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Solution Definition

The starting point for  a good quote is a description of the solution (“solution definition”) and Sofon gives you the tools to make this a smart process. 

Solution Definition

The starting point for  a good quote is a description of the solution (“solution definition”) and Sofon gives you the tools to make this a smart process. It means that you can analyze your customers’ needs in a structured way and then apply that information to find suitable solutions and describe them in professional, convincing, and comprehensible quotes. In fact, you will be able to produce such quotes even when the customers have requirements they have formulated themselves so you don’t require a needs analysis. You can visualize your solutions without any problem and calculate their effects on the technical and financial aspects. You can also factor in a special request without interrupting a quote. Moreover, you can produce these quotes very quickly, because you have already set up a knowledge model and the smart questions on which you base the quotes in advance. It means that a quote can be generated in minutes or hours rather than days and weeks.

In addition, quotes are always composed in the ‘customer’s language’ so that the customer can understand it and judge whether the solution meets their needs.

With professional, convincing offers that cover every aspect, you can cancel out the risks arising from quotes for the customer, thereby increasing the customer’s confidence in you. You can also be sure of meeting the customer’s expectations, avoiding disruptions in production. “Solution definition” makes your quoting process repeatable and enables you to make your production process repeatable, as well.

Sofon improves your solution definition by making the following processes smarter:

 

Needs Analysis

Your situation

Your company, which works to customers’ orders, is often confronted with questions from the plant about products that have been ordered or are that are even already in production. In cases such as this, you need to get in touch with the customers to coordinate all sorts of aspects. In fact, it’s now practically become a structural part of the procedure. Although it interrupts the production process, it is more important for your products to meet your customers’ expectations. You have already encountered several occasions in which your customers were disappointed, which involved a great deal of work to remedy the problem and still keep the customers happy – and it was very costly. Last time, for instance, the output of one machine was too low and caused problems. The fact of customers using their equipment slightly differently from the details provided by Sales remains a tricky issue. So, what’s causing these issues? Is it Sales? Is it Engineering? Don’t they ask the right questions? But they discussed everything in detail! And that’s very time-consuming. It’s very challenging to find the root of the problem. And it still happens, even after Sales rescues orders that are all but lost following extensive negotiations. It feels as if every negotiation process is a real price war, nearly forcing you to make the lowest offer.

The solution

Sofon offers the perfect means for making inventories of each customer’s specific needs and rapidly (within minutes) generating convincing, well-founded quotes containing suitable, 100% feasible solutions based on that information. Those solutions are automatically applied to the product that the plant will make, too.

Your source is the knowledge model that you have drawn up in Sofon (configuration management). In that model, you describe a coherent visualization of all your product options, together with their specifications, the applicable legislation and regulations, prices, and relevant stipulations.

That knowledge can be accessed at a central point, which means it is available to your sales people – including your partners’ and resellers’ sales staff – who can use it to prepare quotes and contracts using the smart questions you have also recorded in Sofon. Those questions are formulated to include all possible applications of your product because you know your market. The questions are designed so that the answers always lead to solutions that you can offer.

It also means that your sales people can prepare the quote in the customer’s language so that the customer can understand it and judge whether the solution meets his needs.

The advantages for you

  • You will always deliver products that meet your customers’ expectations.
  • You will not be confronted with excessive costs resulting from production disruptions and you will make your production processes repeatable.
  • You have a greater chance of succeeding because you can cancel out the risks for the customer with the help of a sound needs analysis. You can describe why your product meets the customer’s demand and substantiate your reasons, which will help inspire confidence in you. Customers will be more inclined to be persuaded by that than by the sum of all the product parts. In the latter case, the customers should judge for themselves and assume the responsibility for deciding whether the product will suffice.
  • You will have a stronger position in negotiations. If your customers think the solution is too expensive, you can argue that the solution in question will actually solve their problem while a cheaper alternative won’t.
  • You can avoid being forced to make offers based on prices because of quotes that only cover the requirements but can’t convince the customers that you have the solution to their problems or answer to their questions.
  • If you make your needs inventories systematic and repeatable, your sales performance will improve, because you will be able to offer customers better solutions and your customers will appreciate that.
  • With your quick, professional, comprehensible, and convincing quotes based on needs analyses, you can inspire confidence from prospects who don’t know you yet. They will be inclined to associate the quality and expertise you present in those quotes with your products. That in turn will mean a greater chance of new orders.
  • You will increase your knowledge because you systematically ask your customers about their needs and you can apply that knowledge to your product development.
Requirements management

