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The Buying Journey: What this means for how you set your fees in your small accountancy firm

by Feb 19, 2020Pricing, Putting up your fees

Pricing services and how to increase client fees is a sensitive topic for accountants who run growing firms. In the following video, I explain the buying process that our clients go through and how to make the best use of it to be able to increase your fees and accurately price your services without much resistance.


A hot topic for every accountant who runs a small firm I’ve come across is how to raise your fees, how to put your fees up. So in this section, I’m going to talk about the process, the buying journey that people go through, and what this means for how you set your fees.

So first and foremost, people always start in their buying journey, and this is based on the work by Neil Rackham. He has been selling fame and research he did in the 70s about what it is that helps people buy and people start in the first stage, status quo, everything’s fine in my world. At that point they’re not thinking about wanting a new accountant, their current accountant is delivering, everything’s great for them. But we move in a fast-moving world, and very few people are ever in “everything is fine in my world”, they’re often in “I have a problem, I have a need”.

Now, think about it. Think about something that maybe is not quite right in your accountancy firm. What are you doing about it? At this stage you’re researching, you’re looking for stuff. Now they might be a very conscious search. It might be, should we say a little bit more of a, a subconscious search, that you are primed and looking for this information. But you’re going to be looking at the internet; you’re going to be asking for recommendations. What you are going to be doing at this point is trying to answer the question of do I need to worry about this? Can I safely ignore it?

Let’s think about this in an accountancy context. This might be where you’re worrying something about maybe your cash flow, but your accountant’s not in getting back to you. It might be actually that you’ve not even involved your accountant yet, and you’re just concerned a little bit about your cash flow, maybe you’ve had a bit of bad debt, and so you start looking about how do I get that money back.

Then what happens is you generally then realize what you’re going to do. So when I say what I mean, your outcome, this is when you get to define your outcome. Now at this point, you haven’t decided how you’re going to get from a to B, but you know what B is. So let’s take somebody that’s maybe thinking they’ve got a bad debt coming. At that point, they realize they need to do something about it, but they don’t know how to approach it. At this point, they are still going to be asking questions; they’re going to start researching but with a different tack to what before. They’re going to be very “how-to”, what’s the implication of bad debt? Can I take them to the Small Claims Court? Should I talk to my accountant about this? What can my accountant do about it? And they’re going to be in that stage.

Now, this is the stage where they are going to start to approach suppliers. Now, if they’re a current client of yours, then hopefully, you’ve been having this conversation way back when they’re in problems and needs because you’ve been having a regular dialogue with them, so you know what’s going on. Or maybe you picked it up in a health check when you just rang them up and said, you’ve got a very long-term debt here. Are they going to pay? And so what happens is people when they’re choosing suppliers and solution, they’ll start auditioning suppliers, and they’ll start getting, talking to them about a solution. They’ll be asking the question of are they a good fit? will they deliver value? And do I think they could do the work?

Then, what’s going to happen is they’re going to decide to buy. Now let’s look at this in the context of pricing and also your sales process. So the first thing is one of the key questions that people have in that once they go into the “I know the outcome” phase (say, changing accountants), is they’re going to want to know how much it costs. They’re going to want to know what it’s like to work with you. So they’re going to go on your website. Now, if your website does not put an indication of fees, maybe doesn’t put the team members and posts pro photos and starts to build that emotional connection, they might go elsewhere. And I know when we’ve run webinars, and we polled accountants convincing me over 90% of people have said: “if there is no idea of the price on the website, they will just go and find another supplier”. They won’t even approach you. I know there’s a lot of people that they say: “Well if you don’t have your fees on it, you won’t frighten people away”.

You won’t get the good people anyway. You know, that’s a reality.

I think we kid ourselves that we great salespeople that we can take somebody who’s got a budget of 50 quid a month and upsell them to 500 quid a month. We can rarely do that because of what’s going on in our brains.

So your website is taking the place of that first business development meeting, and they’re going to be on it whether they’re an existing client or a new client. So you want to mention and talk about the services that you offer. You want to have, remember they’re thinking about can they do it? Are they a good fit? Do they deliver value? Well, you want to have some recommendations, you want to have some case studies, and all of these are going to help people move through their buying journey with you, but also then buy from you.

So let’s recap on those stages of the buying journey:

  1. “Everything’s fine in my world.”
  2. “I have a problem, a need”
  3. “I’ve got an itch; I need to scratch”.
  4. “I’ve decided on my outcome”.
  5. “I’m now choosing suppliers and final solutions”,
  6. “I’m buying.”

When you know that buying journey, it becomes easier for both the messages, but also for how you price.

Need to get to grips with your firm's pricing? And want to read the first 4 chapters of "Profitable Pricing For Accountants" for free? Then click here to download the 1st 4 chapters (email required)

Have a look at these articles for more help to increase your client fees:

  1. When should you email, write, call or meet your client to successfully raise their fees
  2. A 4 Step Process to Raising Your Accounting Fees Without Losing Clients
  3. 3 Ways to Train Your Accountancy Firm Clients to Expect Regular Fee Increases