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How PROS Solutions Enable Digital Selling

This session describes the roadmap to digital commerce and how the digital selling transformation can be achieved by every company, regardless of how you operate today. It describes the typical path businesses take to transform their sales and go-to-market strategy, the challenges to overcome along the way, and how to bring your business with you as you navigate the path to digital commerce.

About the Speakers

Greg Davoll holds over 25 years of enterprise software experience in product management and marketing leadership roles across an array of branded technology companies including Alteryx, IBM, NetIQ, Sybase, BMC Software, and Quest Software. Davoll is a strong and experienced software executive who excels at managing a complex software portfolio across diverse, competitive markets. Davoll holds detailed knowledge of sales, marketing, and product lifecycles combined with a passion for launching new products, enabling worldwide sellers and scaling operations has resulted in dozens of successful products. Davoll is an accomplished public speaker and has spoken at numerous worldwide conferences. He’s experienced in large-scale M&A integrations and go-private transactions. Specialized Skills: Product Management & Product Strategy, Product Marketing, Solution Marketing, Messaging/Positioning, PR/AR, Corporate Spokesperson, Pricing/Packaging, and GTM Execution. 

Geoff Webb has over 25 years of experience in the tech industry and is the Vice President of Solutions at PROS. Webb works alongside marketing and product management to help define strategy for the business, including how to align technology capabilities to business challenges facing organizations in the move to digital business. Webb often provides commentary on the intersections of technology, business, and society, and has written on a number of related topics for such journals and websites as CNBC, USA Today, CIO Update, Healthcare IT News, The Tech Herald, Dark Reading,, Wired, InfoSecurity magazine, HelpNetSecurity, and Forbes. He is a member of the Forbes Technology Council and writes on the subject of how IoT and AI will change global business practices. He speaks regularly at technical and business conferences around the world.

Full Transcript

Geoff Webb: Great. Thank you, Loretta. Okay. So we heard some really interesting vision and ideas from both Andres and John there around the direction that we're taking. And what we're going to do right now is I'm going to be talking to Greg Davoll. We're going to really look in little more detail about how we take those ideas, that amazing vision for commerce in the omnichannel world, and really start to deliver on it. In other words, to take those ideas and make them concrete in the solutions that we offer to our customers and to our partners, to help them as they move forward through this journey towards omnichannel digital selling....

Geoff Webb: So, Greg, first up, I think we heard a lot about e-commerce today. It's a huge topic. It's an area that's very much forefront in people's thinking, especially in the B2B world as buyer behavior is changing. Let's talk a little bit about your vision for how things like e-commerce become real through the way we deliver these solutions.

Greg Davoll: Thanks, Geoff. That's a great place to start. Let me begin by saying that e-commerce is not a new focus for PROS, but we've definitely seen an increased tempo in the market across our customer base this year when it comes to new e-commerce projects. So let me frame it this way. I'll start with the foundation and walk through some key ingredients that are required for a successful e-commerce project. So we typically see, as far as these ingredients go, a configurable catalog, which allows e-commerce application to present the viable products and configurations to the buyer. Another key ingredient is price management, defining and managing the prices and products for the e-commerce application. Price optimization, which requires contexts for the non-negotiated price. And then finally, price delivery, which is about getting the right price quickly to the e-commerce app at hand.

Greg Davoll: So overall, our roadmap is focused on all these key ingredients and we have invested in each one of these. This year, we've already delivered on enhanced scale pricing, a brand new mass price change capability, and numerous enhancements in our Smart CPQ product line, including product bundling and cart config, which can be leveraged for e-commerce applications Also, another example is our new experience user interface for control, which makes it easier to manage prices across e-commerce channels in concert with direct channel pricing. So a lot of flexibility.

Geoff Webb: Yeah. And it's not just one part of the solution set, right? That's being built and optimized for e-commerce channels. It's actually the whole sort of the PROS B2B digital selling solution set that is now increasingly becoming part of the way people think about delivering on e-commerce channels.

