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Cisco CCW BOM and Tech Data price list without copy-paste: VAR quotes with vendor API integration

Cisco CCW BOM integration, Tech Data price updates, Cisco VIP search, and VAR margin pricing on 6,000 item quotes are painful tasks. They will drive any quote operation managers to hire more people, cut corners, and delay customer responses by hours or days. Thousands of VAR sales operation managers suffer when handling large quotes with inadequate tools not built for the task. This means hiring more people to work in parallel, checking more details before sending out quotes, more negations on prices internally, with vendors and distributors. More work, mostly manual number crunching, checking with suppliers, and frustration all along the way. 

VAR sales executives need to be as fast, flexible, and innovative as the technical quoting side. In our technology sector, when sourcing Cisco, DellEMC, HPE, and IBM, end-customers expect fast quoting and pinpoint pricing accuracy. The recent COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and work environment changes show us how critical VAR sourcing work can be. These changes are also a wake-up call to change how we do business. We can use recent events as a motivation to adapt and improve our tools and make changes. Changes are easy once we try. Changes which will enable us to grow our business quickly and show clients how we provide better service. 

We simplified the quote process which starts with BOMs. In case of Cisco, a CCW or CCW-R BOM as an Excel or CSV file. BOMS from other vendors and distributors come from their systems in CSV or XML format. They can also be accessed as API calls. Using direct API to connect BOM data from vendors and suppliers resolves the first pain point in creating quotes. Ths issue of a large file with thousands of rows and tens of thousands of cells.

The second phase of our generic quoting process is the quoting workspace. Traditionally this was an Excel sheet or a generic CPQ workspace (Salesforce CPQ is the popular choice). Either way, quoting workspaces usually needed customization to become an effective VAR quoting tool. There are many improvements that can help the quoting process in the workspace phase.  

Finally, creating a well-presented customer quote, usually in an Excel sheet or a PDF file, completes the process. Here, there are also issues that can be better than Excel and CPQ export used today. 

Customers judge your ability to deliver a technology solution by speed and accuracy of your quote. They also judge your technical ability by how quickly you respond to changes. When you respond quickly with price, delivery and product detail your chance of winning new business goes up. Delays not related to your technical or business abilities, but because of your slow quote process, are unfortunate, but the customer does not care. Updating a quote and checking details (price, availability, and business profitability) is a pain point today as faster design and business decisions are critical. 

Integration pain point

Once a technical solution is ready for a customer, a vendor BOM needs to be priced and presented. The transfer of a BOM from a vendor’s system to a quoting system is a pain point. BOMs as Excel spreadsheets or XML files are copied and pasted into your quoting workspace (Excel or CPQ). Copying long lists of products from different vendors causes errors. Later on, after they price a quote, finding import errors is hard and time-consuming.  

The copy-past integration pain point is hard when multiple vendor BOMs in one quote. Bringing into a pricing system different BOM formats is not a simple copy-paste task, each vendor has different data formats and different parameters for different products. Without integration into their systems, it needs manual steps or running formatting scripts. 

With large quotes, another pain point is keeping project hierarchy from BOM to the final customer quote consistent. This is a critical requirement with large quotes. In quotes with multiple “instances” for one customer, organizing individual parts in groups with hierarchy is actually critical to the customer. Dividing a quote into functional parts, either by location or by final instance function in a hierarchical structure, makes for a better quote. 

Pricing pain points

Accurate pricing determines your profit margins and your ability to win new business. Most pricing tasks are routine: setting the same margins and discounts for each product category (i.e. software, hardware, services). They are also routine with each vendor, discounts for hardware are standard percentages. Customers expect pricing to be automated: fast and accurate. When pricing is not fast and accurate, new customers are harder to win. The faster you can price a quote, the better off you are in impressing new customers with your service. When purchasing from different vendors and distributors, pricing issues like the BOM import are a problem. 

Another pricing pain point is handling an enormous amount of data. Today’s projects are routinely a few thousand line-items long. In addition, there are many parameters attached to each line item. Handling large quotes in Excel or even a database in CPQ is hard. 

The third pricing pain point is the possibility of errors. When you price thousands of items, assuring accuracy is not only demanding, it’s also a time-consuming task. When a mistake is in higher customer price, you can lose the proposal. When a mistake is in lower customer price, you leave money on the table. 

End customer satisfaction pain points

Of all the pain point categories, end-customer satisfaction is a hidden issue. No VAR manager wants to admit his team can deliver a better customer experience. But this fear is as real as any other we listed. 

The first end-customer satisfaction pain point is choosing between quality and speed. Releasing a quote quickly may mean less pricing analysis. This also means losing profits to get a quote to the customer quickly. This pain point pushes managers to either over staff or cut corners. Expect this more when projects grow and customers look for faster response time. 

The second end-customer satisfaction pain point is competition. New business means finding new customers. New customers need more effort and attention to details. This is more important to first-time customer quotes. While the pricing between two VARS is usually similar, quality of the quote, can be different. Here is where more attention to detail can make a difference. A well-structured quote with a clear functional section (as shown in the hierarchy section) is a quality factor. If there are more details for each quoted item, such as notes and attachments or price details for each item, a customer will notice a difference. The ability to change line items and quickly produce a customer quote, reducing the time to make changes, is also a difference new customer will take into account. 

Conclusion

VAR quoting process is filled with pain points. We see these in small and large VARS. Sometimes workflow related pain points are not addressed by management. They are not critical enough to resolve with new tools or strategic solutions (outside service, specialized training). Yet they affect your ability to win new business. Considering industry pain points can be helpful in analyzing your own quote operation decision. 

Note: this article focused on the integration pain points. Future articles will describe pricing and output format pain points in detail.

also see the article on LinkedIn

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