The core of many businesses is the necessity to create sales quotes to generate orders. Very often, businesses rely on Word and Excel to accomplish this task. Why, because it’s easy to get started with these office programs, but it leads to complications and inefficiencies that over time, block an organization’s ability to achieve their business and sales objectives. Word and Excel are excellent tools for many general business tasks, financial analysis and scientific and statistical analysis (to list a few), but they fail to provide many of the key components of a good sales quoting solution.

The biggest shortfall of Word and Excel is they are unconnected individual files. In fact, a key characteristic of a good quoting solution is the ability to incorporate elements of Word and Excel, but packaged in one integrated solution.

For example, it is common practice for companies to use Excel to generate an estimate of materials and labor, then build a proposal, quote or scope of work in Word. If the goal was to do this once, it’s not a bad solution, but when you need to revise a job several times with multiple people involved, the challenge is keeping everything in sync.

Another common approach with Word and Excel is to build templates and copy them for each job. However, over time information becomes out of date and maintenance becomes cumbersome.  Keeping a distributed sales team in various locations,  up-to-date with the latest templates or current pricing is almost impossible.  In short, what starts out as an quick and easy approach to sales quoting, begins to break down as the business and demands grow.

Even in a small office, with two or three sales reps, Word and Excel files can quickly proliferate out of control, leading to errors and omissions. It can easily happen that an update in an Excel file doesn’t get translated to the quote in Word that goes to the customer. Errors at the quote stage can lead to costly change-orders further along in the production and order fulfillment process.

The fact that each Word and Excel file is a separate entity, makes it difficult to track quotes and analyze data. To make up for this short fall, businesses create yet another Excel file to control quote numbers and keep tabs on opportunities. This in-itself, generates further non-added value work and still doesn’t provide any insight into market and sales trends. It’s virtually impossible to look for market trends and opportunities with data spread across many Word and Excel files. Even the simplest query asking how many times a specific product was quoted, and at what price and margin can’t be done. How many times did you quote various customers and what was the win percentage?  This is a simple request with an integrated sales quoting solution, but a difficult task when using Word and Excel files.

Protecting confidential information is another challenge for companies using Word and Excel Files. They are too easily copied and distributed and provide little protection against unauthorized use. But this isn’t to say there is no value in the work done with these products.

Everything is not lost however! When a business realizes the need for a better sales quoting solution, the work invested in the Word and Excel files can be a good starting point for understanding requirements for the new solution. Formulas, products and customer data can often be re-purposed as a starting point for the new database. Lookups and templates for customer specific pricing and discounts can act as a model for the new the system. Even complex Excel formulas and configuration rules can often be modelled in a similar way. The many hours of thought that went into building the Word and Excel solution can help build the essential requirements for the new approach.

In conclusion Word and Excel offer a quick way to get started, but ultimately fail to deliver the full value of a sales quoting solution. The best approach is one that combines the capability of these office tools with the flexibility and power of a true database solution. To learn how your business can migrate from Word and Excel to a truly robust sales quoting/CPQ solution, feel free to contact us a or call 905-403-1198.