Sofon enables you to set up your quotation and contracting process intelligently. You will have an orderly overview of the contents of the quote whenever you want, including how negotiations are proceeding and what your contracts say about agreements and obligations. With Sofon you will be able to meet your Compliance requirements.
Sofon improves your quoting and contracting processes by making the following processes smarter:
In a market in which the demand is evolving faster and faster, your company is finding it a challenge to make your customers substantial offers quickly. After all, you manufacture complicated products involving hundreds of different aspects. You hardly ever draw up a quote that is fewer than 10 pages. Every quote involves lots of people: sales people, material specialists, engineers, and financial experts. What’s the best solution and what will it cost? Calculate, share information, calculate, share information – these things can take days, if not weeks. You can’t afford to make a mistake. But, you might have noticed that customers and potential customers are not as patient as they once were. They are apparently accustomed to receiving quotes quickly. You have already had some prospects drop out of negotiations. In fact, they went to your competition. Some said they wouldn’t invite your company to submit a quote anymore. So you can forget about them. You’ve discussed it with others at the company. But then there are always examples of the times you produced a quote quickly, or adjusted a quote in haste, but errors found their way into them. Which meant that you then had to modify production to deal with that. It’s an expensive business. Speed in quoting is not usually good for accuracy. It might generate a lot of money, but it can cost a lot of money too.
Sofon is absolutely perfect for putting quotes together quickly with 100% accuracy, regardless of the stage of the negotiations that the sales people are in and whether it is a budget indication or a final offer. And by “quick” we mean minutes rather than hours – and they certainly won’t take days or weeks! This is because your sales staff, partners, and resellers can use the knowledge model for the products you have created using Sofon (Configuration Management). That model provides a coherent description of all the product options, including legal regulations an other regulations, as well as your own stipulations, such as service and financial arrangements, discount options, and so on.
Would you like to add or remove an option? Should you or shouldn’t you offer another service? What about a payment scheme in five instalments? Or should it be three? And the customer has had second thoughts and wants the luxury edition. None of these issues is a problem: with just a few clicks your quote will be adjusted to accommodate these preferences.
The quotes are always complete because Sofon uses smart question and answer lists: your sales people cannot forget any aspects. Furthermore, the lists produce a needs analysis, which means that quotes are not a sum of the parts, but instead define the solution or answer to the customer’s problem or question. At each stage of the negotiations, customers will know what they will get and for what price. Prices in new quotes are always consistent with previous versions of the quote (Revision and version management).
You have an extremely voluminous portfolio of outstanding quotes: hundreds, thousands even, on a continual basis. Some of them have been outstanding for quite some time and some have been altered on numerous occasions, producing countless versions.
In essence, your quoting procedure lacks clarity. You can see how long the quotes have been outstanding, but what are the quotes actually offering? It’s almost impossible to gain full insight into them. Sales regularly conducts analyses on some parts, but it doesn’t go any deeper than that. You are probably aware that reading through quotes and collecting information is more time-consuming than it should be. You actually only have random indications because you don’t have a constant overview of the quotes. And this is unfortunate, because if you did, you could send out more quotes and look ahead further. Management and planning of the buying and production are effectively only set in motion when the quotes become orders. That’s when all the cogs slip into place and the wheels start turning. But it also makes the procedures hectic, with periods of overwhelming activity followed by periods of downtime.
Sofon is designed to generate information from all your outstanding quotes, using every selection criteria. Sofon enables you to manage and monitor your quotes portfolio, make analyses and direct and prepare your buying and production at an early stage. Quotes produced in Sofon are not just nearly incomprehensible documents – they are always transparent. You can see what you are offering, categorized by customer, country, product, value, and product part, from whatever angle you choose to look at the product.
Sofon’s transparency enables your sales managers to see which quotes have a good chance of success and where they have come to a dead end. It also enables you to run periodic cleanups to prevent your sales funnel from becoming clogged so that your sales people won’t waste their time on quotes that are certain to fail.
