Archive for the ‘Quote Software’ Category

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Avoiding ‘Tax on Use’ in CPQ Billing

October 9, 2018


Lots of channelcentral’s competitors use a Software Licensing billing methodology: cost per seat usually. Some bill based on utilization: the more you use the tool, the more you pay. It’s proportionate. It’s fair. It’s also madness; here’s why:

• Customers don’t like variable costs, at all.
• If you, or your customer, is trying to promote the use of CPQ tools versus manual ways to provide quotations to customers then why tax on use?
• Does adding a customer, or processing a quote, cost a CPQ Company anything?
• Win/Win billing systems (e.g. taking a commission from orders) quickly turn into Lose/Win or Win/Lose.

From the outset channelcentral set out to avoid ‘Tax on Use’. An annual subscription covers the cost of the service and includes the license, hosting, support and IT integration services. It includes unlimited utilization by Employees and Customers. Those subscribers know exactly what they were going to pay for the contracted term. Customers like predictable costs.

The more the customer uses the CPQ Application the lower the cost per quote or transaction. If channelcentral improves the functionality of the CPQ Application, resulting in better results or greater utilization – the subscriber is getting ‘More for the Same’.

On a similar thread some of our competitors have different costs for different feature sets. This is a stealth tax – demanding higher costs for features that already exist and don’t really cost more to add. Having a fully inclusive service for a customer adds to the subscription feel and generates greater goodwill and loyalty.

channelcentral’s experience is that its subscription model promotes higher utilization and delivers better results, with less complexity than models that tax on use.

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Auto-Add: Friend or Foe

October 4, 2018

A common technique in Configure Price Quote systems is to automatically add something to the Shopping Cart once a ‘parent system’ is loaded by the user. Unless the Manufacturer mandates the addition it can easily be removed or displaced. Question is: if the software, hardware or service is not mandatory why add it in the first place? Common answers:

1. It’s recommended by the Manufacturer or Channel Partner.
2. You’re probably going to add it anyway.
3. People are forgetful.

The real answer though is: it delivers significant improvement in ‘pitch rate’ and this ultimately leads to an improvement in ‘attach rate’. Pitch being what is quoted, Attach being what is sold. channelcentral has seen up to 100% increases in pitch rates with Auto Add. Yes it’s a blunt instrument but hey.

Friend or foe? It’s about making the recommendations relevant and appropriate. If you are trying to attach a $2,000 service to a $500 System Unit it will most likely end in ‘serial deselection’ by users and a few complaints to boot. If you are adding several items to the Shopping Cart the user will be confused and abandon.

Get it right and you’ll see numbers improve, get it wrong and utilization could suffer. Better still analyse deselections and what products are commonly used to displace the auto-add. Continuous improvement. Make it easy to remove but make it as easy to add an alternative product (use Top Recommended Options or Product Sub-Filters to help the user).

Auto-add: friend if done right, foe if not.

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SEVEN Dysfunctional User Experiences Buying Services Online

September 25, 2018

If you’re selling services as an attach to IT products, you need to make it as easy as possible. Users will have searched, researched and selected a product, but without a service the user may be reliant on basic warranty that rarely matches the need or product lifecycle.

So when you’re purchasing that product it’s absolutely essential that attaching a service, potentially from a large list of services, is obvious, easy, intuitive, appropriate. It’s a shame that’s rarely the case and here are the main eCommerce blunders that users often experience:

1. Duo: a site is so poorly structured or has terrible data management that you have to buy the product, then circle back to find a service (often from a different web site), buy it as a separate journey, often to the same basket. And if you get it wrong…

2. Mashup: when looking for a service you have to trawl through all of the hardware accessories and software add-ons to find services.

3. Bookworm: there are so many services offered that you are reading dozens of part descriptions trying to decode them and select the best one for your budget.

4. TLA: product descriptions that use so many proprietary acronyms that part of your buying experience is Googling acronyms.

5. Shapeless: random parts in random order with no element of what the Manufacturer or Retailer would recommend.

6. Tumbleweed: literally nothing compatible is shown at all.

7. Cat Food: sites that use “Big Data” often offer items as complementary that are totally irrelevant. Cat food with your Laptop?

CPQ Applications or CPQ Data Services can fix this. Compatibility, recommendations, plain English filters, acronym ‘expanders’, consistent descriptions even through to Device as a Service plans. No more Cat Food.

Attaching services to products is a huge market opportunity for Manufacturers and Channel Partners. Very simple actions can drive major advances in user experience and ultimately Sales.

Click here for channelcentral CPQ Services

Click here for channelcentral boost! Data Services

 

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HP Market Pro goes Worldwide

July 2, 2018

channelcentral.net is pleased to introduce HP Market Pro! HP Market Pro is the new Channel quotation tool for HP. Worldwide Distributors and Resellers of HP products are able to benefit from using HP Market Pro to create quotes and in turn work more efficiently, quote more accurately, increase deal sizes and operate a Device as a Service (DaaS) business model.

HP Market Pro has been developed from the ground-up to be closely aligned with the HP product set and give Channel users the ultimate opportunity to grow their HP business with ease.

