We charge a monthly fee for customers to use our service. On the sign-up form the calculation for this fee is done and the cost is shown to the customer. They can then complete the billing info and submit the form to start their subscription.
Quite often we have to also charge a consulting fee to help the customer get started. This fee can vary a lot and there isn't really a way to calculate it. Typically the sales person works with implementers and developers to come up with a quote. How would you handle charging this fee? We want to try and automate it as much as possible to eliminate hurdles in the process.
Should we give the customer a quote and have them agree via e-mail to the charge, then manually charge their credit card? I think it would be better if they performed this transaction themselves.
The sales person could fill in the form with the consulting fee and send the customer a link to the form to fill in. Then the customer sees the form with the consulting fee on it, completes the billing information and submits it.
Do you know of a better way to handle this?
I have a similar business model. Our sales people have to work with the developers to come up with a fair price and get the customer to agree.
What we do: Break that "consulting fee" (or "implementation fee") over some span of time (the service contract or 6 to 12 months <-- this is a negotiation variable) and add it to their monthly bill (which is auto-billed on their credit card).
Long story short: Have them agree to the "consulting fee" via email and add it to their monthly credit card.
How about a token / credit system. If your selling man hours pick a hourly rate that will compensate you for the time spent. Make sure to consider rate of the employee, desk cost (how much it costs to operate a desk if one is needed), other external costs, and of course some profit. Then allow your SaaS clients to purchase tokens that entitles them to a certain amount of hours of consulting. Also add in a minimum token purchase for consulting, lets say one token is equivalent to one unit of time ( 1 hour) and the minimum is one token. But with the token system it disconnects time a bit so your customers don't get upset that they've paid the same amount of money for 15 minutes or 1 hour of your time , it can also encourage small questions to be bundled into one big questions so they can get more for their money.
You can provide a discount and variable rates for high purchases of tokens. Remember this is pre-purchasing consulting which is good for you , you get paid first , rare in consulting business.
Try to track how many tokens are spent on what problems so you can then provide case studies and example quotes to your clients.
Finally yes you should probably have the ability to have sales staff quote/ estimate the token amounts.
You can provide token packages for people willing to pay higher monthly fee's on your SaaS as encouragement to buy larger plans.
Just spit balling... comment if you want to discuss a bit farther.