CPQ Considerations For Those Going It Alone (you brave soul)

So you decided to be brave(?) and think CPQ is the right product for you? Either you are very (over?) confident in your ability, have successfully done it before, or you want to learn new stuff and think “it can’t be that hard”.

If you’re like me, you were over confident in your ability AND wanted to learn about CPQ and bravely told your boss it was a tool you needed, and that you would do the implementation alone. Hopefully, you also told them you need to learn on the job and will take longer than working with a partner (thankfully I was smart enough to do that, whew).

Sfryo what now? Its just a bunch of custom objects, visualforce pages, and apex classes that connect to stuff, right? I just need to add my products and setup a few rules for pricing, RIGHT? see my response on the left. 

All joking aside, it’s not that hard when you get the hang of it. Just like anything else, it will come easier with a lot of practice. The ease of implementation comes down to how well you really know Salesforce object relationships, your understanding of out of the box Salesforce Quotes/Products/Price books, your formula writing ability (for more complex quoting purposes), your attention to detail, and having a grasp on your business processes and products.

As a note, this post isn’t going to dig into the technical specifics on Salesforce CPQ (though I can always answer questions on that in a side bar), but simply have you consider a few things before diving in as a new or solo admin.


If you don’t know the answer to this and you have got this far in my post, I want to thank you in advance for reading because that means you have no clue what CPQ is and my writing was so damn riveting that you hung on. Anyway…

CPQ = Configure, Price, Quote.

CPQ platforms allow companies to setup complex configuration scenarios for products that will drive pricing, discounting, quantities, and recommend other products/services based on specific criteria while providing a simple user friendly interface to drive high adoption. It really takes the guess work out of quoting, eliminating costly mistakes, and has the ability to “dummy proof” the process, providing more accurate quotes and visibility to metric trends that may previously not have been as easily accessible.

Whew, that was a mouthful. With all the cool things CPQ does, is it really right for you?

I think this is a question that gets overlooked often. Of course all of the CPQ companies want you to use their product and will say theirs is the best, capitalism right? But as great as their product may sound, is it truly the best fit?

To determine if CPQ is right for you, decide what type of business you are. Are you a Whole Foods or are you an Apple?  To elaborate, a customer can walk into a grocery store (like Whole Foods), and buy a bottle of barbecue sauce. The price is front and center without needing a “quote”, doesn’t come in a package of products (or bundle), and the product doesn’t need to be configured for you to buy it. If you want to purchase a laptop (like from Apple), you need to tell apple features and options you want in that laptop, and what accessories and options you want that they are recommending such as a bag and mouse.

If your needs fall into the grocery store category, chances are, you don’t need CPQ and can better utilize your budget in other great Salesforce apps while optimizing out of the box Salesforce “Products”.

If your needs fall into the category where your product needs configuration, may be purchased in special product bundles, and may have “add on” products, then CPQ would be a great solution for you.

One of my fellow GifSquad friends had a great Dreamforce session: “Requirements Drive Processes, Processes Drive Solutions”. In short, understanding the requirements that drive the process will allow you to align technical solutions. Knowing the “flow” of your business processes fully before deciding CPQ is the right solution for you is key. Some examples of “knowing the flow” are:

  • What does your sales process look like? Think of the entire process from prospecting, the first meeting, proposal/quoting, verbal, close/won, launch, account management, and beyond. Not just the sales rep, but the folks that are maintaining that account and growing it.
    • What does their quoting process look like vs initial sale?
    • Are there other “up sell” products at your company? Such as, if you sell computers, are there accessories that you want to try to add to deals?
  • Who is involved in price/discounting approval?
  • How is pricing for your products determined? Do you have discount structures?
  • Does your company work on a Cost+ method, List pricing less discount, etc
  • Do you have “account” specific pricing?

The most important part of building in CPQ is building in alignment with your business. Understanding how your products are configured in every possible scenario, and separating products, services, and processes will significantly help your build and implementation time as well as make it easier on your users.