Some of the key benefits are:

  • Intuitive, simple user interface for Channel Partners and End Users
  • Multi-Language user interface
  • Reduce quote turnaround time – get quotes instantly
  • View recent quote activity with price change alerts on the homepage
  • Automatic validation checks to ensure quote accuracy
  • Step-by-step guided user journey maximizes ease of use
  • Real-time price availability
  • Built for use with DaaS to assist with buying and selling technology.

This fantastic new tool has replaced the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote service for HP Inc. users. Current users of the iQuote tool moved over to HP Market Pro throughout June and feedback so far is really positive. Users are able to use the tool without any prior training and start maximizing their HP business opportunities.

HP Market Pro is available to all authorised resellers of HP products. If you want to benefit from this fantastic new tool, then contact channelcentral.net and we’ll talk you through the requirements and get you set-up and growing your HP Business in no time.

Watch the product video to see HP Market Pro in action and for more information visit www.channelcentral.net/hpmarketpro

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HPE Delegates given a boost in Vegas!

June 26, 2018

Representatives from the Global IT Channel gathered in Las Vegas last week for the HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit events. As always it was an incredibly busy week as the industry’s elite networked and strategized!

channelcentral, a regular sponsor of the event and developers of the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote Software used by Distribution Worldwide, had something new to show this year. As delegates made their way through the transformation zone they were presented with an absolute game-changing service for their industry. The service is called boost! and attendees of this year’s event were fortunate to be amongst the very first to have a preview.

boost! is a Data Service that drives attach sales and shapes customer demand to improve your customers’ eCommerce experience. Imagine a typical webstore where you’re offered an additional product that has nothing to do with what you’re ordering, or even if it does, how do you know it is compatible? Then imagine a webstore with boost! offered as a Web Service and a pre-selected set of compatible options that are known to work together with the pre-installed features of the base product, across multiple categories. Enabling faster, high-confidence decision-making for technical products.

It’s more exciting than it perhaps sounds. boost! is fixing a known weakness in eCommerce that organizations have been unable to resolve. Using artificial intelligence, boost! will transform the way your customers’ can buy technical products from you, freeing up your pre-sales team to hunt down those big deals!

The feedback from delegates at HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit was unbelievable. Every delegate that was fortunate enough to have a demonstration wanted it in their webstore. Rack Simply, are a Partner based in the US, and are the first in the World to have boost! live in their webstore. Here’s what they had to say:

“boost! drastically improved the customer experience for Rack Simply. Before boost!, users were lost in endless accessory options that converted poorly. boost! and the team at channelcentral only recommend the most popular and likely attach options that transitioned Rack Simply from a website, to a seamless configure-price-quote experience.” Dan Mitchell, President, Rack Simply

channelcentral has spotted a gap in the online buying process of technical products: “It is essential that online stores do everything possible to keep customers captive on their own site during the complete buying process. Sites that use boost! can eliminate a common problem associated with selling more complex IT products; the temptation to click away to check compatibility and capacity. Instead, customers can select from options with confidence and visualize slot and bay usage.”
Greg Starks, CSO, channelcentral.net

After feedback at the events last week, channelcentral is excited to get to work on transforming the eCommerce sites of everyone it spoke to. For those that missed out and are wanting to learn more about what boost! can do for your eCommerce sales, please get in touch.

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Future trends in Distribution services – Looking forward in 2018 & beyond

February 28, 2018

Having served the IT Channel for a decade and working with Manufacturers, Distributors and Resellers in over 60 Countries, channelcentral is well placed to observe Channel movements and trends. We recently contributed to the IT Europa Channel Predictions report, so we thought we’d share what we had to say:

Traditional IT buying and selling motions are under pressure to evolve.  Our Chief Strategy Officer, Greg Starks, believes that, “The lines between traditional upfront selling and Device-As-A-Service/Software-As-A-Service will continue to blur. The channel [distribution] will offer hybrid financing that address selling upfront + As-A-Service together. This will allow partners and customers to visualize packaged As-A-Service offerings alongside financed custom solutions as a comprehensive OpEx payment timeline.” We hear manufacturers talking about Device-As-A-Service every week. We recognize the role that distribution now plays in the ‘As a Service’ IT procurement model and partners who engage closely with distribution will be more successful.

As-A-Service offerings will increasingly be seen as a way of ‘locking customers in’ and earning their loyalty.  Everything that is offered ‘As-A-Service’ needs to be validated, yet you still want to give your customers choice and not be too prescriptive. Packaging/bundling up an ever-wider number of products, whilst managing your customers’ journey and still offering them choice, will create a need for more sophisticated eCommerce sites that have integrated Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software. Without this, the management of these offerings is extremely resource intensive. Traditionally, distributors have had to assist customers with their hardware configurations or ask them to click out to hosted CPQ software.

