficiency, enhance productivity, and reduce errors and effort required to scope work, then let’s talk. Contact us to learn more about how ScopeStack can benefit you.

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