The process of order acquisition entails performing needs assessment; facilitating option selection; performing configuration; and generating a quote and proposal, complete with drawings, schematics, and performance metrics.
The technical sales specialist then transfers his or her understanding of the solution into production terms, such as price and delivery schedules, or passes the technical information to someone else who figures out the pricing and manufacturing schedule. The information is then either given back to the salesperson or to a proposal specialist, who creates a complex document recapping the customer’s needs and proposing the manufacturer’s best product configuration, price, delivery date, and other relevant terms. This manual process leaves a great deal of information (e.g., engineering, pricing, and manufacturing issues) up to individual interpretation. The likelihood of human error in the process is high and the cycle time is long.
Ask yourself, What does my sales process look like? The first step toward creating applications that provide strategic differentiation is to map the customer’s entire experience with the sales order process. We recommend that companies perform this exercise for each important customer segment. The begin, assemble groups from all areas of your company, in particular those who use marketing data and those who have face-to-face or phone contact with customers. Charge the groups with identifying, for each major market segment, all the steps through which customers pass from the time they become aware of your product to the time the order is entered into the system.
Specific industries may increasingly need selling-chain automation for different reasons, but corporations worldwide are turning to these solutions as they look to gain and use more intimate knowledge about their customers in the order acquisition process. It’s simply easier for any company to sell when the sales team is equipped with comprehensive information about customers and can demonstrate their ability to respond quickly to customers’ possible needs or concerns.
Sometimes reengineering the entire order acquisition process may be very difficult. In such cases, it makes sense to optimize the elements that are causing the most grief.