Slowing down the sale with roadblocks

I market capital equipment. But as a marketer, I’m a consumer of B2B services. Software especially. While there are very limited choices about selling equipment, services are infinitely flexible. Here are some examples I’ve been dealing with

  • CRM software has concurrent licenses, which controls the number of logged-in users, but gets less flexible once you get to remote users.
  • Online “cloud” service that is strictly ‘per user’, that causes me to artificially restrict users to the most active on our sales team. 
  • Adobe Creative Suite upgrade that costs nearly as much as our original purchase. And bonus now nearly requires a monthly maintenance fee. 
  • Free Angry Birds app that has clumsy ads instead of trying to get me hooked first, and trying to get me to pay for the app.
  • Software that charges a premium for vague added value, such as phone support. Well, vague value until you need it.
  • Microsoft Office tiering of license value by business or student user, or by number of applications.
  • Being sold on the ‘monthly’ rate when really you want me to subscribe by the year.

You see, the problem is that I can sell one of our units, and the customer can share it with others in the company, let their brother-in-law borrow it, customize it, or let it sit unused.

My biggest problem with buying software/services is that I have to make some decision on value per each user, while I really want to make a decision based on value to the company. Why doesn’t our service techs have access to our ERP or CRM customer database to look up phone numbers and addresses? Because it would cost nearly $1K each. Or why aren’t we using the latest Adobe Suite? Because we aren’t power users at an agency, or folks doing cutting edge design.

Now maybe I’m being cheap. I should just roll that cost in along with the power users for an average value to the company. But wouldn’t it be nicer to spend that $1K on the service tech for something of greater functional value?

For our salespeople the biggest hump to get the customer over is ensuring they have proper utilities and space for our equipment. This can be painful for large or powerful systems, costing as much as the unit itself in some cases. I have no sales process for this, no supporting literature. (I probably should work on this.)

In the same way software salespeople must pull teeth when asking ‘how many users’. How many users I’d like to have the software, or how many will I likely cut it down to. Again, they have no sales process, no way to make it easier. But software could be flexible on licensing and just cut past this roadblock. It would make my life easier and make the sale faster.

Now I know that some roadblocks can be profitable, I’m just saying that they can diminish the value of the product.

A solution to displaying pricing on my website

Over a year ago I did a series of posts discussing the value and issues in adding product pricing to your website. Part of the reason I went thru this exercise was to figure out a solution for my particular situation, where posting pricing is not feasible.

And with the database tools of my new site launched earlier this year, I had an opportunity to try something. I realized that pricing on a website serves two purposes:

  1. As a real number for budgeting and purchasing.
  2. As a measure of value, to compare to other models.

In my posts, I had suggested pricing barometers as a way of addressing #2 when #1 was impossible to address, as in my case. So now I had to follow my own advice, but how…

I realized that comparison to other brands was just one problem, but comparison between my models was a problem I could solve. With two product categories of almost 20 models, and one with over 75, helping the visitor distinguish between my models was already a priority. I had already implemented side-by-side comparison for my largest product categories shortly after launching the site to make things much easier for the user.

And on the comparison page is where it makes the most sense to show a price barometer, so you can compare value along with specifications. So, here’s what I created: a ‘Price Rank’ category to the product specification table. This rank is a simple numeric ranking of base price for that product category. It looks like this:

“Price Rank” (Comparing to other models in this product category. Lower Number = Lower Price): #11 out of 18 ranked

This information is displayed on the product-detail page and on the comparison page. I was really happy when I got this implemented because it seemed very clear. My fear was that the ranking would need a detailed explanation or would be easy to mis-interpret.

And this helps my primary goal for shoppers on my site: to get them to say ‘cool, this looks like the model I need for my application’, and then submit a quote request.

(Pats self on back … and Mike Boyink for his help in implementing.)