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A Guide for ICT VARs: How to Choose the Right Quoting Solution

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Key Takeaways:

So, why a guide? And what can ICT resellers gain from this guide?

As a VAR, the decision to shop around for an automation tool is an excellent step in the right direction.

On the other hand, choosing a solution that doesn’t provide the assorted specific and unique functions that solve the pitfalls and complexities that are involved in the ICT quoting process, can send VARs down a regret-ridden rabbit hole.

This guide will give the ICT Reseller the information that is needed to make the right quoting-tool decision for the VAR’s business; the tools to understand the differences, the questions to ask when shopping around and a practical checklist to share with your teams, colleagues and fellow stakeholders.

What are the two types of quoting solutions commonly used by various industries, as well as ICT Resellers?

There are two types of software solutions that are inherently different. The quoting solutions available, all fall under one of these 2 categories:

Horizontal solutions are of a generic type. Vertical solutions are industry specific.

These solutions are not named horizontal or vertical because of a specific direction. They are very different business models with significant differences.

Generic Solutions vs Industry-Specific Solutions

Horizontal Software Solutions

(Referred to as generic solutions)

Designed for use across industries and businesses

Solve problems that are common to businesses of a variety of sizes and industries

Examples: CRMs, cloud storage services, email marketing tools

Vertical Software Solutions

(Referred to as industry-specific solutions)

Designed to address the needs of a specific industry, a specific organization.

Specific technology that solves specific functions and problems of a specific industry.

Examples: Zillow, PIN Terminals, Banking

What are the characteristics of generic solutions vs industry-specific solutions?
Why is it critical for ICT resellers professionals to understand the difference?

Understanding the difference of these two inherently different solutions, is critical to ICT VARs whose goal is to optimize their pricing and quoting process.

Quoting solutions come in both variations, horizontal and vertical. The questions VARs should ask themselves, is does this solution that I am considering, solve the key, unique obstacles that complicate the quoting process for VARs.

What are the unique business challenges that VARs of ICT face?

Competition

  • Competitive Pricing while offering tiered pricing of packaged products and services vs competition
  • Quick quote turn-around rate, quotes that are easy to approve

Configuration, Pricing and Quoting

  • Quoting process is long, tedious
  • Error-ridden quotes, leading to dual processes and missed opportunities
  • Reliant on subject matter expertise, who assist in the quoting process instead of performing higher value added work
  • Limited visibility and traceability
  • No formal, structured process

Maintaining Margins

  • Finding the most profitable packages, products & services to quote
  • Accurately hit gross margin forecast

Business Process Infrastructure

  • Providing the sufficient tools
  • Implementing sufficient processes

For achieving optimal deliverables: Quoting, Order fulfillment, Procurement, Customer service

There is a strong correlation between overcoming these challenges to creating a smoother path to achieving the business goals that many VARs have set for themselves.

The following table illustrates the differences and relevance of these differences, within the context of quoting as a VAR of ICT and how each type of solution solves, or does not solve, these quote-related challenges.

Generic Quoting Solutions vs ICT Industry Specific Quoting Solutions

Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

vs

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs
Designed for who?
Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

Universal solutions, agnostic to the customers’ industry. Designed to target to a mass audience.

Non-specific for any segment of users, aren’t thoroughly familiar with the in-depth challenges of specific industries' users.

Typically serve CRM, payroll, email.

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs

Designed to solve the unique needs & functions that are applied by specific responsibilities and needs of specific people to the ICT VAR's quoting process.

For example:
Sales Operations, Chief Revenue Officers, Quoting Mangers, Chief Technical Officer, Marketing and the many stakeholders who are involved in the many actions and bits and pieces that are part of all stages of the proposal process

Product Configuration
Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

Product configuration is processed within the vendor’s and or Disti's platform, due to the complexity of the configuration. Vendors and Distis then provide ICT VARs with configurations within the Bills of Materials (BoMs).

Product selection and sometimes basic configurations are processed within this type of CPQ platform.

