What’s better: phased CPQ implementation or “big bang” deployment? Can a CPQ solve for my “unique” quoting use case? How can I convince leadership it’s time for a CPQ? 

When it comes to CPQs, we know you have questions. That’s why we recently hosted a CPQ&A webinar with CPQ industry veterans Prakash Raina, Co-Founder of Subskribe; Aesha Shah, Sr. Architect GTM Systems at Lacework; and Harrison Riley, former Business Process Architect at Okta. 

Here we provide a speed round of 17 of the most common questions — with answers to help you on your CPQ journey (and show you that you’re not the only one struggling with standardizing your quoting process!). 

CPQ: So Much More Than a Simple Point Solution 

Who and what should a CPQ serve? 

Your sales org is the primary user of your CPQ, using it to shape how you sell, how you package, how you display a quote, and how you negotiate commercial terms. 

But while you may employ a CPQ to solve the particular issue of standardizing quoting, the implications are much broader. From Sales to Sales Ops to Finance, many teams touch the CPQ and are impacted by its financial data. 

CPQ Risk Protection

Do I really need a CPQ? What’s the danger of not getting one?

Depending on where your company is, potential risks range from wasted resources to a worrisome lack of control.

As Shah illustrates, “If you have a deal desk of two people helping sales build quotes in Salesforce and reviewing those quotes manually, this won’t scale as the company grows.”

“CPQ creates guardrails that you need — especially for an IPO or funding round,“ said Raina.

Harrison provided an example of what happens without guardrails: “A sales rep sold a product … that the company didn’t even sell. He got paid and comped. But we couldn’t deliver it, and Finance couldn’t recognize revenue because they didn’t know what it was. Once you introduce these quote artifacts into your system, this opens up the floodgates for auditors.” 

CPQ Buyers

Who should have a say in what CPQ we get? 

CPQs are built for a company’s sellers, but, usually, the RevOps team is responsible for running the selection criteria

“A lot of times, people will say CPQ is a GTM system, but it’s also a finance system,” continues Raina. “That’s why you need to involve your finance counterpart” and align the expectations of your seller vs. your RevOps. 

CPQ Selection Criteria

How can I find the best CPQ tool for my org?

While there’s no one rule of thumb for every company mapping out the right CPQ, Raina offered this guidance: 

“To find the tool that best fits your needs, you need to keep in mind your company’s stage (and what your needs are today as well as two to three years down the line) and look at your processes in great detail. Hardware vs. software? Consumption-based vs. contracted model? Pay-as-you-go? Sales-assisted? These types of questions will help you evaluate.” 

CPQ Legacy vs New

Should I use the CPQ in my CRM or find something new? 

There are a lot of legacy tools in the market that you need to customize. And Shah strongly suggests not limiting yourself to the CPQ of your CRM system. “It’s ok for your CPQ to be outside of your CRM, as long as the data goes back into your system.”

You may want to consider one of the newer tools that may work for you out of the box.

Leadership Buy In

How can I convince leadership that I need a CPQ … now?

Convincing people to do the right thing can often be the biggest challenge. So how do you do it? 

Raina and Shah both suggest bringing in external references and sharing their success stories to make your point. Said Shah, “I’ve spoken to many CFOs and CROs and told them ‘look, this is how Okta does this,’ — and that earns a different reaction.” 

CPQ and Your Tech Stack

How will a CPQ fit in with my tech stack? 

“It’s important to have a central business systems team with good communication back and forth," said Shah. "You need a technical lead and architect who can think across systems, think about scalability, connect the dots, and put out a blueprint for what the tech stack will look like.”

Business Needs vs. System Capability

How can I find a CPQ to support our unique business process? 

“If you think your company has a process so unique that a CPQ doesn’t fit your needs — that’s not something to be proud of,” said Raina. 

“See if you can come up with a process that’s well supported by system capability rather than coming up with a difficult complex process and trying to mold the system to fit those needs.” 

Find a CPQ built to address a variety of use cases with pre-built features that will enable your business to go to market. 

CPQ Customization

How should I approach CPQ customizations? 

Riley warned against over-architecting solutions, customizing systems around how you think your business should operate. “I’ve seen this over and over. It manifests itself as becoming what a CIO will brand as a ‘business transformation' — paying a big consulting firm millions of dollars to reimplement a system because you screwed up the last one so badly!”

As Shah noted, “It’s easy to get carried away with customizations but keep in mind you are automating to scale. Two or three years down the line, will this automation scale? You don’t want to slow down the system as the volume increases.”

