Elements of Selling-Chain Infrastructure

Product Catalogs and Marketing Encyclopedia

For assisted selling, a valuable tool is a marketing encyclopedia, an intelligent electronic catalog that connects sales representatives and customers to a company’s most current product and service information. It provides a single point of entry for harnessing and distributing all product information. Product managers can update information in the database and immediately broadcast the changes throughout the enterprise. Some critical requirements of any marketing encyclopedia are the ability to easily create and maintain a repository of product information; the ability to create multiple search mechanisms to assist in location information; and the ability to alert sales representatives and customers to bundled products and services, promotions, and complementary products.

Sales Configuration Systems

In many companies, the process of selling configurable or customized products is cumbersome at best. From the time a sales quotation is prepared, through product manufacturing and shipment, requirements must be captured and configuration questions must be accurately answered. Salespeople (either direct or channel partners) are forced to “check with the home office” because they lack the tools and information they need to provide accurate and complete configuration quotes in the field.

Modern configurators are designed to go beyond checking configuration to embracing the needs of the customer, enabling a sales force to generate requirements-based, accurate configurations and quotes at the point of sale, whether it’s in front of the customer or over the Web.

Pricing Maintenance, Distribution, and Configuration

Selling complex products requires effective pricing strategy support. Pricing varies by the sales strategy, such as tiered customer hierarchies, multiple distribution channels, varying product lines, “effectivity” dates, and authorization ranges. Because of these and many more issues, a new sales configuration type has emerged: pricing configuration. Pricing configuration and update management assists companies as they develop, manage, and deploy complex pricing and discounting structures to selling channels.

Proposal and Quote Generation

The goal of proposal and quote generation systems is to enable companies to provide an intuitive, professional layout to customers who require complex quotes.

Such applications include the following features:

  • Opportunity Creation/Tracking. This enables salespeople to organize, locate, and restore versions of existing quotes and configurations by customer, session, or date.

  • Interactive needs assessment. This enables salespeople and customers to articulate their buying criteria and solution requirements.

  • Automatic quote generation. This generates quotes directly from the sales configuration, with the ability to add spare parts, apply custom discounting, select currency type, apply special charges or discounts based on geography, and affix special shipping and packaging charges.

  • Proposal Wizard. This automatically generates tailored proposals from configurations, needs assessments, and quotes, reducing the time and effort required to generate custom proposals.

Sales Incentives and Commission Processing

Commission systems have three core modules: incentive design, inventive processing, and incentive analysis. From an incentive design standpoint, systems need to enable a company to:

  • Create sophisticated commission and bonus rules that reward salespersons based on different sales credit points, including booking, shipping, and payment.

  • Create individualized and account compensation programs using an unlimited number of commissions, bonuses, and quotas.

  • Create and use customized performance measures, including profit margin, net discount, and customer satisfaction.