In most cases, the generic CPQ solutions cannot smoothly integrate the complete and viable configuration of ICT products, the main challenge is maintaining complex hierarchies, preserving each item specifications.

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs

Product configuration is processed within the vendor’s platform, due to the complexity of the configuration. Vendors and Distis then provide ICT VARs with configurations within the Bills of Materials (BoMs).

The VAR's quoting tool enables the user to automatically transfer the Bill of Materials (BoMs) to one quoting workspace, with a couple of clicks.

The transfer of the configuration maintains the structural units and components of the configuration, maintaining all of the specifications and components of the complex hierarchies.

Scalability
Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

Limited with the amount of line items (products) that it can handle, as well as limited in ability to maintain the complex, multi-level product hierarchy as detailed above in the product configuration section.

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs

Designed for easily handling tens of thousands of line items, 30,000+. Maintains the product hierarchy and the complex structure as mentioned above.

Customizations
Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

Generic quoting solutions offer customizations that are usually not industry-specific.

Customizations can be very complex, lengthy and expensive. since the customizations are implemented by people who are not deeply familiar with the workflows of specific industries. e.g, unfamiliar with the high complexities of managing ICT projects.

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs

These solutions offer customized solutions that are specific to the VAR's business and workflow. No matter how complex, workflows can be customized, simplified and automated. These implementations are usually easier since the vendors of these solutions are deeply familiar with the industries needs and workflow. Furthermore, the vendors and customers of ICT Industry quoting tools, speak the same language and jargon.

This puts everyone on the same page immediately.

These solutions offer Integration with vendors and Distis such as: Cisco, Ingram Micro, TechData.

Examples of providers of these solutions
Generic CPQ Quoting Solutions

Most CPQ vendors serve multiple functions for multiple industries and niches:

Banking, healthcare, retail, banking, and others.

CPQ Solutions for ICT VARs

Serve multiple functions for one specific industry and niche:

Example: StrataVAR (quoting solution for value-added resellers of ICT).

Understanding the fundamental differences between these two solutions, are crucial to understanding the quoting vendors’ capability of providing a solution to the unique and complex challenges that VARs face in managing their quotes.

How can choosing an ICT industry specific quoting solution help in resolving these unique challenges?

The features and characteristics of the quoting solution for the ICT Industry offers many of the unique functions that enable automation and acceleration of the quoting process. It also provides a wholesome solution across the board, to these exceptional challenges of the VARs’ business.

What are the quoting related challenges that VARs face?

Solving challenges with the right Quoting Platform

Pointing out the specific challenges in processing quotes that are unique to ICT VARs, equips VARs with:

Essential Features & Functions of a Quoting and Proposal Tool for ICT VARs

The essential features for optimizing your quoting process as a VAR, are those that have been developed to directly solve the unique and specific challenges that we pointed out above.

The following checklist points out the unique features and functions that every VAR of ICT needs, as part of their quoting tool solution. As we’ve illustrated, many of the CPQ solutions in the market, don’t solve the industry-specific quoting challenges.

They do include certain features that are helpful in solving some challenges, although they lack the top features needed, in order to create the perfect quoting solution package for VARs.

The ICT Resellers Checklist: The Must-Have Features In a CPQ Platform

Conclusion & Key Takeaways

Transforming the entire quoting process from complex and error-prone tedious and time-consuming into a non-issue, can be achieved by incorporating a quoting solution that’s designed specifically to help VARs reach these outcomes:

At StrataVAR, we’ve seen just how investing in the right quoting solution can dramatically transform the VARs’ business by turning all quote-related tasks and processes into a non-issue.

StrataVAR is an all-inclusive quoting platform & subscription and contract management platform. It’s also where VARs of ICT feel at home. We speak your language.

We’ve developed our platform with the individual people in the VARs organizations who work on the quote, in mind. We serve dozens of happy ICT VAR customers.

Join us for a demo here. We can’t wait to meet you & your teams!