CPQ Benefits for Sales

How can I convince Sales we’re not trying to make their lives more difficult? 

Salespeople just want to get deals done and push them across the finish line — and can think ops is slowing them down. 

But as Riley explained, “Operations isn’t trying to make salespeoples’ lives more difficult, they’re trying to bring structure and standardization to the sales process that should help sales start quoting at the right phase, picking the right products, making sure discounts are there — all the things that move deals faster.” 

Standardizing within CPQ

Will our sales team still be able to quote outside the CPQ? 

The whole point of a CPQ is to standardize most of your orders so “going Wild West and wanting to customize quotes runs counter to what a CPQ is,” according to Riley. 

Leadership needs to be clear that there is a standard way to GTM and the system enables that. 

Deal Desk and CPQ

Do you hire deal desk before or after CPQ implementation? 

“Ideally, you have a deal desk person prior to implementing your CPQ because they have the best context for all the parts of the business that need to be standardized and operationalized,” said Riley. 

CPQ Process and Design 

Who typically owns CPQ process and design implementation (specifically in a small company)?

As Harrison noted, within a smaller org, when someone is trying to get a project done like CPQ implementation, they tend to wear five million hats. That’s why it’s important to establish a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted/considered, and informed) model that will lead to direct accountability and results. 

“Define the RACI, and have a separate technical product owner and process owner,” said Shah. You need both owners to work in sync so processes are defined and you know what your needs are. You'll have a tech product owner who knows the solutions and can deliver on those requirements.”

CPQ Implementation Timeline

How long do you allocate for CPQ implementation and enablement? 

CPQ implementation duration will depend on the complexity of where your company processes are and whether you’re migrating data. Shah explained that for a small company with a simple product catalog, allow one to two months. 

But if you’re migrating from an existing CPQ or other system, where there is a long history of quotes, many contingencies, and established workflows, you'll likely have a longer implementation — six months or longer. “The more mature your business, the more integrations you’ll have to consider,” said Riley. 

“And never underestimate the importance of data integration. This tends to be an afterthought, but needs to be the first thought.” 

CPQ Implementation: Phased or “Big Bang”

What’s the best approach for a successful CPQ implementation? 

Whether to do a phased or all-at-once deployment depends on the complexity of your existing systems or database, your company size, data, catalog, product — and how quickly you want (or need!) to show value. 

The phased approach is popular because it’s quicker, more agile, more consumable for sales, and there are so many different ways to roll out a new method of quoting — just for new logos, for renewals, etc. It also enables you to realize small changes, gather feedback, and then incorporate that going forward. 

A full new implementation will take longer to get off the ground and require more change management and more system support, but, according to Raina, “If you have clean data and can get it up quickly, a big bang deployment can work.”

Enablement and Adoption

How can I ensure cross-functional adoption of our CPQ? 

For a successful CPQ implementation, you need to consider process and people in addition to the tool.  

As Riley bluntly put it, “If everyone doesn’t realize how robust data can help them in their functions, your CPQ initiative will be dead on arrival.”

Says Shah: “Usually sales is incentivized differently vs. finance, so business systems get split between two goals. Make sure there’s a defined common North Star that is company-led.” Then measure adoption over time to identify and address gaps. 

CPQ and Financial Data

How can we use a CPQ to get better financial data into our CRM? 

“CPQ is your source system where you can find metrics you need like ARR and MRR,” said Shah. 

Which is why it’s so shocking that so many vendors, including Salesforce CPQ, don’t natively calculate ARR or MRR — so you need to create a system for recurring revenue and then integrate those metrics into your CRM. 

CPQ — Quoting and Beyond

We covered a lot of ground in our CPQ&A, but as Riley noted, there’s so much more: 

“CPQ is misleading because it doesn’t capture the entirety of what it does. It doesn’t end at the Q (quote). You have to think of everything that comes post-execution of the contract. Now you have to deliver the service. Does customer support have context of what’s been sold? How do you track usage and meter against what a customer has purchased? How will finance recognize revenue? How will you get the info you need to identify cross-sell and upsell opportunities? The fun is just beginning with CPQ!”

And there’s so much more to look forward to in terms of CPQ systems and processes.

As Raina noted, “Ask CIOs what product they aren’t happy to take over? CPQ is top of the list. But there are new vendors in the market solving in a different way. The future of CPQ is that one day it will be a system like payroll that even a company of five will get, and it will meet all their needs now and as they grow.” 

Thanks again to all our attendees for their great questions and to our panelists for their invaluable insights. For more on CPQ, check out our CPQ library and stay tuned for more CPQ events and resources.