Leverage Up The Value Ladder

By, Troy A. Waugh, CPA MBA

The value ladder is a way of looking at the way clients receive value from our services. Our clients view services at the bottom of the ladder as commodities. Commodities are bought and sold by the pound, at the lowest possible price. At the bottom of the value ladder, commodity services are price competitive. You will have many competitors at the bottom of the ladder. As you begin to move up this imaginary ladder, client’s price resistance will diminish. For example, paint can be a commodity. But we paid more to have a quality paint used in our new home last year. Rung number one up the ladder from a commodity is quality commodity.

As we move one rung at a time up the value ladder, price resistance wanes slowly. But neither you nor your client may be willing to pay a 300% premium to obtain a quality commodity. You might pay a 10% or slightly greater premium for a quality product.

Moving to the top of the ladder quickly, clients view our services that have an impact on their organization as having almost no price resistance. Operating at the top of the value ladder requires you to use leverage in your services delivery. In order to achieve leverage and climb the value ladder, here are some keys to help you be more successful:

 

  1. Select projects that will have a high-degree of success. For example, last year in working with a partner group to jump-start the firm’s growth, we had a choice for me to work with two partners who needed a lot of intense help or two who were leaders. Since this was a newer client, I chose the two leaders because I knew their early success would encourage others that they too could succeed.

     

  2. Focus on working yourself out of a job. When you focus your services on making your client self-sufficient, you empower their employees to perform to commodity level work, while you focus at the top of the value ladder. You must work with you client to overcome the myth that only experts can do the job and you must help the client’ personnel to be more effective and efficient with their time.

     

  3. Coach your clients to see the value of you working at the top of the value ladder. Explaining the value ladder concept to your clients will help you communicate the power of this formula.

     

  4. Work personally with senior management and in groups with others. Senior management has the most influence within the organization for advancing your services or project. You must allocate the bulk of your time on the people who have major responsibility for producing results. Rather than work individually with lower level personnel, you should structure group meetings and workshops to help them progress.

     

  5. Train others within the organization to do your job when you aren’t present. We work with many marketing directors and coordinators to keep the momentum of our work progressing when we aren’t present. These directors carry on our work after we are gone and they are able to multiply the client’s return on their consulting investment.

Working at the top of the value ladder is a good way to improve your client’s profits and your profits from the services you provide. Moving up the ladder will require you the think and act differently.


An innovator of dynamic marketing systems, Troy has more than 30 years of experience in marketing professional services. In 1991, he founded Waugh&CO to serve the accounting profession.

Troy draws on his experience as the National Sales Manager for a major investment firm, the CEO of a publishing company and a manager with Price Waterhouse. Recognized as an industry leader, Troy has impacted clients around the world with his dynamic programs.

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