Greg Davoll: That's right. That's right. And another theme that I didn't mention earlier is self-service.

Geoff Webb: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Greg Davoll: So when it comes to power and e-commerce, self-service is a critical focus area. So once you have these key ingredients, that's the beginning, but you need to think about how those get assembled, and that's where self-service comes in. So there's a couple of flavors of self-service that we designed for it. One flavor is self-service for our customers, which allows them to put these ingredients together, define, configure, and assemble them in a way it's intuitive and without cumbersome workarounds. And the second flavor of self-service is really for our customers' end users and their partners, which means enabling some workflows that provide a more collaborative selling effort. So all in the vein of e-commerce.

Geoff Webb: Yeah, absolutely. As we think about things like e-commerce, so much of that is predicated on infrastructure that can support e-commerce scale. Because when a B2B business starts to embrace the opportunities and the power of really delivering through e-commerce channels, there's a different level of scale and demand that's put on the supporting technology, and of course, the supporting processes that go with it. So as a business moves to really powering up those e-commerce channels, some of which may have existed for a while, but really were very nascent, they weren't particularly core to the business where we've seen that shift occurring, right? The shift to e-commerce now is becoming core to the business. That means that businesses also have to think about really critical elements of delivery of the e-commerce vision and all the rest of the pieces too. And that starts to drive a need for things like, really, web scale, highly robust, highly resilient, great deal of scalability in the platform and the technology and a high degree of performance, because suddenly again, the scale of requests that are coming into those infrastructure is orders of magnitude above what would typically be occurring when you're offering up those solutions to a traditional Salesforce or a partner team.

Greg Davoll: Right. Yeah. Scalability and performance are critical for all our customers. There's not a single implementation where those aren't part of the core conversation. So our products and solutions are engineered with scalability and performance in mind from the start, and it's just part of our DNA. Take CPQ and Smart CPQ for example. Last year, we launched a new quoting engine. It provided a quantum leap in performance. So it enabled to scale up to tens of thousands of quote line items, believe or not. Customers are doing those things in the real world with no impact to performance. So we're talking about massive scale when it comes to quote automation in delivering real-time quotes to their end users and partners.

Greg Davoll: I'll add that scalability and performance are part of a larger class of how we about enterprise-grade requirements, which also includes security and availability. So it's more than just scalability and performance. There's security and availability concerns as well. Most companies want to invest in a solution that provides some type of runway with some future-proofing so that as the solution gains traction and is realizing more value, it can be easily expanded to other BUs without a reimplementation or rip and replace.

Geoff Webb: Right.

Greg Davoll: So this is a core tenant of the PROS platform, is we don't want our customers to have to trade off that short term expediency with the long-term needs of scaling, performance, availability and security.

Geoff Webb: Yeah, absolutely. I want to go back a little bit though, just to touch on the sort of connection between e-commerce and performance. I know one of the things that we've been, and you particularly have been looking very closely at, is the change in the demands on some of the back-end infrastructure, when you start to power up e-commerce platforms. And one of the first places that we've seen, certainly, our customers and organizations we're working with start to hit that challenge around performance is things like just the most basic capabilities of deliver a price to my e-commerce platform at a speed that is consummate with the expectations of my users. They want to see what is the price of this item right now. But yet delivering that can actually be quite a challenge when you're moving from, again, traditional face-to-face sales into the massive scale of e-commerce.

Greg Davoll: Yeah, absolutely. You're right. So we actually... and I'll give you a couple more examples as we go through the next 20 minutes. But we offer a response time SLA around price delivery. That's how important it is. So we actually provide that assurance and back up the claim for this very specific example you're giving. So it sounds easy, but it's not.

Geoff Webb: Yeah.

Greg Davoll: Because the complexity of products, where products live and where they're defined, the system of record, is typically an ERP application, which those are highly complex, and prices are baked into that. So being able to retrieve a price, while on the surface sounds very easy, in reality, it's not. There's quite a bit of transformation and translation that has to happen. And for all of that to happen in, let's say a 700 millisecond response time, it takes a lot of work and you have to have the right delivery mechanism, which is what PROS does, in order to realize that kind of SLA.