You can work proactively too, replacing a product part that is still offered in outstanding quotes or if you are having difficulty acquiring a certain part. In cases such as this, Sales can select the prospects and customers with the quotes that list that part and suggest an alternative.
In fact, you, the management, can also focus on quotes in a wider sense. Imagine that you have adequate capacity in production. You could try to speed up your quotes to make the most of it. Your sales people could then contact the customers in question and stimulate quick decisions with discounts, and so on.
Your sales staff has been working at an incredible pace in recent years. So many requests, so many quotes. In fact, all this work has produced quite a few deals, but you can’t actually say, as yet, whether they’ll be extremely profitable. The margins are often quite small and you regularly come across orders that will incur a loss. What’s more, they tend to appear just when you lack the resilience to deal with them.
The sales management’s quarterly analyses indicate that your margins for a considerable number of deals could have been much larger, while many other deals went to your business rivals at the last minute. It looks as if your sales employees could have brought in much more if they had been a bit more flexible. It’s a pity, because then your production would not have been idle quite so often. Don’t you wish those deals had gone through?
You want to steer your company towards larger margins and more lucrative deals because it’s more efficient – not more volume, more quality. This would also give the management more control. But it takes a lot of time to understand the exact underlying costs of, and relating to, your products for each potential deal. It means conducting full studies, which can become bottlenecks when things are hectic. As a result, the management tends to be cautious about approving discounts, scared as they are of dropping below the cost price. This makes it an recurrent problem.
Sofon enables you to view the cost price of your products any time you want. The sales reps that negotiate with your customers are aware of the costs of the materials and the purchase costs of your products and the costs of labor put into them, and other cost aspects, such as transport, packaging, and services also become clear. That means the sales rep will always know how much freedom they have to negotiate and steer the quotes towards achieving the largest possible margins and preventing unnecessary orders that end in losses. Obviously, the same holds true for the managers who approve the prices. Using Sofon, then can make well thought-out decisions and decide, by deal, how far to go with the prices.
Management can control it all at the overarching level. Accepting smaller margins might be more important in some periods than focusing on getting the most from every order, such as when times are tough. Or it might be more important to keep your production going or to challenge your rivals. Perhaps you want to introduce new versions of your product and use up the previous versions as quickly as possible. With the overview that Sofon provides, you can direct your company proactively and make these types of policy decisions based on careful deliberations.
There have already been times with customers that deals that weren’t “served out”. There have been several quite large, long-term deals with partial deliveries, and this cost lots and lots of money. This was an expensive lesson to learn, because you couldn’t recover the costs from your customers – the contracts were open to interpretation. But remember, one customer went bankrupt, so you can definitely write that one off. From now on, you’re going to check every deal repeatedly. Of course, this is very time-consuming for the management, but if that’s what it takes, then so be it. Your sales staff are more careful now too. They ask questions, check the answers, and then ask again. This causes the hours to mount up, but better that than another blunder, such as one involving goods that were worth more on delivery than when you were paid for them. It’s like barrelhead without the proverbial cash. The customer suddenly dropped out and cancelled the rest of the order. The situation ended in a legal tug-of-war and you got the worst of the bargain. In the contract, the value of the deliveries did not match the payment instalments: lots of changes had been made to those instalments right at the last minute without being properly checked. It’s nobody’s fault but your own: the customer was within his right and had kept his side of the agreement. There goes your hard-earned cash. Never again. You’d rather spend it on extra checks.
Sofon offers you the perfect support during negotiation processes. The software makes it very easy to access all the details that your sales staff and the staff in charge of commercial affairs need when negotiating with customers. Your people can always fall back on up-to-date and accurate information. Any time they want, they can see what they are offering and how much room they have to maneuver for things like more, or alternative, product options, the speed of delivery, extended free service, a slightly larger discount, and so on.
