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Ask an Expert: When is Salesforce CPQ necessary?



“In 2019, every company is a professional services company.”

The statement above is an exaggeration, but it’s close to what I’ve been telling many of Plative’s customers in recent years.  What I mean is that, it is rare in a cloud boosted tech economy that companies are only selling hardware, or only selling software.  Professional implementation services, service contracts, or entitlement-based warranties are increasingly part of the full package.  And what this means is, many of the out-of-the-box principles that undergird Salesforce Sales Cloud don’t account for the full complexity required by a sales organization.

Principles of Sales Cloud

  • Standard modules: Leads, Opportunities, Quotes, Products, Price Book Entries
  • One price book per opportunity
  • One price book entry per product
  • Quantity * Unit Price * Discount = Total Price

CPQ demolishes these principles with the introduction of a custom product-centric data model that accounts for many of the complexities of today’s sales organizations for whom the rules above don’t quite work. 

Like the term “sales force” itself, “CPQ” is not a novel concept invented by Salesforce, but rather a general acronym that refers to the process of Configuring, Pricing, and Quoting for sales. Thus, Salesforce CPQ is one particular cloud-based application that addresses these functional areas. Salesforce CPQ was born when Salesforce acquired Steelbrick in late 2015, which was an already popular application, competing with Apttus ( and non-Salesforce CPQ apps. 

In addition to Configuring, Pricing, and Quoting, CPQ includes under its broader umbrella functionality related to Order Management, Contracts/Subscription Management, Sales Renewals, and Billing.

Special Features of CPQ

  • Salesforce Opportunities, Products, and Price Book entries still play a primary role in Salesforce CPQ
  • BUT! A custom Quotes module replaces standard Salesforce Quotes
  • Dozens of custom objects, primarily built in relation to the standard Product object, are installed to allow for beefier functionality:
    • Bundling of products
    • Pricing blocks (e.g. unit price goes down as total quantity goes up, in tiers)
    • Product & Price rules to automatic your sales, like “Premium Warranty” is automatically added to the “Enterprise Edition Software License” but priced at $0.00, whereas “Premium Warranty” is merely optional for “Standard Edition Software License”, and priced at $10 per month.
  • The list goes on, so I’ll leave it there, but will provide in the sections below some handy guidelines for determining which Salesforce product is best for the business.

Common CPQ Use Cases

  • Unique standard prices for small deals, bulk sales with quantity-based pricing, renewal sales for existing clients, or vendor re-sales.
  • Manage an external catalog that cannot be maintained in Salesforce.
  • Sells professional services with contract types ranging from time & materials to retainers or fixed fee costs, and when their consultants enter time it needs to roll-up directly to something sold on a quote (eg. 4 hours Leads Object Configuration).
  • Software or Professional Services company.

CPQ Qualification Questions

Salesforce CPQ is typically a good fit when:

  • Product pricing is too complex and AEs need Sales Support/SEs
  • Product pricing relies on complicated Excel worksheet formulas
  • Extremely dynamic terms & conditions
  • Mix of wholesales, professional service sales, partner distribution resells, subscriptions, volume-based discounting
  • Very complicated approvals process or legal review

Salesforce CPQ is probably overkill when:

  • Clients sell a limited range of products with only a few options
  • Products sold have a fixed price (even if they allow ad hoc discounting)
  • Clients infrequently change their product catalog
  • Default contract language works for a large majority of sales
  • Deal complexity resides only in the documentation rather than products sold (document generation solutions are better here) 
  • If the business has many of the characteristics above, Salesforce Sales Cloud will probably do the trick! 

In general, what type of sales models or industries are best positioned to benefit from Salesforce CPQ?


Brian Contratto

Principal Consultant

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