How AI Capabilities are helping to enhance CPQ Solutions

How AI capabilities can enhance CPQ solutions

The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) is mind-boggling. Soon, computers are going to be driving cars through rush-hour traffic, making medical diagnoses, improvising five-star meals—even writing novels. But we’re not there yet. We still have ways to go before we start firing our personal chefs.

Today, AI is primarily used for data analytics, helping businesses derive powerful insights from data before making recommended actions. Which customers to target? When to target? What is the best way to reach out to them?  Which suppliers or vendors to partner with? How to ensure compliance? And, as computers get smarter through machine learning, we’ll continue to see businesses automate more processes and leave the human element behind for complex decision-making.

Configure Price Quote (CPQ) software is ripe for testing the AI waters. For one thing, up until now, CPQ data has been decentralized across Excel and email and stored in the memories of sales reps and product managers. Just recently have CPQ solutions formalized and centralized this information in a single repository to analyze it.

Using this data, AI can look for sales and pricing trends and make recommendations for optimizing opportunities. Sales managers can validate hunches or disprove them instead of relying on gut feel and instinct. Reps can then be trained and encouraged to push more effective sales strategies using these data-driven insights.

For example, many sales professionals think that bigger discounts lead to more sales. Makes sense. The cheaper you price something, the more people are able and want to buy it. However, AI may run the numbers and find out that response time significantly impacts whether a sale gets made. Or it could be bundling other products and services that generate a higher success rate. Rather than cutting prices and losing revenue, the company could focus on streamlining the sales process or creating more upsell opportunities.

CPQ solutions have these capabilities today. Here are three things to look for when considering integrating AI capabilities in your CPQ solutions:

  1. Full Data Set: There are mountains and mountains of data that need to be collected, stored, archived, secured, and analyzed. It’s a tall order. Many business intelligence solutions parse the data to make it more manageable—that is, they manipulate it in some structure, often condensing the data into digestible chunks. Analyzing the full data set is a much more effective data analysis strategy, ensuring you get the entire story before creating insights or making conclusions. Ensure your CPQ solutions have access to raw data to ensure you aren’t sending your reps down the wrong rabbit hole.
  2. Visualize Trends: Nothing is worse than poring over a spreadsheet and trying to develop some sort of action. Lines blur, eyes cross, you aren’t exactly sure what you’re looking at! Make sure your CPQ solution has a way to create highly visual reports that allow you to visualize trends in simple, easy-to-understand graphics. This also allows you to share your insights with other stakeholders within the organization without holding their hand while walking them through your data. A glance should give everyone a good idea of what the data is saying.
  3. Provide Recommendations
    This is the power of AI. A good recommendation engine turns insights into actionable information that you can use to change the way you do business for the better. AI can highlight classifications that have the highest correlations and unveil hidden insights. Most importantly, AI allows you to avoid your internal biases and get a truly impartial recommendation.

AI is coming to the sales process, and it’s a good idea to start tinkering now to see how you can derive insights into how deals get done and optimize your sales strategy. Just make sure you get a solution that can support some basic AI features. Analyzing raw data, creating highly visual graphics, and providing recommendations are all critical to deriving the right insights.

Come on. The water’s warm. It’s time to dip your toes.

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Charles Scripps, Board Member

Chad has over ten years of experience investing in dynamic, growing businesses in diverse industries and geographies. His private equity experience includes HIG Capital, which has over $12B in capital under management, and AEA Investors, which manages over $3B of invested and committed capital. While at HIG and AEA, Chad led diligence, structuring, and financial analysis of potential and existing investments, and completed transactions in the industrial products and consumer services industries. Chad also has experience investing in the public equity markets, most notably as a Managing Director at Fox Point Capital, a $1B fund seeded by Julian Robertson of Tiger Management. He invested across a number of industries, including industrials, financials, technology, and consumer products, and led Fox Point’s international research. Prior to focusing his career on investing, Chad was a management consultant at McKinsey and Company, solving strategic problems for the world’s leading companies. Chad earned an MBA with Honors in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BS with Distinction in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Lester F. Alexander II, Board Member

Les Alexander is a partner with Jefferson Capital Partners where he provides mezzanine and equity capital for growth and buyout transactions. Mr. Alexander is a member of the firm’s investment committee and serves on the board of directors of several portfolio companies where he is actively involved in strategic planning and corporate governance. Prior to joining Jefferson Capital, he worked at Advantage Capital Partners where he completed several portfolio company investments and served on the investment committee. Before becoming a private equity investor, Mr. Alexander served as president of Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc., a leading fire truck and emergency vehicle manufacturer. At Ferrara, he was responsible for managing a workforce of 450 employees producing over 300 vehicles annually for its domestic and international customers. As an investment banker for 15 years with such firms as Howard Weil, Southcoast Capital, and J.C. Bradford & Co., Mr. Alexander completed over 50 public offerings of debt and equity securities, private placements, and merger and acquisition transactions totaling more than $7 billion for public and private companies in a variety of industries. Mr. Alexander is an adjunct professor at Tulane University and Loyola University where he teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in investment banking, private equity & venture capital, advanced financial management, investments, and entrepreneurship. He is also the board president for Benjamin Franklin High School, a public charter school in New Orleans. Mr. Alexander is the former Chairman Finance of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) and served on the global Board of Directors. He is a founder of the Louisiana chapter of ACG and was a recipient of the ACG global Meritorious Service Award and the Louisiana chapter’s Outstanding Service Award. Mr. Alexander received his bachelor of science in Commerce from the University of Virginia in 1989 and his MBA from the University of North Carolina in 1993.