There is still a time and a place for this level of complexity but we will be seeing a shift in the market. Already, hosted CPQ Software has an ever-growing number of attach options to fulfil the ‘As-A-Service’ model but what if Partners can leverage their offerings even more easily than that? Greg Starks, thinks that “Manufacturers and Distributors will invest in point solutions to bring just enough CPQ Software into self-service IT buying. Beyond just configuration, tools that help to shape demand toward the high-confidence products that can be delivered immediately.” These are likely to be served as ‘plug-ins’ to eCommerce systems with full basket integration.

As distribution advances its capability to aggregate their breadth of suppliers into packaged “As-A-Service” offerings, smart Partners can take new, more appealing sales propositions to their customers. In the Noughties End Users would reach out to their resellers when they had CapEx available to spend on a specific project. If a Reseller won a €2m deal one year they’d be expected to win one next year and the year after. How do you resource that? Fast forward to now and that’s now OpEx spread over several years.
As-a-Service is not just about predictability of revenue and removing barriers to driving new IT projects there are other advantages including:

1. Partners become strategic to their End User as they sign long-term contracts to provide IT Cloud or Infrastructure projects based on a Managed Service.

2. Distributors now represent hardware, software, services, finance and cloud vendors making the choice of solutions near infinite. Partners can guide end users to truly optimized solutions.

3. Partners (usually) bill the customer monthly and that’s a good thing – consistent interaction with a customer gives Sales opportunities to engage, seek feedback on the effectiveness of the solution and identify new opportunities.

4. Software-As-A-Service is incredibly easy to audit versus traditional licenses ensuring the End User is compliant but also the sales opportunity is maximized. Businesses without full “license” compliance equals a lost revenue opportunity as well as a risk to their business.

5. Working indexing into contracts means that margin is protected over the term (example would be linking the price to the Retail Price Index or similar).

6. There’s such a great opportunity for partners to differentiate here and that means less price comparison.

7. End-users need help. Yes, commodity resellers sell servers and over time similar companies will use technology to improve that experience, but partners are best placed to recommend solutions.

Do you need help implementing your As-A-Service business model? We can certainly assist. Just contact us for an informal discussion. We’d be glad to offer you advice.

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Signs you need to improve the way you quote customers

January 26, 2018

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For some, if you’re sending out quotes and hitting your targets, that may be enough, but often with our customers, we can find at least one area to improve.

 

 

We have some key questions that we ask to help us find out:

How long are your quotes taking to get out of the door?
If quotes can be made quickly they are more likely to result in sales success. If you’re finding, due to complexity, that your quotations have multiple touch points internally (or even throughout your supply chain), it can cause delays. Or perhaps you’re so busy, your teams’ just haven’t got time to respond to leads efficiently. It might be time to assess how you can shorten the cycle and improve quote conversion rates by 30%*.

Are your sales teams discounting too much?
In anticipation of winning a deal it is quite common to offer large discounts and these are not always feasible or financially viable for the business.  It can be difficult to manage even if staff are told not to go below a threshold. Looking at ways to manage discounting and grow attach rates will help protect profit margins. You could increase monthly quotation values by as much as 40%*!

How are your quotes calculated?
So many people are still using good old-fashioned spreadsheets! However good they are at using them, manual calculations always leave room for mathematical errors and out of date information. Sales Teams should be quoting with real-time information. Moving away from spreadsheets will not only speed up the quotation process but will decrease the chances of human error.

Do you require product specialists or solution architects to help your sales teams quote?
When specialist staff are required to support the sales team this not only increases your overheads but delays your quotation cycle. If you’re selling complex products it is impossible to expect your sales team to know the technicalities and compatibility of what might be thousands of products, but there is a more efficient way of supporting them.  You could reduce workload by as much as 50%*.

Is your customer service team spending too much time rectifying orders and managing returns? What if they could be using that time offering courtesy calls and managing customer satisfaction instead? If quotations are accurate and 100% validated every time, not only does it speed up the sales cycle but it can reduce the number of enquiries/complaints and reduce the impact of managing costly returns by 4.9%*!

Are customers waiting too long for delivery?
This might be because they are accepting quotations for products that are out of stock. If stock was transparent then an alternative solution could be found and delivery made quickly.

Is your customer base growing more quickly than your sales team?
Not a bad problem to have, but you will lose business if you can’t respond to all your leads. Harder still, when those leads are coming in from other countries with language and currency barriers. What if you could remove these barriers to entry and operate in any market where there is business?

After this quick assessment, there is a strong chance that at least one of these areas for improvement is an on-going issue in your business. So rather than just carrying on doing things the way they have always been done, let’s try and fix it.

Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Software is designed to:

•    Reduce sales cycles
•    Protect profit margins
•    Ensure accuracy with built-in validation
•    Be your product expert
•    Provide real-time information including stock and pricing
•    Operate in multiple languages and currencies

And much more beyond!

CPQ Software can be offered as standalone or integrated within webstores either as a plug-in or a single web service call, enabling customers to self-serve and manage their own complex quotations.

If you think it is time to improve the way you quote your customers then get in touch, for an informal discussion or download our whitepaper on Increasing Revenue and Reducing Workload to learn more.

*Source Data: HP and Westcoast Case Study “Westcoast empowers resellers with quotation tool”