A Majority of Our Customers Don't Want Value Pricing? | AccountingWEB

A Majority of Our Customers Don't Want Value Pricing?

I received the following email:



Long time ago you answered my Carthage question and with my current company we tried a few times to sell fixed price packages.

Some clients bite it although many ask us to switch to the hourly rate. What I observe is that it's easier (read, they're used to) for the clients to get quotes and compare hourly rates than match and analyze various criteria from different service providers. Sometimes it gets even worse: the client wants an hourly rate but at the same time to cap the SOW [Scope of Work] with the total allowed maximum sum.

That leads to the very same ethical issue when project managers effectively get the red line and mentally the mission to bill the client as close from the bottom to the limit as possible.  I tried to put all the cards on the table: propose the hourly-based project plan, come up with the estimation and then bid with the fixed price which is lower? Surprisingly even in such cases some clients ask for the hourly rate motivating that they can easier pass it through the budgeting group and legal.

I'm ready to accept the hypothesis that we run into the clients that don't understand the value-selling benefits, maybe we don't articulate enough, maybe they don't trust the approach for some reason but certainly in our case such clients are majority in our pipeline.

What do you advise to undertake?

Thanks, [Name Withheld]


Hi [Name Withheld],

I think the last part of your fourth paragraph answers your question.

It's obvious the firm isn't doing an effective job articulating its value proposition--by that I mean, comprehending, communicating, and convincing the customer they must pay for value.

Don't despair, this is common, though not to the level your letter seems to suggest. It's usually a minority of customers, not a majority as you say.

You need to stop talking about hours completely, and just tell your customers you don't price that way. It's unethical.

No client can tell you how to price--that is your decision. Also, your firm doesn't do timesheets or track time. You have better things to have your knowledge workers do--such as add value and provide outstanding customer service to customers. Then what will the customers say who want to see hours? Force you to do timesheets? Then they aren't the right customer.

If you're not willing to do the above, Pricing on Purpose will never become a core competency in your firm. There's simply too much empirical evidence from all the firms out there that customers love this approach. The push back we get is from firms, not customers. I know this for an absolute fact, since I've spent the last four years speaking to customers across all professional firms and they all say the same thing: they want certainty in price, period. It's how they buy everything else.

Do you have people pricing and selling who aren't good at it? Then upgrade their skills or remove them from pricing.

Blaming it on the idea that your customers don't prefer fixed pricing is a cop out and simply doesn't comport to human behavior and the laws of economics.

The only other thing I can think of is your customers do not trust you; and that's not a pricing problem. That's much deeper. I hope this is wrong?

Either you want to do this or you don't. Your customers are not an excuse.

I hope that helps. 

Of course, we welcome the thoughts from other firms that have made the transition from hourly billing to Value Pricing.

This blog

VeraSage Institute is the most revolutionary think tank for professional knowledge firms-we challenge the professions to break free of practice methods that hurt the professions, undermine their purposes, and fail their clients. Among our quests: burying the billable hour and archaic timesheets; pricing on purpose; recognizing that professionals are knowledge workers, not machines; and improving the professions for posterity.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.