Buy, Buy, Buy: Delivering Quality Buying Experiences with Intelligent Quote-to-Cash

This blog was authored by Colin Masson, Director, Manufacturing Industry Solutions, Microsoft Cloud & Enterprise Group

Digital transformation has accelerated the arms race for ease and simplicity in the purchasing of nearly every product and service, from Amazon's one-click ordering and intelligent recommendations to Uber's on-demand transportation app. While manufacturers may strive for a retail-like buying experience, their sales are much more complex. Selling often involves many internal business units like legal and finance, and includes elaborate terms and conditions between two businesses instead of one-off sales to consumers. For manufacturers, the challenge is to make an intricate, complicated sale look and feel effortless to the buyer. If a manufacturer can't make it seamless, simple, and easy to buy, buy, buy, then they can say "bye, bye, bye" to sales.

Transforming E-Commerce

Before a buyer begins to even look at potential purchases, today's online retailers personalize their view based on historical customer data. Modern manufacturers should be no different, leveraging available data to create custom segment landing pages and help tailor partner websites. Empowering sales teams and partners with a 360-degree customer view, including web-store and sales history, active contracts, installed products, and more is key to driving sales and the enhanced, personalized customer experience that buyers expect.

Today, customers want to do business anytime, anywhere, any way they want. Manufacturers must enable buyers to buy on their terms, with self-service configure, price, quote functionality that spans across partners, direct sales, call centers, and E-Commerce sites. Simultaneously, empowering sales reps and partners to sell the way they want with mobile devices and simplified, quick quoting is just as vital. Streamlining the management of highly complex product and pricing configurations across all sales channels, and across multiple devices so sellers can do their job even in rugged environments, speeds up the time to a customer quote. With buyers increasingly accustomed to fast and easy purchasing, being the first to a quote that encompasses all of the customer's needs is critical.

Selling is extremely complex for manufacturers. To compete, they must juggle self-service customer options, tailoring the purchasing experience, and empowering partners and their sales teams to quickly and effectively quote anything they want to sell. Manufacturers need a comprehensive system to tie all of the pieces together, built on a foundation of customer data, and automated with powerful technology—machine learning.

Leveraging advanced intelligence

Whole systems of intelligence are transforming manufacturing, helping companies gain insight and take action from big data, optimize their operations, and change the very nature of the business models around their products. Today, 40% of companies are already using machine learning to improve sales and marketing performance[1]. The results have been powerful and buyers have responded to the improved purchasing experience, as firms have seen new product sales increase by 10% while churn has decreased by 20%[2]. Leading manufacturers are using machine learning to improve pricing, enhance cross-sell and up-sell recommendations, and automate with intelligent agents.

For years, retailers have produced personalized offers for individual consumers to drive sales. Now, with pricing intelligence, manufacturers can generate optimal price or discount levels for each deal based on machine learning analysis of the deal characteristics and sales history. These insights provide guidance to sales reps for initial, target, and walk-away price levels throughout the quoting and negotiation process—helping create agile, retail-like buying experiences.

Leading manufacturers are catching up to the retail buying experience, using machine learning analysis of past purchases and similar customers to generate smart cross-sell and up-sell recommendations. Intelligent recommendations show buyers products and services that they are more likely to purchase, saving customers' time while preventing them from being frustrated with irrelevant spam. Plus, manufacturers' sales reps leverage these insights to maximize deal size and increase account penetration.

Enhanced by intelligent agents, manufacturers are improving the buyer experience while streamlining sales tasks. Bots enable manufacturers to provide a conversational experience for every buyer regardless of the size of their sales team. Plus, these intelligent agents easily guide customers toward optimal products and services, continuously improving their predictions of customer preferences and their cross and up-selling capabilities with machine learning. Bots are becoming a powerful new tool for streamlining the buyer experience and automating advanced selling analysis.

Transform the buying experience

Apttus Quote-to-Cash powered by Microsoft Cloud Technology helps manufacturers to easily create simple, seamless purchasing experiences and reimagine their business for the digital sales age. The solution leverages machine learning and intelligent agents to empower buyers to buy how they want and partners and sellers to sell more easily. Apttus Quote-to-Cash transforms the buying experience, promoting revenue lifts of more than 7%[3].

   Use Apttus Quote-to-Cash to help sell more intelligently, outsell competitors, and raise your performance in the marketplace. Apttus is recognized as an industry leader by multiple analyst reports, including earning the top score for its offering and market presence in the most recent Forrester Wave report. Try the Quote-to-Cash for Manufacturing solution for yourself on Microsoft AppSource today.

[1] MIT Sloan Management Review, "Sales Gets A Machine-Learning Makeover," 2016

[2] MIT Sloan Management Review, "Sales Gets A Machine-Learning Makeover," 2016

[3] Satmetrix Apttus Quote-to-Cash Impact Study, 2016