In the second part of a two-part article, Phil Sayers explains how you can manage objectionable clients
In my article in the last edition of Accounting Practice we talked about how to try to avoid price objections from clients by clearly communicating your true value to the client, both as a business and an individual.
Let’s look at another scenario. You’ve completed the annual accounts for a long-standing client and you can see there are obvious issues the client needs to address – and you have ideas about how to do this. You suggest spending time preparing a detailed business plan and they respond positively to the suggestion, until you tell them how much you would charge, at which they point they turn you down.
If a customer objects to your quoted fee, the worst thing to do is to immediately try to justify your charging structure. The fact that you think you need to spend six hours preparing a detailed business plan, and another two hours talking the client through your suggestions, is entirely irrelevant to the client. Instead, start by asking why they feel the price is too high.
If it’s because it is more than they were expecting, take time to explain the true value that they’ll obtain from developing the plan, whether that’s improved profit, reduced stick holdings, improved cash flow or higher pension contributions, etc. Ask them how they would feel if they achieved all of this. If you believe they could generate an extra £50,000 profit, ask them how they’d feel if they achieved that. How does that compare with the added cost of working with you?
Putting your charges into the context of what else the client can achieve as a result of working with you helps them understand your true value to them, both to their business but also to them personally.
If they’re objecting because they’ve been offered a lower price elsewhere, check that they’re actually comparing like for like services, and look for ways in which your service is different (and better for the client) than the competitor’s. Taking time to understand the reasons behind the objection demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in helping the client, and you’re not just seeing them as another source of revenue.
You won’t win every proposal (if you do, then you’re probably underpricing your work), but you can certainly improve your win rates if you help your clients understand your real value to them.
Of course, there are things you can do to help avoid price objections arising in the first place. When you’re talking to potential and existing clients about work they want you to do, don’t dive straight into offering a price. Take the time to explore why they’re considering asking you to undertake the work and, most importantly, understand what personal value they’ll get by working with you. Reinforce how important this is to them by asking them how it will feel if they achieve that value. This helps build a much stronger emotional reason for them to award the work to you.
Then, and only then, should you provide a quotation. This helps them put your price into the context of your value to them.
If, after all of this, the client still objects to your price, then perhaps you should ask yourself if they’re the sort of client you actually want to be working with.
• Phil Sayers is the founder of Proten Sales Development. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07776 203 431 if you or your clients need help selling your services
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