By Hitendra Patil
Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant
You cannot prove your value to your clients (and prospects).
You can NOT.
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They need to discover it themselves.
Because value is perceived in their heads.
It is not in your brochures, websites and blog posts. At best, these could be your tools to express what you think is your value. But these things can help your clients get started on the path of discovering your value.
You want them to form the right perceptions about you. You want prospects to go from noun to verb, not the other way around.
Noun: the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something.
Verb: estimate the monetary worth of (something).
Prospects who jump straight to the price mean one of two things:
- They are very smart. They have already done their research of what is the value of your services to them.
- You haven’t done enough to help them discover the true value of your services.
More likely, No. 2 is truer than No. 1 above.
You NEVER want prospects to think value as the verb first. They must move from noun to verb.
Why do businesses, especially small businesses, hire accountants? With technology advances, many of them (think they) can do the accounting themselves.
Most of the time, business owners want to be compliant with tax and other laws – to avoid being on the wrong side the law. It is the fear. When people “have to” do something, they haggle the price. It is only a verb they focus on, not the noun.
On the other hand, growing/ambitious businesses are aware that accounting does not earn them revenue but professionally done accounting can help them grow more profitably, grow faster AND be compliant too. It is in these cases you want to be sure that you help the clients discover the value of your services. That means communication, in addition to, of course, technical and regulatory expertise – and experience.
Notice how the perceived value comes not from “have to” “needs” but from “should do” “wants.”
But most small businesses are driven by needs.
It IS possible to be more profitable despite commoditized price pressures. You want to ensure extreme efficiencies in your technologies and processes to be competitive. Yet, it is possible to step up your value offerings by making the right clients aware of your pain-solving abilities (e.g. cash flow management for businesses that have high receivables) and/or by catering to their aspirations (e.g. putting together a business expansion plan with proper number crunching to help make a solid case for financing). It all needs more attention to each client’s business to come up with what could be that additional value that the client will perceive positively.
How can you explain to help clients discover your value?
It goes a bit deeper than just the value of your services. It is tied to the core values of your clients, as people, as human beings, because we choose our actions based on our core values, our belief systems. People take actions when a choice resonates with their core values. Some clients may be growth-oriented entrepreneurs. Some may have created a business to work in it like a job.
A simple way to learn about clients’ core values is to ask how achieving something or NOT doing something will make them happy or unhappy as a person. You will need to cite several relevant experiences your other clients have had in situations similar to the ones that your prospects have. Prospects and clients relate to experiences more quickly than they understand outcomes you provide.
It is the “benefit of the benefit” that they feel as the experience.
Outcome: We ensure you pay only your fair share of taxes. No more, no less.
Benefit: You are compliant. You are not overpaying.
Benefit of the benefit: You feel assured that you haven't been taken for a ride. You feel peace of mind.
You want prospects to go through the experiences you are promising through your services. That is how they will form perception about the value of your services.
Arguably, the most famous term in the profession is “value pricing.” Ironically, “value” comes first and then comes the “pricing.”
One cannot hope to achieve much if you tell the pricing first and THEN justify the value of that price. Disaster.
Value is a perception in the heads of your clients. You cannot measure it by starting with your services first. It is the other way around.
You want to understand what your client/prospect values, what he/she needs and wants – and then figure out whether your services can deliver that value. Of course you can share what value your services can deliver, but keep checking whether clients/prospects actually value the outcomes.