“For a long time pricing was a great big mysterious thing. I didn’t understand where the numbers came from.”
If you feel or felt this was then you’re not alone. Pricing is rarely taught, in fact most people don’t even know there are people out there who are experts. Your job, one of them, as a business owner is to demystify pricing so that it’s not so difficult for you to do. Learn what you need to know and figure out how to make it simple for your business.
As I discussed with this episode’s guest understanding value is the key to opening up that mysterious little box you call pricing.
In This Episode
In this Episode I’ll share 3 problems that casting too wide a net for your target customer can cause in I sit down with Geraldine Carter, Owner of She Thinks Big Coaching where she helps CPAs get out of the accounting rut. Her clients routinely double their margins in 6 months or less while working fewer hours. She shares with us her own pricing journey. How she went from just doing what everyone else was doing and feeling like pricing was a great big mystery to realizing it’s a powerful tool set for her and her clients to master.
We talk about that and so much more. Enjoy the episode.
Podcast Episode Highlights
- 0:00 Introduction
- 02:07 Getting to Know Geraldine
- 06:30 What Value Clients get from Geraldine
- 08:26 Pricing at the Beginning
- 15:49 A Lack of Understanding the Value
- 18:55 Is Pricing more Art than Science
- 24:55 I can’t do that in my Industry is just a Thought
- 26:51 Pricing is Something that I can Learn
- 28:05 Wrap Up Questions
“When I went out on my own as a consultant and was suddenly forced to answer the question, how do I price what I do? And the value that I give to my client suddenly I was forced to become aware and grapple with this question of how do you value and how do you price and it was for me, such a giant question.” Geraldine
“I was in this place of trying to establish what my value was based on what other consultants were valuing, which is messed up, but you have to start somewhere. (I was thinking) they’ve been doing it longer. They probably are better at it. Therefore I should price a little bit lower because clearly my customers are buying on price, which is what you come to find out, is not true.” Geraldine
“What I found, and maybe you found this too… Is that what most businesses, product service, software or other, tend to really lack is an understanding of the value?” Janene
“The measure of a second is 9 billion phases of a cesium atom. You tell me how your value and how your bill for an hour’s worth of work, is connected to the fees of a cesium atom… there’s no correlation.” Geraldine
“I can’t do that in my industry is not (a fact), it’s a thought. They think that’s a fact. Right, but it’s just a thought. A fact is the Rangers beat the devils five to four and overtime last night. That’s a fact, but we tend to convince ourselves of our thoughts as if they’re true, just because we’ve thought them so many times. We need to separate out what are facts and what are in fact, just beliefs that feel super true.” Geraldine
“When you understand value, pricing will become so much easier. Then it’s nothing but mechanics.” Geraldine
How to Connect with Geraldine
Book recommendation: Value Based Fees by Alan Weiss
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Janene: Hi Geraldine. I’m excited to have you here with me. We’re going to kick this off with a few rapid fire questions. Let’s get started. Geraldine. Where are you joining us from today?
Geraldine: Oh, Ketchum, Idaho, right in the smack. In the middle of the state. And for your European listeners way in the Northwest of the US.
Janene: Excellent. That is somewhere I have not been since I was a child. Well, Idaho, I’m not sure if I’ve been to Ketchum but I’ve not been to Idaho since I was a kid. Maybe we’ll have to rectify that at some point. Next question. So one song that you would call the soundtrack of your current life.
Geraldine: Oh, my gosh. It’s the one by Earth, Wind and Fire. Do you remember? And just gets me going, gets me in the group. Yeah. Yeah. It just gets me going, gets me energized, gets me on my day. That is best place to start.
Janene: Excellent. Love it. What is your superpower and what would you call yourself if you were a super hero.
It’s Hard to See your own Superpower
Geraldine: Sure. It’s hard to see your own superpower. I just think it’s normal, but people tell me time and again, that I’m able to find the heart of the problem very quickly that I just asked the right questions. I find my way in, and I don’t mess around with the fluff and try solving things that are just symptoms that.
My ability to inquire and get to the root of the problem and start addressing that so that lots of problems get solved at once. That’s what people say to me is my superpower that just feels normal and obvious. Like why would you waste your time solving superficial problems, but apparently other people don’t have this superpower.