Geoff Webb: Yeah, absolutely. Customers give you a fraction of a second to respond to the request, and then they're already starting to feel dissatisfied, and that's not a good buyer experience. So absolutely. That capacity to deliver, not just to say we can deliver it fast, but to deliver it reliably fast, right? That SLA of we're going to deliver those prices for you in the time you need, is incredibly powerful. When we talk to businesses that are moving more and more into the world of e-commerce, that's something they demand. They need to know that this supporting infrastructure is going to be there when their customers are expecting it to be working.

Geoff Webb: The other thing I want to do though, is one of the things that came up in Andres' and John's session is this concept of omnichannel. So we've talked a lot about e-commerce right now, but e-commerce is one of the many channels that businesses must be thinking about. And omnichannel's really, really important when you start to think about how the businesses embrace the full power of digital selling and deliver that really differentiated buyer experience. How does a concept like omnichannel, the ability to just use multiple channels to deliver the experience, the buyer experience that your customer wants, how does that start to factor into the way you're planning the sort of the vision and the fulfillment of that vision through the roadmap of the solution set?

Greg Davoll: Yeah. No. Great question. So as John touched upon earlier, omnichannel is not multichannel. It's more than that.

Geoff Webb: Right.

Greg Davoll: It means orchestrating and harmonizing across all the channels versus some kind of independent treatment. So one important factor there is our science and AI is what provides that rationalization across the channels, the different channels. It is one of our key differentiators. One of the mistakes we often see when it comes to this kind of omnichannel versus multichannel is take an e-commerce application or e-commerce channel, digital channel, and the goal initially may have been to get that application live and productive. And a common mistake is when a company sets prices too high on that digital channel, hoping to reduce or avoid some type of channel conflict. And the big problem with this is that it doesn't result in a productive digital channel, so buyers will switch to channels that have market-relevant web pricing, and that just defeats the purpose. So companies are now looking to their digital channels as really growth opportunities in order to increase revenue and margin. So pricing must be competitive. The experience must be good. And performance must be there, must be quick, right?

Geoff Webb: Yeah. And I think that point you make about the multiple channels, there's a real demand for consistency between channels. As you say, omnichannel isn't multichannel. You can spin up multiple different channels to reach customers and partners and resellers and distributors. But if they're not connected, if they're not ultimately part of a single consistent go-to-market strategy, a digital selling strategy, then what happens is as you say, you start to drive conflict even between your own channels, even within your own organization.

Geoff Webb: I think it's interesting that one of the... the number one reason that e-commerce initiatives fail is simply because of internal conflict, that the traditional salesperson, the B2B salesperson, starts to see e-commerce channels as a competitor themselves. And you start to drive that internal conflict. And that delivers, ultimately, a lack of consistency in the buying experience. And that, ultimately, has the very bad effect of diminishing trust from the buyer. If they see different things between different channels, that really diminishes trust, and that will drive customers away. And I know this is something that, again, in the roadmap, as you're building this out, there's a real drive to, as you say, to unify those different channels with a common architecture, common AI engine, common platform, that kind of thing.

Greg Davoll: Right. Yeah. So just taking the word... so let's focus on competitive pricing for a second. So how does a company ensure their prices are competitive? And that's where the PROS guidance comes in. Initially, our guidance product was introduced as a solution that focused on negotiated price guidance, really focused on direct channels in mind and direct sellers. And now, we've enhanced guidance to address this omnichannel use case so that both negotiated and non-negotiated price optimization can be delivered, including that harmonization we talked about a few minutes ago.

Geoff Webb: Yep.

Greg Davoll: So guidance helps companies. You can actually refine a same level price that's not so low that it erodes margin, but it's sufficiently relevant to attract new buyers and be competitive back to the key word. And from our early adopters with guidance for e-commerce, we've gotten some great feedback, and we really see this as a game changer in the market when it comes to omnichannel price optimization.

