Salesforce CPQ for dummies

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Camille Le Meut

Camille Le Meut


Since I started working with Salesforce CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote), everybody in the office has been looking at me curiously when I start to talk about what I do at work. However, now I’ve got to know it, it is actually easy to give them a clear and simple explanation of what CPQ does with real life examples. Once you understand the CPQ concept, it’s also easy to show why I prefer Salesforce CPQ (formerly known as Steelbrick) by benchmarking it to other solutions that exist on the market.

CPQ: What does that stand for?

C is for Configuration

Nowadays, one product can have multiple versions. If we take the example of a car, it can have several models, colours, options… Most people like to be able to choose as many options as possible to own a car that matches their needs, desires and personality.

The Ford T has been the first car to be manufactured with this key concept. In Ford’s words:

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”

At that time, I guess choices were not a priority for customers.

Nowadays products are more complex. If you check out the product catalogue of a car seller you can now pick out every detail you’ve ever wanted in order to have your own unique car. The combination of products/options is so complex that sales teams need to start using a tool that is smarter, that is predictive, that can guide salespeople as well as clients in the right direction, …

CPQ product catalogue

Product catalogue in a sandbox environment   When talking about Configuration with customers, the most common needs are listed below:

  • Customers often have exclusive products. This means that product A cannot be sold together with product B and vice versa. For example, if you want to buy a truck you cannot buy it with regular family car tires.
  • Customers often have required products. This means that product A must always be sold with product B and vice versa. For example, if you buy a car you also need to have a steering wheel.
  • Customers often want to buy a certain quantity of a product related to another product. This means that product A must always be sold x times if product B is sold. For example, when somebody buys a car, winter or summer tires can be sold only by 4.
  • Customers are often interested in cross-sell products. That means that when we add a certain product the system automatically suggests another one as an option. [6]

P is for Pricing

Price is a primordial subject for sales teams, because having a good price/quality ratio is the key to their success. The car in our example should be sold at the right price and sales teams should be allowed to adjust this price easily by giving discounts. These discounts have to be flexible, can be in flat amounts or percentage, can be validated by management approval, can be for only certain clients or distributors, …

CPQ price congifuration

Example of a price configuration in a sandbox environment

When talking about Pricing with customers, the most common needs are listed below:

  • Clients often use what we call Discount schedules. For example, if a customer buys a certain quantity of cars, a quantity discount will be applied, meaning the more cars he buys, the higher the discount will be.
  • A sales person may need to use custom pricing (various discounting methods) to convince the customer.
  • An approval process where managers need to confirm the quote, can be created to ensure that the quote contains no errors and is agreed upon throughout the hierarchy.

Q is for Quote

The advantage of the CPQ tool is that sales teams are able to provide the customers with a quote very quickly. Many sales departments today still use Excel spreadsheets in order to calculate prices and to build their quotes. The interesting part of CPQ is that quotes are automatically filled with correct data and sent directly to the customer via a wide range of channels (Docusign, pdf, email, print,..).

CPQ quote

A quote

The CPQ market

CPQ solutions ranking

Ranking of CPQ solutions by G2 Crowd

Our customers often get a bit lost looking for a CPQ solution. If we look at the CPQ market we can rank all solutions on both customer satisfaction and market presence. Doing so, 4 distinct categories are created:

  • The ‘Leaders’ with Salesforce CPQ (formerly known as Steelbrick) and Apptus
  • The ‘Contenders’ with Oracle CPQ Cloud
  • The ‘High Performers’ with Quote Werks, Configure One, Endeavor CPQ, EosCPQ, Eperlogix, Apparound, KBMax 3D CPQ, Quote Books and BluePrint CPQ.
  • The ‘Niche’ with Sole CPQ, Connect Wise Sell, Cincom, PandaDoc, CallidusCloud, Tacton, Pros Smart CPQ and Smart CPQ.

Why would Salesforce CPQ be the solution I love to work with and why would we recommend it to our customers?

When comparing CPQ solutions, different criteria can be used: the maturity and the strength of the software, the customizability, the user-friendliness… Let’s focus on the so called ‘Leaders’ Apptus and Salesforce CPQ.

Salesforce CPQ, the market leader

CPQ Salesforce


CPQ Apptus V2


Apptus CPQ and Salesforce CPQ (formerly known as Steelbrick) are both built on native Salesforce. The main difference is that Salesforce CPQ uses standard objects while Apttus CPQ has chosen to build its own custom objects. This has a large impact on the need for technical resources during implementation and maintenance projects, as more coding is necessary when using custom objects. On the other hand, as an advantage for Apptus, custom objects are said to be more powerful and are more suitable to support complex product configurations. On the Salesforce side, the advantage of using standard objects is that we do not move away from the Salesforce standard, but users are still able to easily customize, for example by buying apps on the AppExchange.


Salesforce CPQ is a solution that is more and more asked by our customers. According to Gartner CPQ will continue to be one of the most requested apps in the upcoming coming year. The annual growth is estimated to 20% until 2020 with the biggest part of the solution being hosted in the cloud. This growth is powered by the needs of the customers, who need CPQ to increase sales automation, eliminate errors, reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction and so much more. Implementing a CPQ solution can make a huge difference in their future growth.

The key to success for your CPQ implementation is to take time before the start to clearly understand your requirements. It would be a shame not to get the return you expected on your CPQ investment because you rushed the implementation and did not carefully research your requirements. CPQ consultants, like me, can help you plan your CPQ implementation in detail while being your guard against pitfalls.

Want to get to know more about the full Quote-to-Cash process? Read our blog “The need for quote to cash” as well!

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