How long does it take to convert buying interest from a customer (measured when your company creates a price quote) into cash in the door? This question underlies the quote-to-cash (QTC) metric. It captures the interrelationship of the end-to-end sales process – sales, marketing, fulfillment, and collections – in a way that is not visible when looking at individual components. It is a measure of velocity, where a shorter cycle translates into an increased opportunity to remarket to the customer.
QTC also underlies an increasing number of webinars, white papers, and software ads that are filling up my email inbox! All of this prompts three questions:
- Why is QTC coming into focus now?
- How does QTC differ from other cash velocity measures?
- What do FP&A professionals need to know about it?
QTC sounds like a standard financial analysis called the cash conversion cycle, which also seeks to measure the velocity of money through the organization. The cash conversion cycle is defined as:
(days of inventory) + (days of sales outstanding) – (days payable)
Put differently, the cash conversion cycle is the cash available after considering the money tied up in assets – physical inventory or accounts receivable (collections) – versus money going out the door in the form of accounts payable. The shorter the time, the better for the business because it increases your working capital. Some companies can go negative, for example, if they sell software (no inventory), are paid on sale, and can pay their suppliers net 30 days.
How quote-to-cash is different
Quote-to-cash is different in several ways. First, it is distinctly focused on the sell side of the business – inventory and payables are excluded. While definitions may vary slightly, it starts at the beginning of the sales process with the CPQ – configuration of the offer, developing pricing, and creating a quote. From there, it may include negotiation, contract review, financial review, sale, invoicing, and receiving payment. QTC, then, measures the ability to generate revenue.
Second, QTC is both a process as well as a metric. It puts the customer at the center of various internal steps and shepherds that customer to payment. As such, it engenders process redesign and IT solutions. There is a data issue of linking various analyses to a nugget of customer data: billing, order history, customer service calls, or market promotions.
|Common elements in the QTC process||Department impacted|
|Captures order details (price, promotion, payment, quantity, configuration)||Sales|
|Consolidates orders across channels||Marketing|
|Provides a portal for customers to view their order information||Customer service|
|Creates orders||Warehousing / inventory|
|Manages state sales tax||Accounting|
|Integrates with ERP for inventory, booking revenue||Inventory, revenue accounting|
|Maintains customer information||Marketing / CRM|
|Shares information across systems||IT|
|Provides management reporting||Not previously available|
In a B2B setting or a complex contracting business, for example, this might be seen by moving a quote through various levels of approval with workflow automation, improving data accessibility, and even suggesting contract language and financial analysis.
A third difference is the application to e-commerce, especially direct-to-consumer marketing. Sales and marketing activity has become a competition for market share as products become commoditized and physical stores shutter. E-commerce allows for more efficient inventory management due to the combination of digitalization (i.e., music), fewer inventories (i.e., no need to stock individual stores), and finished-goods inventories. Also, e-commerce lives on electronic payments, so the question of collections is largely resolved, excluding fraud.
Focus on the customer
The ascent of QTC and e-commerce also leverages the huge amount of data that companies have on a customer. When a customer visits a website, the company identifies that person and tailors offers and pricing to aid the sale. This helps the customer discover what he or she likes and speeds a buying decision, shortening the QTC cycle.
QTC also links into several other departments and software systems, including state sales tax calculations, order processing, fulfillment, ERPs, and EPMs. By framing the QTC process in terms of customer and internal business data, it becomes a challenge that software vendors can exploit, and that that means opportunity for vendors.
QTC is a relatively new metric that is gaining traction due to the changes in our economy and the substantial marketing dollars propelling the metric, process improvement, and software solutions. Gartner and Forrester already review CPQ software (a subset of QTC), and both note that this part of the market is growing at 20% per year. I am sure that QTC is not far behind.
For more insights on metrics that FP&A professionals need to know, be sure to check out the sessions in the FP&A track at AFP 2019.