Your people can also see what they can and can’t do and what the consequences of certain choices and changes will be: for the product itself, for example, or for the delivery times or payment methods. Your people will always go into negotiations well prepared and will be able to continue to aim for the largest possible margins. Perhaps even more importantly, you can cancel out the risk of your staff drawing up a contract with stipulations, without knowing or anticipating what the consequences will be.
Your staff will have an overview of the entire case, even if customers change their minds at the last minute. Imagine that a customer asks you to alter the delivery periods in the quote. In Sofon, Sales can immediately calculate what a new version of the quote will mean for production periods and delivery schedules and can demand that the customer provide a bank guarantee for this. It means that Sales will have all of the risks covered, even if the situation changes. You won’t be confronted by any unpleasant surprises.
You have a larges sales department, employing both junior and senior sales staff who have been assigned various levels of authority based on their knowledge and experience. Sales produces a huge amount of quotes every year. The volume of orders is quite considerable. But you have noticed that, very often, you don’t get the prices you wanted for your products. The sales staff grants discounts a bit too easily at times. But there again, “squeezing hard” can be counterproductive. It makes them overly cautious and that can result in prospects taking their business elsewhere. You’ve already encountered that type of thing, and that’s the last thing you want. On top of that, your head of sales has had visits from unhappy customers who claim that they were promised discounts that your company reneged on later. It’s a worrying situation, because among them are customers with growth potential. In truth, your discount management is not running as smoothly as it should. You have drawn up rules on allowing discounts, but they are rather sketchy. How they are applied depends very much on the acumen of the individual sales employee. Actually, you don’t have the right incentives. And what about the bonus? It’s simply linked to the turnover and that just doesn't work.
In Sofon, you can lay down all the rules for discounts you want and link them to approval levels. This facilitates controlled discount management and your sales staff can aim for the largest possible margins. For instance, you can set up discount schemes for customer categories, markets, volumes, options, versions, and so on. They can include rules that allow various discounts, depending on the combination of products or product parts sold. You can make the schemes as subtle and as detailed as you like.
Offering a discount is linked to an approval function. If one of your sales reps wants to grant an impermissible discount or a permissible discount he or she is not authorized to grant, the approval flow will start up. In that case, Sofon will automatically ensure that the person, or persons, who do have the right authority, receive(s) a report requesting approval or a rejection of the discount.
Because the discount rules are incorporated into the structure, the sales staff will be more inclined to steer clear of maximum discounts. They will want avoid “trouble” with the manager.
In Sofon, the bonus mechanism is part of the discount management. The sales staff can see, in Sofon, their rewards for orders in relation to the discounts they give the customers. The higher the discount they arrange, the lower their reward is. This serves as an incentive for sales staff, encouraging them to get the most from the negotiations and to go easy on large discounts.
At your company, quoting procedures often run into delays when they reach the approval stage. Obtaining approvals is very time-consuming and that’s unfortunate, but it’s still better than granting your sales employees full freedom. You’ve had to restrict their freedom, because, all too often, production ran into problems because volumes and delivery times had been promised too easily. In some case, you’ve managed to deliver on your promises by pulling out all the stops. But sometimes it has simply been impossible, leaving you with grumbling customers. It’s so annoying. The biggest fuss was when you delivered a machine that didn’t meet the customer’s expectations: insufficient capacity for its intended purpose. It all went wrong because one of your sales staff adjusted a technical specification without realizing the consequences and nobody had picked up on it. The trouble this caused seemed endless. Since then, your rules on authorization and approval have become stricter. It might take longer to send out a quote, but you’d rather have it that way. But let’s not forget, you’ve noticed that prospects are dropping out, because they can get quotes faster from other companies….
In Sofon, you can lay down all of your rules for authorization and approval in very close relation to what is offered. The rules, which your staff can check at any time, are automatically applied by the system. Authorization and approval can be used for all kinds of matters, such as:
You can set rules for anything you want.
