Many communications service providers (CSPs) are scrutinizing their business-to-business (B2B) sales tools and processes in order to pursue new revenue growth opportunities more effectively. Often as CSPs assess their B2B sales tools and processes, they discover an urgent need for digital era solutions to replace or augment the legacy systems and processes they may rely on today. New capabilities are needed that can both automate and add a digital-era user experience to manage leads and opportunities; accounts and contacts; campaigns and offers; reporting and analytics; and which can automate sales engagements and complex quote generation in both self-serve and staff-operated modes.
Growing B2B market opportunities
Projections suggest that the global market for telecommunications services in the business-to-business (B2B) sector will exceed $100 billion within the next decade. Wireless connectivity markets are also expected to grow to more than $95 billion by 2023, with a substantial portion of that growth driven by enterprises’ increasing demand for wireless connectivity to support new applications, sensor networks and related automation initiatives. Growth is also picking up in virtualized services, with services like Universal Customer Premises Equipment (uCPE) to surpass $1 billion in 2022 and SD-WAN to grow from just over $200 million in 2017 to a greater than $3 billion annual market by 2021.
In parallel, cloud services and software markets are expanding at an increased rate as are specific vertical market opportunities. For example, the smart grid market is expected to surpass $70 billion by 2024 while digital health will exceed $379 billion in the same timeframe. Needless to say, CSPs are encouraged by these and other vertical market growth opportunities and many are working to position themselves to capture new revenue as a result.
Challenges CSPs face with their B2B sales channels
As CSPs survey their B2B sales organizations and tools, they often find common problems that any new solution would need to address. Some of the most common problems service providers face as their B2B products and sales channels become more complex include:
Decentralized solutions are spread across different channels and lines of business. This causes an inability to provide omnichannel quotes across product lines such as fixed line, broadband, mobile, TV, cloud, and SDN/NFV. Lacking a “single source of truth,” the CSP is unable to manage bundle offers and must put forth multiple contracts, accounts and bills in order to serve one customer with multiple types of services and across multiple sites.
Manual processes are required to produce proposals, quotes and contracts and to turn quotes into orders.These manual processes introduce errors and inaccuracies that can have a devastating impact on the customer experience; create unnecessary cost as a result of operational inefficiencies; limit the ability to scale; and slow the process for delivering quotes and proposals.
Inability to process complex service requests and custom pricing. Service providers find they are limited in their ability to prepare dedicated proposals that meet unique customer needs with special and negotiated pricing. B2B pricing is complex and depends on a variety of potential parameters such as underlying costs, competition, regulations and promotion eligibility. They are unable to navigate complex commercial terms and conditions, service levels and other factors easily. They also struggle with providing profitability analyses in a timely fashion.
Sales tools lack guided selling so that users are not prompted to make compelling offers based on defined customer needs. Lacking on-demand visual and selling aids in the process such as pictures, ROI calculations or supporting collateral undermines the ability to engage in a business value conversation with the customer. Worse, the sales process becomes a tedious survey and form-filling exercise.
Lack of integrated analytics and reporting undermine ability to deliver relevant and current reports to management.In a digital setting, reporting and analysis performed on a post-facto basis is simply too slow and out of sync with what’s needed to compete. When the right data is not presented visually to the right stakeholders on an ongoing, on-demand basis, it limits an organization’s ability to get ahead of market changes and respond to competitors’ actions, particularly in the context of an active sale.
The anatomy of a digital era sales automation and CPQ solution
Solving these types of problems requires a more automated, intelligent and integrated Sales Automation solution. Such a solution must leverage digital-era capabilities; drive accuracy, speed, and customer value; facilitate useful customer interactions; and result in positive customer experiences that increase close rates while reducing the time from first contact to close.
The scope of automation and digitalization is substantial. It must span the entire sales cycle including end-to-end campaign management; lead and opportunity management; sales team and territory management; account and contact management; and analytics-driven reporting.
One of the most important areas for automation, particularly for B2B sales, is the configure-price-quote (CPQ) process. There’s no excuse in the current market to delay a quote; provide an inaccurate estimate; or display a confusing or unsightly presentation because of product or pricing complexity. The provider that delivers the best price; confers the most confidence; and responds the fastest is most likely to win.
Furthermore, it is important to focus on the fact that a CPQ solution or component does not exist in a vacuum. Its integration with the product catalog and order entry process, and often other external systems like OSS, is critical. As CSPs work to deliver more B2B offerings; more value added components of those offerings; and more vertical-specific services, the bundling and quotation processes become more intertwined. Integration with a product catalog, order management process and OSS, becomes critical. Consider these three crucial steps in the CPQ process that make the ability to integrate seamlessly a substantial benefit:
Quotation and Pricing: Integration with product catalogs and sales management systems is necessary to shield users from product catalog complexity and to show customers what they’re buying, what it costs, and which special prices and discounts they can leverage. There are many rules that underlie a service provider’s product catalog and offerings, so having a CPQ component that can act on and obey these rules to generate an accurate and executable quote is critical.
Technical Information Enrichment: Often and particularly in B2B sales, the quotation and ordering process requires a preliminary solution design or other, specific technical details to be added to provide a real world, executable quote and order for services. This typically requires a sales person or agent - a non-technical role - to consult with an IT specialist or engineer. Streamlining this process through integration and providing real-time status back to the sales process therefore becomes an important part of the customer experience.
Validation and Processing: A quote is not executable as an order unless it has been validated and verified, which is substantially accelerated and simplified as a result of integration with a product and offer catalog; order management system; and OSS.
If a CPQ solution is not integrated with these important systems and processes, not only will its value and effectiveness will be diminished, but the value of the entire sales automation and digitalization effort can be undermined. The quality of the digital customer experience a CSP ultimately delivers will play a key role in how well its sales organizations are able to capture new revenue amidst the explosive growth in B2B markets.