Geoff Webb: Absolutely. And we'll have people in the audience that may be not that familiar with PROS guidance. So again, it's a price optimization technology. I'd love you just to spend one or two minutes, if you wouldn't mind, just explaining what you mean by the difference between negotiated and non-negotiated price optimization. Because, again, those two things are very different. They have different requirements. But ultimately, your objective is to deliver a single, consistent buying experience to the customer. Could you explain a little bit about what you mean by that?

Greg Davoll: Sure. Yeah. I'll try to keep it simple, but-

Geoff Webb: Thanks.

Greg Davoll: Negotiated price guidance, what that is, is think about direct sales channels, where customers interfacing with a company buy some goods and services through a direct sales rep, right? And so there's the person involved, and what they do is they have familiarity perhaps with this customer, there's a buying pattern there, and there's some level... there's always negotiation that goes and forth. So in the negotiated example, what we do is we provide price guidance, typically in the version of an envelope where there's floor pricing, target pricing and an expert pricing based on not only historical data, but using our science and AI to project based on other purchase patterns across different segments, could be different geographies, different product lines, or a combination of those. We'll provide this price envelope and put that in front of the rep so they're armed with the right information in how that conversation with their customer or prospect. So that's negotiated price guidance.

Greg Davoll: Non-negotiated price guidance is in the context... the best example is e-commerce applications, where a prospect or a customer in either case finds the goods and services they want to buy and they expect to see a price. So a price has to be served up on or through the e-commerce application. And that price, since it's being put in front of the end customer, and will purchase, the buyer, is really thought of as a take-it-or-leave-it price. So you're putting a price there. It needs to be competitive, knowing that if the customer or prospect doesn't like that price, they can make a decision to go somewhere else, to a competitor or some other online channel to buy that product. So those are two different examples, but then you want to bring those together. That's that harmonization we talk about, is your negotiated price guidance and your non-negotiated price. Guidance should be harmonized so that the numbers make sense because in many cases, companies are going to buy through a variety of channels and they want to see some level of consistency there. You also don't want to have the price too high to where you're leaving... you're losing customers. So it's a balancing act, really.

Geoff Webb: Sure. Yeah. It's fascinating technology. And I think that the idea that there's a single engine sitting in the background that's managing all that, this essentially learning as it goes, that's testing price elasticity, that's making sure that you're winning deals, but that you're winning them in the right way is incredibly compelling, again, as we think about things like omnichannel.

Geoff Webb: One of the things I'd like to touch on now is this is really a big part of how we think as a business about moving forward in delivering on all of these capabilities. And that's the how we intend to deliver on this. And that's the PROS platform itself. Much of the things we've talked about are facets of that PROS platform, and it really becomes the, the crystallization of this vision for a single strategy, driving digital selling for B2B businesses. And I'd love for you to maybe just give us a little bit of a peek as much as you can into your thinking around the PROS platform, how that's evolving, the role it plays, and really, what it delivers out of the things we've just been talking about.

Greg Davoll: Yeah, no, happy to. So I'll explain it from my perspective AND my point of view, and hopefully, that'll make sense. So the PROS platform delivers a wide range of capabilities that span all aspects of B2B commerce. So think of it as a single engine with integrated services that cross over the traditional boundaries of price management, CPQ price optimization. So these start to map out and blend together. And this platform has to cater to multiple personas. So whereas a product, a point product may be designed to cater to one audience, say a price team, a pricing team or another audience like a direct sales team, a platform has to cater to multiple personas.

Greg Davoll: So from a customer perspective, the difference will typically be felt in the workflow. So instead of being constrained by these product boundaries, the workflow will be focused and they are for us, on what the team is trying to do and accomplish. Contrast that with focusing exclusively on a team of pricers, like I mentioned, or a team of direct sellers. So our focus is on that blended team that wants a consistent unified motion across all their channels.