Your situation

Most of your customers approach you with a general, open question about a product. But some of them have already devised a solution and ask you to submit a quote by means of a request for proposal based on a list of non-negotiable requirements. Those situations are always tricky. You always end up in a price war if the requirements listed are very common – and you don’t often come out on top. If the requirements are particularly specific to the customer, you are forced into time-consuming procedures with a lot of back and forth between Sales and Engineering and quotes that your sales staff take a long time to produce. After all, you will need to offer the customer a good explanation. Moreover, only a small number of the quotes actually become orders. It’s really a waste of time but saying no isn’t an option – some of the requests seem very promising. On the other hand, you are not always happy with an order either. You have already encountered several situations in which you didn’t deliver the right products, even though the order was based on pre-formulated requirements. It turned out that the product features did not match the customer’s wishes. There were misunderstandings despite the amount and detail of the communications. And it really cost a lot of money.

The solution

Sofon puts you in a position to help customers that make requests based on requirements they have formulated, quickly, easily, and problem-free, and to send them quotes with 100% reliable solutions that are both feasible and permissible. Preparing a quote will take hours instead of days or weeks. Even if customers want to add or change the requirements, you can still process those changes immediately. And Sales and the underlying divisions won’t need to spend a lot of time talking about the quote to arrange everything. The customer’s requirements are automatically applied to the specifications of the parts the plant uses to make the product.

Your source is the knowledge model that you have drawn up in Sofon (configuration management). In that model, you describe a coherent visualization of all your product options, together with their specifications, the applicable legislation and regulations, prices, and relevant stipulations. That knowledge can be accessed at a central point, which means it is available to your sales people – including your partners’ and resellers’ sales staff – who can use that knowledge to prepare quotes and contracts using the smart questions you have also recorded in Sofon. Those questions are formulated to include all possible applications of your product because you know your market.

The text in the quotes is always composed in the customer’s language so that the customer can understand the text and judge whether the solution meets their needs.

The advantages for you

  • You will always deliver products that meet your customers’ expectations.
  • You are not confronted with excessive costs due to production disruptions and you can make your production processes repeatable.
  • You have appeal as a supplier because your sales people can quickly generate professional quotes containing 100% reliable solutions based on requirements formulated by the customer.
Calculations

Your situation

You produce lots of quotes but you need more orders. Many customers seem to hesitate after receiving a quote and they ask more and more questions. It takes a great deal of effort to coordinate sales, production, service, and logistics to get it right. So it hits you hard when customers and prospects leave you anyway. Because you have done something about improving your quotes, you are actually winning more orders. But the labor-intensive communication hasn’t improved at all. It’s been shifted to take place before you send the first quote and that has raised a new problem: writing a quote sometimes takes so long that prospects lose interest when your rival is able to make a faster offer. But how do you speed up the process without making mistakes? After all, the solutions you provide must obviously be reliable. You have already experienced instances in which your products did not meet the customers’ expectations. And it cost you a lot of money to make the adjustments within the guarantee period. The worst thing about it all was that you lost two good customers. Their business cases were shattered and they are afraid to use you again.

The solution

Sofon enables you to calculate the effects of every solution you offer on the technical and financial aspects, effectively and quickly (within minutes) and in that way to substantiate it. The calculations are detailed right up to and including the maintenance and costs of maintenance during the period in which the product is in use. At the same time, the calculations are part of how the customer solution is applied to what production actually must manufacture.