For example, the company that I work for manufactures architectural glass. So when it all boils down, we make 1 product. Glass…that has thousands of configurations. In the beginning, I had all of our “processes” setup as products, which created an additional 7-8 lines per product. Our quotes originally would have 70-100 lines, so doing it this way made them 7-800 lines. No bueno. I had to regroup and rethink how I wanted to setup products before I made gargantuan quotes. Instead of having separate products for everything, I added configuration atttributes (aka salesforce fields to drive configuration) for our processes, price rules (automation) to affect the pricing, and “products” for the bundle and accessories.

A best practice (in my opinion) is to keep tangibles as “products” and intangibles as “processes”, which are both developed differently in Salesforce CPQ

In developing your CPQ, you should be meeting with internal resources of some sort on a regular basis, right? RIGHT? If not, do this. Find a “champion” to help with this, someone who is an expert in your products. Once you accomplish that, know what your leadership wants to report on.

Knowing what metrics are important in CPQ reporting will help you figure out how you want to approach building the infrastructure. I personally chose a lot of configuration attributes (fields that drive pricing/product choices), because I can report on everything individually, which in time will help me determine quote volume trends based on “process” category (see above) for my production team. For instance, if i’m getting a lot of quotes that are requesting painting, or special taping, I can provide those metrics.

If you aren’t sure what you want to report on, and change it later, that can negatively affect your build and you may need to rebuild/reconfigure certain configurations, and based on how CPQ is built, can take a long time to dismantle (trust me).

Because we don’t build in production ever, right?? Having a sensible sandbox architecture strategy will help keep things clean and efficient. Side note, the link goes to a great Dreamforce session presented by whom i’d like to call one of my mentors, but i’m sure he’d deny it 🙂

There is a LOT to learn. As much as you think you know about objects, relationships, formulas, etc, its like learning a new language. Configuration Attributes, Summary variables, Options, Product Rules, Price Rules, Pricing Methods, etc. Knowing what connects to what will take time and some serious patience. Trust me…many many hours of lost sleep over it.

Most CPQ tools include training both virtual and in person, or if not included, for a small fee. Do it, save it, bookmark it, print it, review it over and over again. I can’t tell you how often I go back to the Salesforce CPQ virtual training. There are so many features and functions to learn, its definitely a “fire hose” (I notice I like using that analogy a lot), and easy to forget something. So be prepared to learn the same thing again and again.

Yes, some CPQ platforms exist in professional edition of Salesforce. I started with CPQ in PE, and I will NEVER…EVER…EVER recommend it to anyone. Upgrade. Seriously. Beg and plead with your AE if its a price issue. There are WAY too many workarounds that need to happen to not only install the package, but configure it to work the way you want it to. Specific to Salesforce CPQ, the install for professional edition was missing certain functions and values because they weren’t functional,  that while not crucial, made my early development very frustrating. When we upgraded to Enterprise (just a few weeks ago), my experience became 100x better and much less stressful.

If you are planning on doing this implementation yourself, or with an in house team, thats great (foolish?)! However, I encourage you to have a CPQ consulting partner on speed dial. Even if you only need to use them for small blocks of time for question/answer, have one that is vetted and you can rely on. If not, ask your Salesforce AE who they recommend, i’m sure they can give you one or two suggestions. My AE recommended a partner, and after a screen share session he ultimately told me I don’t need them because of the work i’ve done and am more than qualified to do it alone. I don’t really know if that was a compliment, or bad news because I just wanted to pay someone to finish it because i’m sick of seeing CPQ in my dreams.

On a serious note, it can become VERY easy to get stuck on a certain feature or setup function, and trying to learn or understand it can take time. For sake of time and deployment, it may be better to have a partner that you can pay in short blocks of time to help you. If you are looking for some, I can make a few recommendations, just message me privately or send me a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn.


In closing, CPQ can be a very powerful tool for your org to improve quoting accuracy and efficiency, along with great visibility, but all in all it sure is a bear to implement, configure and deploy. Follow my considerations above and do your own research to determine if CPQ is right for you, and if you are ready to dive in.

If you do find yourself doing this solo like I have been, don’t let “CPQ” stand for Cry, Plead, Quit, take a breath (and maybe a drink..#WhyAdminsDrink), take a break to refocus, and you will be just fine.

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