Patrick F. Healy, Board Member

Based in Kansas City, Mr. Healy is a co-founder of C3 Capital. He has been an active private equity investor since 1985 and was a co-founder of C3 Holdings in 1994. Prior to this time, he sponsored and structured equity investments in real estate. He gained extensive workout and restructuring experience as chair of the creditor’s committee of a $1 billion bankruptcy and from being called upon to rescue a publicly-traded company from a major fraud. Mr. Healy was a senior tax partner at Mayer Hoffman McCann, a regional CPA firm, for eleven years. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Kansas.

Chris Waters, VP of Strategic Sales

As Vice President of Strategic Sales, Chris guides and influences all strategic sales activities at A5 , starting in presales activities, successful sales methodology, sales process, and continued revenue generation and expansion opportunities. Furthermore, he will provide oversight in strategic sales function for the company and develop strategic sales plans that will promote growth in sales and customer satisfaction. Chris has proven his commitment to sales leadership and organizational success through field leadership as National Sales Manager at Deluxe Corporation, Field Sales Manager within the Social / Analytics Cloud at Oracle, US Regional Manager for CPQ Major Accounts at Oracle and now as Vice President on Sr. Leadership Team at A5.

Keith Fox, GM Salesforce Canada

Keith Fox is a software and consulting veteran for the past 34 years. Keith started his career at EDS which was followed by 4-year stint offshore in Bermuda. Keith then returned to Canada where he held a number of progressive sales and technical positions with software companies such as Sybase, BEA, and Oracle. After his stint with Oracle, Keith founded Cloudware Connections, a premier Salesforce consulting partner. 11 years down the line, Cloudware was acquired by A5, and Keith joined as GM for Canada.

Tarun Sharma, Practice Director and Senior Solution Architect

Tarun Sharma is Vice President Customer Success at A5 and is responsible for customer success, project operations, recruitment, resource utilization and sales operations functions for Oracle practice. As a business and technology leader Tarun helps businesses develop solution strategies to streamline the sales process and improve customer relations to drive revenues, profits and build brand loyalty. Tarun has led customers through digital transformation journeys. He has commanded strategic and tactical initiatives to shorten sales cycles, increase deal values and productivity, improve brand awareness and help organizations become easier to do business with. He has helped customers modernize their sales enablement tools and present a single source of information to support an omni-channel sales approach. This includes global roll-out for multiple business units included multi-currency and multi-language. Tarun graduated from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering.

Adam Rosenfield, VP of Salesforce Practice

As Vice President of A5’s consulting practice – Adam is responsible for both strategic alliances with partners and expanded sales growth through the entire portfolio of A5 services. With over 20 years of Sr. level management consulting expertise – Adam has worn multiple hats in his career including practice development, sales, and client advisory. He has sold & delivered countless enterprise transformational initiatives creating a measurable competitive advantage for his customers. In addition to various technical software certifications, Adam holds an undergraduate and master’s degree in Accounting & Information Technology from the University of Texas at Austin and resides in El Paso Texas with his wife and 3 children.

PJ Alfrejd, CFO

As the CFO, PJ is responsible for all things financial at A5. With over 20 years of experience in financial leadership positions, PJ has worn all the hats required of a growing tech business. His extensive knowledge of the consulting industry, experience with M&A, and strength in operational finance is another catalyst to take A5 to the next level in its growth trajectory. PJ is a CPA with a BS in Accounting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has held various finance leadership positions at Exodus/Savvis (acquired by Centurylink), Neohapsis (acquired by Cisco), and mFoundry (acquired by FIS).

Vinay Kruttiventi, President & CEO / Chairman of the Board

As the CEO of A5, Vinay plays an active role in all aspects of the day-to-day business operations. He is also actively involved in establishing strategy and vision for the company, is a customer advocate with Salesforce and Oracle product development, and is also actively involved in various and industry user / special Interest groups. Since founding the company in 2004, Vinay has successfully grown the business into a leading Salesforce and Oracle partner focused on CPQ and ERP. Vinay was a very hands-on implementing and architecting CPQ solutions to over 50 complex transformation projects for various Fortune 500 companies since 1996. Vinay is a leading authority on industry/process/ technology in Configure-Price-Quote and ERP applications. Vinay graduated from Osmania University with a Bachelor of Engineering degree and from JNTU with a Master in Technology degree.