Your source is the knowledge model that you have drawn up in Sofon (configuration management). In that model, you describe a coherent visualization of all your product options, together with their specifications, the applicable legislation and regulations, prices, and relevant stipulations.

That knowledge can be accessed at a central point, which means it is available to your sales people – including your partners’ and resellers’ sales staff – that can use it to draw up quotes and contracts, using the smart questions you have also recorded in Sofon. Those questions are formulated to include all possible applications of your product because you know your market.

The text in the quotes is always composed in the ‘customer’s language’ to ensure that the customer can understand it and judge whether the solution meets their needs.

The advantages for you

  • Sound calculations will help you avoid risks to yourself and the customer. The risks for you involve excessive costs due to claims and unhappy customers that take their business elsewhere. The customer runs a risk because they can’t be sure your solution will provide the outcome they were counting on.
  • You are appealing as a supplier because your fully detailed quotes in which the effects of all the aspects have been calculated guarantee that your solution is feasible and meets the needs and requirements of the customer, thereby removing the customer’s fears. This is a crucial matter, particularly if your customers are ordering capital goods or investment goods.
  • You will have a stronger position in negotiations because you can describe, with the help of the calculations, why the customer needs the more expensive product and why a cheaper version will not do what the customer thinks it will. All this will generate greater turnover and you will also have an advantage over your competition that try to lure your customer away with cheaper solutions.
  • By using the knowledge model you have recorded as the basis for your calculations, you can make sure your quotes will be as lucrative as possible and stay that way.
Solution Design

Your situation

Your quoting expenses per order are high because your quoting procedure is time-consuming. Putting a quote together requires lots of coordination between sales, engineering, finance, logistics, and production. And once the quotes are confirmed as orders, you still have to coordinate everything. Most of your margin is eaten away by the mounting hours required for coordination. And let’s not forget the costs caused by errors: a transport that was not arranged correctly, a lack of clarity about insurance costs which meant that you ended up paying for it, the delivery of an incorrect product, or a delay during the installation, production conditions that needed sorting which meant that you needed to find storage quickly. Expenses, delays, and bickering with customers about who pays for extra man-hours: none of this is conducive to good relationships. But some customers seem to be less worried about their relationship with you. You have had a number of claims related to the performance of your products. Customers had expected more from them – and had built their business case on that. And that hurt. Everything seemed to get out of hand. It’s not easy to get a grip on matters such as this if you are a company that works to customers’ orders.

The solution

With Sofon, you can create professional, convincing, and comprehensible quotes without any problems, providing customers with an overall solution that is 100% reliable and meets all of their wishes and requirements. And you can do it quickly too! It means that a quote can be generated in minutes or hours rather than days and weeks.

The solution describes all the product options, customer requirements, technical and financial calculations, the price (breakdown), and any other relevant aspects. What about the method used for implementation, the means of delivery, the delivery date, who is responsible for the transport, the necessary production conditions, arrangements about insurance, guarantee stipulations, payment instalments, the method of payment, and so on?

In addition, the solution will automatically be applied to the specifications for your plant. And you won’t need extensive talks between Sales and the underlying divisions to arrange it.

Your source is the knowledge model that you have drawn up in Sofon (configuration management). In that model, you describe a coherent visualization of all your product options, together with their specifications, the applicable legislation and regulations, prices, and relevant stipulations. That knowledge can be accessed at a central point, which means it is available to your sales people – including your partners’ and resellers’ sales staff – who can use that knowledge to prepare quotes and contracts using the smart questions you have also recorded in Sofon. Those questions are formulated to include all possible applications of your product because you know your market.

Every choice generates a piece of the text for the quote. As a result, quotes are always structured so that the customer can understand it and judge whether the solution meets their needs.