If was a superhero, what would the Cape look like? Maybe it would be like the letters P S on the back swoop in and go right to the right, to the heart of the matter.
Janene: That’s great. I love that. I had a guest on last year and she said, what I do feels like easy for me, but it’s magic to other people. And so I guess that’s the point here? What you do getting to the root of the problem. There is really magic for other people. Yeah. Super, what’s one interesting thing most people don’t know about you?
Geraldine: I’m an open book. I have a podcast, I tell all kinds of stories and it’s hard to hold me back. There’s not much that people don’t know about me.
Getting to Know Geraldine
Geraldine: When I was in grade school, I was a state champion Archer for two years in a row. Both those years I beat my boyfriend. He came in second and that’s been a running theme in my life.
Janene: Do you still do that at all?
Geraldine: I don’t. I have two kids, archery and kids don’t really go together. Once I’m sort of out of the early years and there’s ample discretionary time for hobbies, I would love to pick it back up because there’s something that is so meditative about it for us linear thinkers. I have an engineering background.
I love the sort of the hunt for precision and I love the repetition of it. If you can just get into a groove and figure it out and just stay there. With each passing arrow, you get a little closer and then a satisfaction of dialing it in and just getting bulls-eye after bull’s eyes.
Janene: It sounds like one of those things that you could use as an imagery and the branding around your business as well, right? Because you’re so focused on the problem itself and on this archery thing of hitting, hitting the precise point that you need to hit.
Geraldine: It’s a great analogy with pricing because pricing is a process of zeroing in on what works. I help my clients, at the outset they are, their shoulders are not even squared off to the target. There’s a bit of art, a bit of science to the pricing. Until you have some basic understanding, you’re just firing arrows off into the forest. I help my clients figure out, get their shoulders squared off to the target so that we can start zeroing in on what’s going to work for them.
What Value Clients get from Geraldine
Janene: What value do your clients really get from your product or service?
Geraldine: Yeah, so we’re kind of getting into some of the content of what I do.
With CPAs, they’ve for so long in the industry, been taught to hourly bill. That’s kind of how things roll. And it’s led to a number of problems that include pricing deliverables, the delivery of the profit and loss, the balance sheet. It includes just being a generalist and doing work for anybody because they ask you for it. Hourly billing sets up a number of second ring, third ring problems.
What we do with pricing is it really forces us to question those challenges, like being a generalist, like the value of delivering a P and L and a balance sheet. The answer very quickly becomes if you want to provide value and capture the value in your prices, then it absolutely makes sense to become an expert in a narrow field to deepen your expertise, to focus on the value that you bring rather than just the deliverables and the reports, and then to price accordingly.
The value that I bring is not just in the pricing. Transformation is maybe a bit too strong of a word. We take what the CPA is doing in terms of the delivery of reports for their clients. We transform the value that they bring to their clients by helping the client keep more cash in their pocket. That’s what we price.
Janene: The value that you bring, which is ultimately then the money that they’re keeping in their pockets.
Geraldine: The clarity of the decisions, the ability to make proactive decisions, instead of having to sell things off in a fire sale, because you didn’t save for taxes.
Pricing at the Beginning
Janene: Now I’d like to turn the conversation towards your own personal pricing journey. Think back to when you first started your business and you first had to start putting prices on what you do. What was that like for you?
Geraldine: Bewildering in a word. Because I was like everyone else and didn’t understand what pricing was and what it could do and how it worked.
I had come from a space of having worked jobs for wages. Then I owned a business that we eventually converted to a 5 0 1 C3 and where the value was more in the direction of what did the donor value. My role as co-founder and my own earnings, if you will, were completely and utterly disconnected from the value that we provided for our participants and for their supporters.
There was very little question in that space of how do I price what I. The disconnect was so strong that it was never a question. When I went out on my own as a consultant and was suddenly forced to answer the question, how do I price what I do? And the value that I give to my client suddenly I was forced to become aware and grapple with this question of how do you value and how do you price and it was for me, such a giant question.
There was so much that I still needed to learn that. I basically just looked at what other people were doing and kind of copied off of them. I looked at other consultants websites, and I said to myself, well, if they’re charging this for that, then, okay, how about I start there and charge this for that?