Geoff Webb: Right. Yeah. I think that's really the key to the value and the vision of the PROS platform, is that we recognize... as an organization, we've been doing this for many years with many, many, many partners and customers that you can't solve the complexities of the move to digital selling, and you can't deliver that consistent, very fast, very transparent, effective buyer experience at the scale that you need to deliver that when what you're doing is essentially stitching together multiple point products that solve parts of the solution that may or may not share information, that may or may not have a common set of definitions even about what a product is or who the buyer is. When you start to think about really transforming the whole digital selling motion, and you really do that across every channel, every customer, every transaction, then what you need is a common understanding, a common framework, a common set of data, a common AI engine, a common delivery mechanism, and that that should connect to every part of that digital selling journey.

Geoff Webb: And so I think that's really what makes the PROS platform very compelling and interesting as we discuss it with our partners and with our customers, is that consistency across every single part of the selling motion is extraordinarily transformative once you start to see how it delivers. And it really does deliver some extremely effective changes.

Greg Davoll: Right. Yeah. I mean, if you try to stitch this together through loosely coupled products, what really suffers is the end user experience and that that workflow I've been referring to. And so what that translates to is you don't get the value out of it that you do in the case of a more integrated, apprehensive platform approach. So one example... so let's make this real. Let's take a price change example, right? A price list update that involves, let's say dozens or even hundreds of price changes is a pretty normal and pretty easy task. The hard part is how you communicate the changes to all the affected sales team and then out to the customer person, sorting out that impact to the customer. So that's the hard part. The price change is the easy part.

Greg Davoll: So how is that typically done today? In most cases, this is done manually with a lot of gaps. The way we do it with the PROS solution, we now have this mass price change capability that I mentioned earlier. It's fully integrated across the platform, from the original price changes that the pricers are making, to automatically determining the impact to the existing customers' agreements. So this allows the sales reps to be part of that loop and choose the right path for their customers, accept the change, negotiate, defer perhaps, and then communicate those decisions and changes back to the pricing team. So it's a full round trip loop, and that's done automatically so that the actions that result from those decisions get recorded.

Greg Davoll: And this is what we call mass price changes, this workflow, and we meld together the product functionality transparently in the PROS platform. So the customer, the end users here, the constituents across this whole entire workflow, they're not aware of all the machinations and machinery.

Geoff Webb: Right.

Greg Davoll: It's due to the hard work to make this happen and deliver this capability.

Geoff Webb: Yeah. And I think the other thing that makes the platform so compelling and really, ultimately, so disruptive in the space of digital selling, is it both, as you say, connects the workflows, it brings people together, it provides a common set of definitions and technologies. The other thing that's really interesting that I find quite fascinating about the approach you're taking in building the platform and as we're delivering it to customers now is the fact that you're... it's essentially aggregating intelligence, right? The single PROS platform is bringing together the things that a business learns at every interaction with their customers. It's learning from a sales interactions, it's learning from e-commerce interactions, it's learning through the partners, so that collectively, the business gets smarter faster at predicting and, ultimately, therefore meeting customer requirements. And I think that is really the keystone to unlocking the incredible power of digital selling as a strategy.

Greg Davoll: That's right. Yeah. That's the power of the platform. Yep. Absolutely.

Geoff Webb: One thing I want to make sure we touch on is, a lot of this is very cool. I mean, let's be honest. Some of this is really, really extraordinarily disruptive. It's all absolutely cutting-edge as far as powering different parts of the selling motion, as far as powering collectively this transformation of your business, digital transformation of how you sell. It also honestly sounds a little daunting and a little complicated, right? There's a lot of moving parts here. The objective in the way we're building this and the way you've architected this, working with your teams and the rest of the organization, is actually not just to make something that's incredibly powerful, but to make something that is actually very, very easy to consume.