You can assign authorization and approval to specific people, but in practice, that authorization will probably be assigned to your staff’s positions or roles. You can incorporate all gradations you want into the system: the Sales Manager needs to approve a discount and the Production Manager needs to approve any changes to delivery times. You can set up levels of approval to follow a series of steps: first, the approval of the Head of Sales’ is required – for instance – and then, only after he or she has approved, the Country Manager will give his or her consent. You also have the option of appointing one or more deputies if someone is absent, so that the authorization and approval process will not be interrupted.
The system sends alerts if someone tries to promise something without having the authority to do so. If that happens, the system will automatically send a report to the person or persons whose approval is required. The report contains the reason for the alert and the deal that is to be approved or rejected. It also offers a term that includes reminders to ensure that the process doesn’t lose speed. The approval or rejection report is automatically returned to the applicant, stating the reasons. When all aspects of a quote have been approved, the quote will be released and can then be sent to the customer.
Your company handles hundreds – even thousands – of long-term contracts. These contracts are a valuable asset because they guarantee ongoing turnover. Nevertheless, contract management is very labour-intensive. In particular, this can require a great deal of manpower to draw up complicated contracts based on the final quote. This must be done very accurately because nothing should be missed. They must be checked thoroughly. All your contracts are recorded in your system as principal documents and appendices – all Word, PDF, and Excel documents. Time-use surveys in the Sales department reveal that the number of hours spent on reading contracts can mount almost unnoticed if anyone in the company or the customer has any questions. Some contracts are also complicated and inexperienced sales staff might struggle to deal with them and are therefore excused from working with these contracts. The amount of time involved is unfortunate, but you still prefer long-term contracts to non-recurrent orders.
In Sofon, the contract is based on the details and agreements from the approved final quotes. That information is taken from the final quote and automatically recorded in the system as the contract details. A contract is, therefore, never a document that must be read first before its contents become clear. You can view all of its elements immediately. It’s easy to distil details from one, several, or all your contracts and act accordingly or analyze them.
Your Finance employees can select the payment instalments from all the contracts, for example, to determine which customers still owe payment and automatically follow up on all the payment milestones.
In the same way, your Support department can view all of the maintenance and service agreements in the contracts. When customers call, they will have all the relevant details at their fingertups. They won’t lose time reviewing the contract – “What were the arrangements again?” – leaving the customers waiting. They can always respond quickly and reliably (Customer support).
Managing contracts and changes to them is extremely time-consuming and you’ve decided not to let inexperienced staff work on them. All too often, that’s where things went wrong and the ensuing technical errors in your products cost you quite a lot of money. Contracts are always complicated and include plenty of agreements and stipulations. Amend them all accurately is drudge work because every change generates another. And there’s the rub. People were changing things without being properly aware of the consequences. Remember that time that the credit insurance wasn’t adjusted? You still lie awake at night thinking about it... Now you have it all under control, but contract management still consumes a great deal of time and money. If only there was some way to deal with this….
Sofon makes automated contract (life-cycle) management much easier. Contracts are not obscure documents, but rather contain clear and practical information that you can analyze according to any selection criterion you want: customer categories such as what products you sell to which markets and so on. You will be extremely capable of managing and supervising your contracts proactively, changing them, and utilizing them to guide your buying and production.
Because you have an overview of the expiry dates of your contracts, you can take the initiative to renew them in due time. You have full control of contract changes, which is an extremely valuable asset when you are handling large volumes of contracts and (complicated) contract combinations containing numerous changes. This cuts back on the time spent checking the contracts and prevents many mistakes from being made. After all, what changes are not permissible and what changes are, and under what conditions? What affect will the changes have on other agreements? What will the financial consequences be? Tackling it all manually is a risky business. Sofon generates the answers based on the details in the registered contracts so that changes are always correct. The same applies to how you deal with maintenance and service contracts. Sofon ensures that you always have the right details on hand so that you can meet your obligations exactly the way you are expected to.