The advantages for you

  • You will always deliver products that meet your customers’ expectations.
  • Your production personnel will not need to check the facts or make the calculations. They will always know what they should be manufacturing and that will enable you to make your production process repeatable.
  • You have a greater chance of succeeding because you can cancel out the risks for the customer with a complete solution definition. You can explain why your product meets the customer’s demands and substantiate your reasons. That will inspire confidence in you. Customers are inclined to be persuaded by that than by a sum of all the product parts. In the latter case, the customers should judge for themselves and assume the responsibility for deciding whether the product will suffice.
  • Clear quotes that cover everything will mean that you can avoid excessive costs due to claims, the costs of remedying the situations, and unhappy customers or prospects taking their business elsewhere.
  • Your sales staff can produce high-quality, complete, and reliable quotes without much effort, which will save them a lot of time and enable them to help more customers.
  • You will have a stronger position in negotiations because you can explain why the customer needs the more expensive product and why a cheaper version will not do what the customer thinks it will. All of this will generate greater turnover and you will also have an advantage over your competition that try to lure your customer away with cheaper solutions.
  • By using the knowledge model you have recorded, you can ensure that your quotes will be as lucrative as possible and stay that way.
Special requests procedure

Your situation

Your company has good relations with a number of loyal customers representing a considerable volume of orders. It’s only natural that you go that extra mile for them – you don’t want to have to refer them to someone else for that work. Nevertheless, you’re not happy with all those special requests, which quite often cause trouble in production. All things considered, it has already cost you a great deal of money, more than you’re happy with. But your customers insist, so you don’t really have a choice. You’ve already encountered delays in delivery times and stoppages in production because nobody knew exactly what they should be doing. The production costs for another special request were so high that you didn’t actually dare to charge them to your customer and it ate up quite a large chunk of your margin.

One special request still haunts you to this day. It was an unconnected service that you are forced to continue providing, even though you agreed on a price that was much too low. It doesn’t benefit you at all – in fact, it costs you, because it involves a considerable number of engineering and service hours. You would love to ditch it, but how do you come up with a suitable solution?

The solution

Sofon is designed to enable you to make your quoting procedure for customer-specific quotes supremely efficient and repeatable. At the same time, it offers you the option to create an inventory of a special request and factoring it into the quote without it interrupting the quoting procedure or the production – an extra product that you must manufacture separately, for instance.

When a special request crops up, it sets off a work flow towards the engineers or other experts who are responsible for assessing this exceptional request.

All of this is carried out according to a transparent process so that the status of the special request can always be traced. The responsible staff then links it to a price and delivery time. Next, they record the solution in Sofon as an isolated part of the quote so that it can never be lost or forgotten. The full quote is only released once the special request has been assessed and registered.

The special request can also be rejected, for example, if it’s unfeasible, if it’s too expensive, or if it means the technical aspects of production will be subjected to too many disruptions. That report will then also be entered into Sofon. In that way, the member of the sales staff will then know that he or she should refer the customer to someone else for that product.

The advantages for you

  • You can avoid special requests that leave you out-of-pocket due to the disruptions in your production process. This in turn enables you to prevent your margins from disappearing.
  • You can avoid upsetting your customers due your sales people making promises that you can’t keep in terms of production.
  • Your quoting procedures will run smoothly despite special requests.
  • You can consider all the aspects carefully before you decide to take on a special request because your experts have assessed them.
  • You will never forget or lose special requests.
  • You can avoid getting stuck with years of maintenance for special requests that cost you a lot of money because your sales people have made promises too easily in quotes and contracts.

Customers who benefit from our products

Sofon products that make Solution Definition easier

Proposal Organizer

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.

Sofon QIS
Error-free quotations and orders
Sofon Sales Configurator

A powerful and fast configurator engine that can be used for the most complex configurations and calculations of any product or service.

Contact Sofon (GER)

Sofon Deutschland GmbH
Centroallee 261
46047 Oberhausen
Germany

  • +49 (0)208 309 98 55 0

  • +49 (0)208 309 98 55 2

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Contact Sofon (NL)

Sofon B.V.
Science Park Eindhoven 5214
5692 EG Son
The Netherlands

  • +31 (0) 40 26 77 199

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