Discussing ‘prices’ puts you on edge, but here’s why it shouldn’t

June 30th, 2021 by Practice Ignition Team 5 minutes read

When you shop at the grocery, you can see the price of the apples, posted right there on the bin. No one is having that awkward conversation with the store owner about their cost. What’s posted is what you get charged when the cashier rings up the items.

But in the accounting and bookkeeping industry, pricing feels a bit more fuzzy.

“It’s not that you’re hiding anything from your clients, but their needs will vary,” says Joshua Lance, Practice Ignition’s (PI) U.S. Head of Accounting and Founder/Managing Director of Lance CPA Group. “Some will require basic services while others have more complex needs, the layers of detail going deep.”

That means, invariably, you’ll have to talk pricing, which - if you’re like most professionals in your field - is not your favorite conversation to have. After all, you didn’t get into accounting to “sell” to people. You got into it to help people with their financials. You love it. But talking about your rates? Justifying your costs? These and a whole host of cost-related conversations often feel icky, even tough for us all.

Good news: There’s an upside - these awkward convos need not be awkward at all. In fact, you can communicate pricing without pushing your comfort zone. Here’s how:

1. Set the price before you do the work

This starts with knowing the quantitative costs and the qualitative costs of your services, assigning a price to them all. The quantitative costs are easy to measure by the hour on your end, but the qualitative costs need to be measured according to the ROI these benefits provide now and hopefully years down the road. For example, if you’re providing clients with expertise about cloud-based accounting, coaching them on setup and application, and saving them hours of self-instruction, there’s a price-tag that comes with that! Beyond the realm of usual accounting services, such services provide major, lifelong value, so don’t overlook their worth by underpricing or giving them away for free.

2. Invoice clients on a fixed-fee basis

Many cloud-based accountants and bookkeepers are moving away from the traditional model of pricing toward a fixed-fee or “value-based” structure. This means offering several levels of graduated pricing for a set menu of services, allowing for additional customization if needed.

Why is it such a great alternative to traditional, hourly invoicing? For starters, it’s a super simple way to communicate your offerings and costs. It can be seen right on your website or, as an alternative, through an emailed pdf. But fixed-fee pricing also makes solid business sense because it goes hand-in-hand with another: automatic invoicing and electronic payments. With this solution, you’ll rarely, if ever, have to talk about pricing again. No more haggling over invoice details. No more hunting clients down to pay up. Through PI’s recurring billing, invoices happen electronically, payments send via direct deposit.

3. Professionalize your sales process

When you approach your clients to talk pricing, where do you start? Hopefully, not with your prices! Why? Because that’s one of the fastest ways to lose the right kind of clients.

Instead, start with “discovery” or a needs analysis. This can be done initially through a basic questionnaire determining whether a prospective client is a good fit for your biz.

For example, says Lance, “If they use a particular type of software that your practice doesn’t use, that’s probably not a good fit. Also, if the client is asking upfront about your prices, not concerned about your value, that’s another red flag. These are the types of things that can be quickly, easily fielded at the start.”

The sales process typically includes elements like: connecting via video call for a deeper needs analysis; your presentation of offerings and the benefits of choosing you; and a customized proposal through PI - the first step in inducting your client into a cloud-based business model and where the pricing finally comes in.

Keep in mind, this is an example sales process. It may not be best for you. But the point is, just have a solid process. Define, formalize, embrace, use and stick to it!

4. Build a trustworthy experience

Building client trust is all about building healthy relationships. And while that takes time, a great tool for building relationships is through customer journey-mapping, which communicates to customers what to expect and how they’ll be taken care of throughout their total experience of working with you.

“Journey-mapping gives you a way to explain your value to a client,” Lance says. “As they grasp the process and you show them upfront how you’ll help with their pain points, the connection around this transparency, understanding and problem-solving helps build relationships and, eventually, trust.”

Part of sustaining that excellent experience is exploring ways to improve it. Consider a Net Promoter Score feedback assessment or quarterly check-ins to discuss what’s working and what’s not, Lance recommends. Such follow-up enables his practice to make adjustments, nurture the relationship, and sustain critical trust.

5. See your practice like a real business

Do you ever find yourself thinking you’re less like a real business owner, more like a contract worker, just managing a bunch of different clients? If yes, watch out! This thinking is a common trap in our industry.

Truth is, you’re an expert in your field and the boss of an established business, not just a skilled contract for hire. Owning that fact and adopting that mindset changes everything, most importantly how you reflect your value and how your clients perceive your value. If clients easily grasp your worth, they’ll have no problem paying for it. Talking about prices will be a nonissue - no longer a hoop to jump through or hurdle to overcome. You’ll find it’s easy to ask the price that’s best for your business - and never feel awkward about discussing it again.

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