A group of accountants walk into a boardroom to present a proposal for a large piece of business — one accountant gives a copy of the proposal to each executive and begins to talk through the proposal. How many executives hear what's next? 

Zero. They all turn to the back of the proposal and look at the price! Unfortunately, this is not a joke. This is exactly what happens to firms throughout the profession.

Understandably, buyers are price-sensitive in the current environment. However, buyers claim that they want value. Clever service providers deliver value, and try to hide the price. Successful service providers openly confront the issue of price and then manage the buyer's value expectations. Successful service providers realize that buyers buy emotionally and justify logically. These "pricing emotions" are a critical part of the sales process. In fact they are especially critical for complex, high-dollar sales. Fundamentally, accounting services requiring proposals fulfill this requirement.

So, how does a winning proposal stand out by managing pricing emotions?

 

LEAD WITH PRICE

The first tactic is to insert the price in the front of the proposal package. This demonstrates confidence, because you lead with the proposal's most sensitive piece. Also, the accountant understands that the buyer is interested in this information and is willing to provide it at the beginning. Most importantly, competitors will likely not have the courage to place the price in front. You have just taken the first step to stand out as the service provider of choice.

Next, embrace the pricing emotions. The first is price resistance, also known as "sticker shock." Yes, your fees seem high, but your presentation immediately details that you are worth it. The proposal still describes the expertise that results from your longstanding reputation as a leader in delivering services that the engagement requires.

The major differentiator in your proposal is the confident acknowledgement that the price seems aggressive, but your unmatched competence is even more valuable. Besides, cheap providers mean cheap quality.

The second emotion is price anxiety - the emotion you feel in a New York taxi when you are stuck in traffic watching the meter run. Buyers fear the possibility of helplessly watching the meter run. To overcome that, simplify the pricing structure in your proposal. A great way to demonstrate your firm's cultural security in delivering great service exactly as you have outlined is with fixed pricing.

Fixed pricing defeats pricing anxiety and allows you to emphasize your superior skills. Just think about the comfort that you experience when you fly to your next destination and the town car has a pre-determined fixed price from the airport to your hotel.

 

NOW WHAT?

The final emotion is payment resistance. Your prospect fears that after you win the business, then what? To overcome this emotion, you answer the "Then what?" question. You describe how you will keep marketing to them. Emphasize that you will communicate proactively during the engagement and demonstrate attentiveness to each need at every opportunity. As a new client, continue to treat them like your hottest prospect.

Furthermore, include in the proposal evidence of extra services that you provide them in addition to the engagement. Who does not want free oil changes for their brand-new $70,000 car? Keep the new client feeling good about their choice.

The last piece is attitude. Before charging your premium price, you must believe that you are worth it. If you don't believe that you are worth more than your billing rate, then your prospect won't either. Some professionals whisper that they put the price on the back of the proposal because they are embarrassed about asking for so much. In your winning proposal, the fees are upfront as a declaration that you believe you are worth your price.

Set your fees to demonstrate that you believe in your value and will exceed it through your services. Place your fees in the front of the proposal. Talk directly to the prospect's pricing emotions. Help them buy emotionally and they will figure out how to justify logically. Then, boldly show your competence and confidence through your proposal. You are worth your price and emotionally engaged buyers are willing to pay it.

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