7 Considerations
for Moving from an Engineering Configurator
to a Sales Configurator for Guided Selling

Your products, as they exist in your PLM and ERP systems, are essentially a set of parts and assemblies.

Used within an engineering configurator, these parts and assemblies are represented as selectable options so that choices can be made that result in a final, buildable product.

Engineering Configurator

Engineering configurators are designed for a specific need and work well in an engineering and manufacturing environment.

So why are we surprised when these purpose-built configurators are inefficient at producing sales orders?

Engineering configurators too often fail for sales needs. The complexity needed for engineering is not efficient for the purposes of configuring a sellable product. And the purpose of sales is different; guiding sales and the customer to the right configuration for a particular product implementation is critical and not often obvious from only a set of selectable options.

In short, the sales team too often needs to be engineers themselves to configure a product. A role that they’re not always trained properly for.

This results in orders being quoted with incomplete configurations, orders not being manufacturable, and orders that are extensively engineered-to-order (ETO). Worse, this can result in products that do not fit the customers’ precise needs.

Sales Configurator

Moving your configurator closer to sales and considering the needs of the customer within the configurator can solve these problems. Building a product based upon needs and features, rather than parts and options, ensures order accuracy and ultimately, final customer satisfaction.

So, what are these sales needs and product features that are necessary in a sales configurator?

Of course, that depends on your products and company culture. But here are some things to consider when adding sales features to your configurator to enable successful guided selling:

1. Product Implementation: Products are built and accessorized for specific purposes; a generator installed on a ship may differ greatly than that same part number installed on land. Rather than training your sales team to know those differences it would be more efficient to simply ask a question — “Where will this product be implemented?” — and then build rules to guide the user to the correct parts and accessories. Using selection defaults based on this single question also reduces configuration time by automatically choosing the right options.

2. Usage Attributes: Knowing intended usage can help ensure that the delivered product is not over- or under-engineered for the implementation. Asking if a product would be used “24 hours a day,” “one daily shift,” or “three times a week,” would help in the creation of rules to guide selection of the right solution from a family of products ensuring customer satisfaction with the delivered result.

3. Weather and Climate: Products often react differently to extreme cold or high elevations. Alternate energy sources like fuel cells and battery packs may need heaters for best performance in cold climates. Asking leading questions like, “What is the average winter temperature?” can help ensure maximum performance of the product and reduce disappointed customers. Better still would be to capture a postal code, perhaps from a CRM, and then access data from a weather service API.


4. Rules and Regulations: State and federal laws, rules and regulations often dictate what products and accessories are required. For example, a bus may require wheelchair accessibility and bike racks if funded by a government agency. Building these rules into your sales configurator reduces mistakes, makes you a trusted advisor, and increases retention.

5. ESG: Can you quickly identify your greenest product configuration? Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is a consideration in today’s sales environment. Your products need to meet these wants and needs, and so does your sales configurator.

6. CRM: Customers often order the same products over and over. By using CRM data in your configurator, you can set defaults to simplify sales orders.

7. Tribal Knowledge: Sales teams often know from experience which products work in which environments. Ask your current sales team what they always ask when creating an order and build that into your configurator. This will reduce training costs and even enable customer self-ordering capability.

Your PLM and ERP systems are ill-equipped at providing for the needs of sales configurators.

By considering some smart leading questions, you can turn your product configuration into a guided selling tool that will speed order quoting, ensure that orders are accurate and that final products satisfy the precise needs of customers.

What are the benefits of a powerful product configurator?