Support Inside Sales With B2B E-store Key Account Functions

May 4, 2011 by Craig Vodnik.

This is the third in a three-part series explaining how companies selling software to businesses (B2B) should leverage their eStore infrastructure across multiple customer touch points.

In the first post in this series, we discussed the idea of allowing B2B customers to buy direct online, which B2B companies have been reluctant to do because of the high prices of their products.  The second blog post focused on leveraging an eStore’s functionality to enable resellers to buy on their own time and with customized discounts.  In this third post, we show you how an eStore, rather than competing with your inside sales team, can increase their efficiency and feed leads to your inside sales team.  Didn’t think that was possible?

Symantec Purchase Options

Symantec Purchase Options

If you followed the lead of our first blog post in this series, you would likely allow direct sales via your eStore.  However, there’s a certain point in your business, whether it’s two, 10 or 50 license volumes, when you want to build a relationship with the customer who is buying a quantity that large.  In the previous model where no direct online selling was possible, companies requested that every potential customer contact your company to make a purchase.

That was inefficient because even the person who knows exactly what they wanted and was ready to buy had to have a one-to-one conversation that could only occur when both sides were ready to make the transaction.  With direct online selling, customers can serve themselves, which could swing the balance the other direction so that you almost never interact with your potential customers.  Customers who buy in volume or repeatedly are your most valuable customers since the average revenue per customer is more than the value of one license.  Therefore, you probably want to interact with these customers and start building a relationship.

The way to segment one-time customers from the volume-buying customers is to offer instant purchase pricing on your website for some volume levels, but require that customers who want larger volumes contact your inside sales team for pricing.

NitroPDF Volume Licensing Option

NitroPDF Volume Licensing Option

NitroPDF, a maker of PDF reading and writing software, follows this model fairly closely on their website.  When you decide that you want to buy NitroPDF Professional product, an option is available for the “Volume Licensing Program” (shown at the right), which offers discounts for as few as 11 licenses.  Unfortunately, it’s not clear that volumes of 11 or more receive special treatment unless you click on the “Volume Licensing” button.

On the “Volume Licensing Program” page, potential customers are encouraged to “Request a Quote” or to contact NitroPDF immediately.  This drives inbound sales inquiries to the Nitro team to handle immediate orders and begin building long-term relationships.

Once a relationship has been built with a customer and there’s a chance that the customer will buy additional licenses in the future, the inside sales person can create a user account for that customer.  This user account, called a key account, allows the customer to return to the store in the future and buy at a discounted rate, much like the resellers we mentioned in the previous blog post.  Companies can configure special pricing, pre-approve purchase orders and credit inside sales for orders submitted through the key account process.  The key account feature also benefits customers:

  • Timeliness – Volume purchasers want to order on their schedule, not necessarily only when your office is open.
  • Experience – Most volume purchasers are knowledgeable and don’t need to speak with your channel manager each time before placing an order.
  • Payment methods – Traditional purchase orders, price quotes and VAT-waived processes are supported online.
  • Credit limits – Buying on pre-approved credit limits reduces order friction.

Similarly, companies receive benefits by creating these self-service accounts for their high-volume buyers.  The ability for an inside sales team to manage a larger pool of volume license buyers in bulk increases the efficiency of the team.  Tracking buyers so that the appropriate inside sales person receives credit is also important in this model.  Because there are additional costs for running transactions through your eStore, be sure to adjust commissions received for these transactions.

Taking a look at Computer Associates volume licensing options, their cutoff point for customers to buy direct online is 2,500 licenses.

Computer Associates Volume Pricing Model

Computer Associates Volume Pricing Model

The problem here is two-fold:

  1. How many small and medium sized businesses do you know that can afford up to $43,000 worth of software?  That’s how much 2,499 licenses at $17.60 each costs.  Wouldn’t it be better to draw the line lower and have people call in if their order is over $20,000?  Of course, each company should decide where the line to order online or call in is.
  2. There is no option for someone who wants to buy more than 2,500 licenses.  The e-mail address and/or phone number of the inside sales team should be available on this page.

Symantec does a decent job of identifying the options available and drawing the line at 1,000 units:

Symantec Volume Licensing

Symantec Volume Licensing

However, as you probably noticed, the total cost is $1.162 million.  Why even make that available online?  If I were Symantec, I would want to talk to any customer thinking about spending more than $100,000 to ensure that they are getting the right product.  Also, once the right product is found, how about setting up a key account for that customer?

There’s a common thread throughout this series on how the eStore helps B2B companies sell their products online: self-service.  Make your customers fell comfortable spending larger amounts online, then get out of their way and let them do it!  It benefits your business in two important ways:

  1. Allows sales to occur even when your sales organization isn’t available
  2. Increases efficiency by moving some of your sales to a no-touch model

I welcome your feedback on this series and would love to hear if I’ve missed anything in how your business leverages a B2B eStore.

KEYSTONE: Create an eStore account for your large-volume buyers to allow buying to occur even when your office is closed.

Leave a Reply