Geoff Webb: And I think from our perspective, we see there is a journey that most B2B businesses, in fact, pretty much every business everywhere, is on, right? This journey from wherever they are right now and that might be incredibly sophisticated. They may be right at the beginning of thinking about how do we think about pricing and how do we understand our market? But there is a journey that each of those organizations go on, and the way we're building this technology, the way we're you've been architecting the platform and the way we deliver that, is focused on not just painting a picture of where we need to end up, but to help every single B2B organization, every organization, whether it's B2C or B2B or B2B2C move along that journey. I think that's really interesting, this concept of this digital selling sort of maturity journey that they go on. And I just want to touch on that a little bit too, because I don't want people to go away from this thinking. That's incredible technology. We have to have it in five years time. We can't get there yet because actually what we see is businesses able to plug this in and get value out of it very, very quickly. Can you maybe touch a little bit on your sense of how we build that into the way you've architected the technology?

Greg Davoll: Yeah. Yeah. It's a perfect setup. So our goal is to provide those multiple on-ramps, if you will, so that we can help companies regardless of where they are on that digital maturity scale. And many of the companies we work with are in the, let's call it, earlier stages of that journey. And what that translates to is they're doing a lot of things manually. They're managing price lists using Excel and sending them out via email or posting them on SharePoint to share those out to the sales teams. They're hand configuring orders, right? They don't have sales automation. They're guessing their prices based on some tribal knowledge and some price history that the pricing team has, but it's not very scientific, right? And that's okay. We help those companies take the first step and provide them with that on-ramp into the PROS platform so they can start with... they don't have to start with omnichannel. They can start with automating their price administration or price management, or they can start with quote automation or they can start with some price optimization applied to a single channel. And then we provide ways to layer on those additional capabilities in the platform. As they're ready for that increase or advanced sophistication, if you will, we can layer those capabilities in to the platform they already have.

Greg Davoll: So think of it as those building blocks. And we do have customers on the other end of the spectrum as well, that are already pretty advanced and very automated. And now they're ready to tackle that harmonization omnichannel stuff we talked about earlier today. So with our platform, we can start small and deliver on the use cases that fall into that lower end of the spectrum, if you will, from a manual to automated state. And we can also address the high end, the very complex situations that are moving into true and pure omnichannel optimization.

Geoff Webb: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that the thing that we get to see is as businesses adopt these technologies, as they move on to the platform and as they start to change that, there's an incredible effect as they move along this journey, that each step in that journey, whether it's, as you say, right at the beginning of I just want to understand what's the right price. How do I build a price list? How do I distribute the most basic sort of pricing intelligence to my organization? Or am I at the next phase where I need to start powering up my Salesforce ability to just go faster? Do I start layering in artificial intelligence to shape and guide every deal to be optimized for both buyer and and customer and identify opportunities within my customer base? Do I start to connect all of that to e-commerce? Do I start to build that across multiple channels?

Geoff Webb: It doesn't matter wherever you are. As you move down this journey, each step drives greater value from all of the preceding steps and the next set of steps that you can take. And so it becomes this kind of multiplicative effect, right? This sort of almost geometric growth in the transition to digital selling. And I think that's what makes, again, the thing you're building here, the platform so compelling, is that capacity to continue to learn to build piece by piece, step by step at the pace that organizations want to move through. And that really, really drives both the transformation of the business of our customers, the transformation of how they interact with their customers. And ultimately therefore, the value that we deliver to all of the above. So it's fascinating stuff, Greg.

Greg Davoll: Yeah. One of our customers, just a quick example here, that you reminded me of is a large software company that has multiple CRMs and multiple CPQ solutions in place. So on the spectrum, they're very far down the path when it comes to sales, automation and guided selling, right? But their challenge is really one of cost and consolidation is the way they want to address that cost challenge. So they have a lot of cost and complexity in the back office and through these different CRMs in CPQ solutions. So they want one CPQ solution that's flexible enough to work with both their dynamics in Salesforce CRMs, and can be used to drive that consistency across all their lines of business. So that affects their margin, and that's what they're focused on as a way to get there is really this consolidation type of project when it comes to sales, automation, and guided selling.

Geoff Webb: Awesome. Thank you so much, Greg. It's been great to talk to you, as always. Fascinating to get a peek into what's driving the direction. And really appreciate your time. And thank you all for joining us both.

Greg Davoll: Likewise. Thank you, Geoff. Thank you. Take care, everyone.

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