If you want to introduce changes to your products or services, simply select the customers you have a contract with for those products and services and discuss the alternatives and corresponding prices with them.
Because you always have an overview of your contracts, you will know where you are with regard to buying materials and planning your production capacity. You can anticipate impending problems concerning stocks and staffing.
You supply customized, complex products. Your sales staff spend a large amount of time negotiating with customers. For many customers, buying your products involves long-term investments and the contracts are only formed once they have their backers’ approval. The quoting procedure demands huge amounts of concentration and time from Sales – 10 versions of a quote is not an exaggeration. Customers often have additional queries and demands that can have consequences for a variety of matters. The sales staff are constantly gathering bits of information. And even as the negotiations are still being held, regular updates are introduced for product options, versions, prices, regulations, and so on. Your sales people must be aware of all those updates too, and must continuously check for new ones. Despite the amount of care that they put into this, things still often go wrong. It’s a worrying situation, because you have to get back to your customers to explain what went wrong. And several times now, you only discovered the faults once the products were already in production, which has not only cost you tons of money, but your customers are starting to complain too, mostly because you deliver later than what you agreed.
Sofon makes it very easy for you to manage every version of all your quotes, regardless of how long the negotiations take. First and foremost, Sofon provides an overview of every version of all the quotes that you have sent to a customer at any given time. In addition, new versions of quotes are automatically recalculated if you make any changes to your products or stipulations, or if the relevant regulations change (configuration management). These automatic adjustments will be applied to the prices, implementation, delivery time, delivery means, procedures, conditions, payment method, and finance options, as well as the options and technical specifications of the product itself.
This means that while you are still negotiating with a customer, you can replace an option in your product, for example, with another at a higher price, and that the change will appear automatically in the next quote that your sales staff sends out. The same applies if the customer arranges another means of delivery at the last moment that could affect the payment instalments. Everything that is altered is automatically factored into the new version of the quote. Your sales staff will not be required to remember that type of information – there’s nothing for them for forget because Sofon records everything automatically in the system by means of a smart process.
As a company that works to customer orders and with a growing number of customers, you work with a large and varied range of long-term contracts. All of these contracts have their own specific stipulations, conditions, payment agreements, and payment instalments. In your financial administration department, some of your employees are constantly occupied with sifting through all of the contracts to ensure that all of the turnover is correctly entered into the books and that the (quarterly) reports are in order. Your revenue recognition is a source of worry that continuously demands your attention. Check, check, and check again.
You have already been forced to deal with misjudged contract conditions and even a case when mistakes were made in the currency conversion calculations – errors that were only discovered at a very late stage. You were forced to adjust the figures downwards, and that caused a great deal of trouble. Luckily, the papers didn’t get hold of it, but revenue recognition is still a major concern. And it costs a lot in staffing too...
With Sofon, you will have no more worries about revenue recognition. As soon as a quote is confirmed as a contract, all stipulations, conditions, and payment and billing agreements, deposits, advance payments, payment instalments, discounts, and so on will automatically be translated into the correct turnover figures for your revenue recognition. Finance will no longer be required to examine every contract in minute detail, arduously gleaning snippets of information from them, or carry out extra registration work to find out when to send the bills.
On the contrary: just one click of a button is all you will need to generate a schedule that provides an overview for the contract in question, indicating what sums can already be recorded as turnover. The schedule can also be read into another system if required. This will make your revenue recognition infinitely easier and it’s much less time-consuming. And, even more importantly, you will know that your revenue recognition balances with every contract that you conclude, so you won’t have any discussion with your accountant about the turnover that you reported to him or her.
Sofon Proposal Organizer supports the central sales office, remote or field sales and service forces as well as any independent sales channel with the selling of customer specific products and services.
Error-free quotations and orders.
A powerful and fast configurator engine that can be used for the most complex configurations and calculations of any product or service.