“Contact sales for pricing”

There’s that phrase I hate, and I’ve got this really hot take about it: it’s all over the internet these days, and I hate it. “But why, Slade? What’s so wrong with it,” you ask. Well, it’s a barrier to entry for your customers. The more hoops you add between you and your customers, the less likely they are to purchase your product. If you obfuscate your pricing, more would rather walk away than talk to you. In most cases, they have a budget in mind and are just looking for the fastest and most cost-effective solution. They don’t have time, nor want, to talk.

I’ve run into this a few times in my short time doing freelancing since I graduated high school. Back when I was first doing email for my domain, I shopped around for more “enterprise-y” solutions for email–including hosting on my own servers–because I didn’t want to “just get Gmail.” I ended up doing just that because of all this “contact sales for pricing” bullshit scattered across the internet.

There are times where, of course, it makes sense to put a human on the other end of the line. More recently, when I was shopping around for an organization to work with in the D.C. area to move my servers from Albany, NY, to Washington, D.C., I had a strict set of requirements that “required” me to talk to someone. I went back and forth for months. The funny thing is that I didn’t even have to negotiate pricing–that was a flat rate that I thought was fair–but I had to give them all this really detailed information over email before even having the OPPORTUNITY to utilize their services.

They needed to know what I needed, how I needed it done, and frankly all of those things could have just been done in a sign-up flow. I wasted hours of people’s time (including my own) giving them this information that they could have gotten quicker if there was just a quick questionnaire to fill out. (Even funnier: the day I signed the contract, I was in D.C. I could’ve just stopped by their office and did everything there, it was that tedious. )

Why was any of that grunt work and back-and-forth even necessary, anyway?

Companies that insist on doing all this grunt work to hinder customers from buying their products will always baffle me. 37signals semi-recently launched Campfire, a service you buy one time and host yourself. They don’t require this song and dance with an “Account Manager” or “Representative” or some other god damn person to buy any products or services from them–you just fill out your information and you’re done. If a company their size can do this in the tech industry efficiently with next to no one babysitting sign-ups, anyone can.

The fact of the matter is, your “Accounts” staff are better off spending their limited time dealing with new and existing customers, not “potential” customers that you have to screen in. Until Congress or other legislative bodies step in and end this really awful practice of hiding products behind this “Contact sales for pricing” bullshit, it will continue. I think that’s stupid. Be transparent, offer a public-facing form to fill out that generates a quote and/or put your pricing on the internet.

Or just be content with losing customers. You do you, I guess. But my advice is to stop wasting everyone’s time.