Transforming manufacturing sales and the buying experience—industry experts weigh in (part 2)


Welcome to part 2 of Microsoft’s Q&A with QTC manufacturer Apttus, who has developed a Quote-to-Cash (QTC) solution to help manufacturers implement cloud technology that will dramatically improve the efficacy and efficiency of their sales process.


In part 1, Colin Masson, Global Industry Director of Manufacturing Solutions at Microsoft, spoke with Gopkiran Rao about how technology is changing the sales approach for manufacturers. If you’d like to read answers from Gopkiran, Senior Vice President of QTC Products and Industries at Apttus, from part 1, check it out here


Their conversation continues below, with the addition of Alan Manuel, the General Manager for Microsoft Platform at Apttus. In part 2, Colin, Gopkiran, and Alan dive into how technologies and solutions like Apttus help manufacturers adapt to the new sales methods they identified in part 1:


Colin Masson (CM): Something I hear from customers is that the skills gap in manufacturing, combined with the increasing complexity of the products and services that they sell, means it's more important than ever to have intelligent systems to drive the right behaviors across silos. Do you agree that manufacturers have to get smarter about how to apply tech to address that skills gap?

Gopkiran Rao (GR): You're on the money there, Colin. I definitely agree. What is making it particularly hard for legacy teams is that the nature of a customer’s order has fundamentally changed. Sellers struggle when processing a combination of products and services for new and existing assets, as well as modifying or creating hybrid orders with different product and service types. Manufacturers need a next-generation approach that can handle orders irrespective of the channel a customer uses to place it.






Gopkiran Rao, Senior Vice President, QTC Products and Industries at Apttus

Gopkiran Rao, Senior Vice President, QTC Products and Industries at Apttus
Photo of Alan Manuel
Alan Manuel, General Manager, Microsoft Platform at Apttus

Colin Masson, Global Industry Director, Manufacturing Solutions, at Microsoft

Colin Masson, Global Industry Director, Manufacturing Solutions, at Microsoft

CM: MAX is one thing you are doing to drive that next-generation approach. What is MAX, and how does it help sellers handle complex orders?

GR: MAX is an intelligent agent embedded across Apttus QTC solutions to provide a simple, conversational user experience for anyone engaging with the application. MAX can be interacted with over multiple channels and brings 4 core capabilities to the table:

  1. Recommendations. As you interact, MAX can provide guidance and insights that lead to better sales decisions. For example, it might suggest the right time to position an early renewal.
  2. Easy consumption. MAX provides information in a simple format, with snippets of data compiled from past or existing orders or quotes that generate the next best action.
  3. Natural language. Users can input customer specifications using natural language that MAX combines with previous customer orders to automatically configure products and quotes.
  4. Mobility. It’s available where users are – computer, tablet, or even over text. This drives better adoption and drives more efficiency for a low-attention, high-impact user like a salesperson or account executive.

CM: You’ve talked a lot about adding more advanced technologies and intelligence to the selling process. How are you using Microsoft products to fulfill your vision for Quote-To-Cash?

GR: Implementing Azure was about creating reliability for our global customer base that has demanding and exacting requirements around the volume of transactions and the frequency of changes to the underlying data. Microsoft helps us do this in a computationally intensive way while delivering the best user experience to the end user.

Our goal is always to connect a customer’s need or requirement with a solution. To do that, we have to be able to leverage the power of technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality to help customers visualize how a solution will work in their unique environment. Being able to do all of this with a natural, real-time conversation is the capability Microsoft solutions bring for our customers.

Alan Manuel (AM): Apttus has recently undergone a wholesale adoption of multiple Microsoft technologies for three main reasons:

  1. I also agree that Azure is key for us, providing more power for our cloud platform. Customers want to solve complex problems and configurations, do it in less time, and expose results through natural UIs in programs where they already work. Azure’s advanced capabilities and developer services help us do that. Adopting Azure was great not just from a technical standpoint, but from a trust one as well – our customers trust Microsoft’s cloud, and we wanted them to be able to trust us as well.
  2. Microsoft gives us the flexibility to serve customers’ data needs in a variety of ways. If they need to keep their data or computing in a particular geographic region, Microsoft and Azure offer many choices of where to run their QTC application. We also opened up connectivity with Microsoft Dynamics 365. If a customer runs Dynamics on-premises and wishes to retain that control of data, we can still serve them, as well as customers on different CRMs and back-end systems.
  3. Microsoft technologies also provide innovation that wasn’t possible before. We’ve added machine learning capabilities and are looking at new ways to interact and automate the QTC process for users who might be interacting via phone, tablet, text, or even voice. We use underlying Microsoft technologies like LUIS, for natural language processing, and the Universal bot framework to provide advanced user interfaces.

CM: What barriers are there for manufacturers to adopting and implementing a QTC solution?

GR: The first thing manufacturers often fail to do is start with the big picture, whether it’s end to end customer service or better sales outcomes, and work backwards from there. Not asking right questions and not putting customer outcomes first is another reason why many of these projects get underway and then fail. Compounding that is the inability to utilize best practices from leaders in the field.

CM: Let’s wrap up with the obvious question – what differentiates Apttus’ solution?



GR: Apttus is the only QTC solution designed to deliver end-to-end outcomes across the entire sales lifecycle. It features a unified data model that has been created by manufacturing industry experts, and it’s built on the world’s most secure and scalable platform. Plus, Apttus QTC is fully integrated with Microsoft’s innovative Dynamics 365 and Office 365. 

Over a million users around the world have already sanity-tested this solution for complexity, volume, speed, and capability and improved their bottom line.

Try it today

Are you looking for more power without adding more infrastructure? Implement Apttus Quote-to-Cash to experience an extraordinarily powerful, flexible, and reliable cloud solution. Channel partner relationships, create unique pricing and speed up the sales cycle with a solution that is easing the entire QTC process using machine learning and features like MAX, Apttus’ intelligent agent.

Try the Quote-to-Cash for Manufacturing solution for yourself on Microsoft AppSource today.