You have to Start Somewhere
Geraldine: I was in this place of trying to establish what my value was based on what other consultants were valuing, which is messed up, but you have to start somewhere.
Janene: All right. It’s typical. Right? It’s very typical. Especially for service-based businesses to look at what everybody else was doing. And then. Often set your prices a little bit below. That is what most people do. They do.
Geraldine: They’ve been doing it longer. They probably are better at it. Therefore I should price a little bit lower because clearly my customers are buying on price, which is what you come to find out, is not true.
Janene: Right. I think that’s really important. Can you say that again?
Geraldine: That you, you think that customers are buying on price. But that’s not true. I mean, it may be true in some instances, and oftentimes it is a factor. I don’t want to belittle the factor of price to suggest that you would just charge whatever you want. Cause that’s not the case either. Price is just one of many factors.
Usually if the price is in the sweet spot is in the right zone, meaning that the value to the client is greater than the price that you’re charging. Then price kind of just checks a box for them. Right. And they’re answering, then they move on to other more important questions.
Is this My Person
Geraldine: Is this the right person for me? Is this my person? Am I going to be able to work with her? Do our temperaments match. That’s a question that is not even a conscious question. It’s subconscious and you know it right away. Yes or no. I cannot work with this person or yeah, we’re a match.
Am I reasonably confident that this person can help me figure out what I’m looking to achieve and help me get there. Those are some of the higher level questions than your buyers are looking to answer once your price box has been checked and they’ve moved on from it.
Janene: One of the things you mentioned in the questionnaire that I have is that it felt very mysterious. Can you maybe explain what you mean by that?
Geraldine: Sure. I have an engineering degree from an Ivy league university. There were a lot of things that I was taught in the space of numbers, math, formulas, all of it, but one of the things that we never discussed ever was.
I wasn’t in business school, but the topic of pricing in came up one time in 10th grade with my medieval history teacher who threw a graph up on the chalkboard, which I don’t think they have anymore. That was basically supply and demand. He’s like, this is how you determined price, supply, and demand.
Why that came up in a history class, I do not know. It was the only thing I was ever taught about pricing. For those of us who follow a trajectory of work for wages until you’re 35. And then think to yourself, I could do this on my own. We like depart our company and we’re like, here I go.
It felt very Mysterious
Geraldine: And trumpets blare. I’m going out on my own. I’m going to hang my shingle. I can make four times the money that I’m making for this other guy. Why am I making him rich when I could do this myself and you go out on your own, right? A lot of us have that journey. You go out on your own, you hang your shingle.
And you’re like, here I am world. Everybody hire me. And you’re like, how do I price myself? Like, what do I know about pricing? Well, supply and demand. And you quickly come to realize, like at the beginning, there’s no demand. You don’t have any demand when you’ve just set your single out. Maybe you have your clients that you’ve taken with you from your past business.
You have a little bit of demand, but that’s not going to work. Suddenly you’re faced with this question of like, what is pricing? It’s mysterious because most of us have not been taught anything about it. We don’t really know that it’s even a topic that we could learn about how many of us have friends who majored in pricing in college?
Probably none of us. So it’s like, this is something I could even learn about. How, how do I even learn about this? And then. So I said about, of course, go as windows, going to Amazon and just typing in pricing and buying all the books. I could find out pricing and I probably made it through six before. I was like, okay, I think I’ve got the just right.
There’s So Much More to be Learned about Pricing
Geraldine: You can see them. They’re all lined up on the back, minor all over here and there. The thing is that I came to find out that there’s a lot to be learned about pricing. There’s so much more to be learned about pricing than you would ever need to know as business owners, about pricing in our own business, what pricing tools do we need for our business based on the business model that we have.
And to be more specific, if you run inventory, you’re going to need to know a lot of stuff about pricing that relates to inventory and e-commerce. Then you would need to know when you run a service-based business. If you run a service-based business, the, the breadth of material that you need to know to run assert to price in a service-based business is, and you tell me what you think about this, because you’re the pricing, but I think is like completely and wholly separate from what you need to know about pricing.
If you run commerce and inventory there, I would almost say there’s like very little overlap. So. What I came to learn was like, oh, I need, I’m glad I learned all these tools about the breadth of pricing, but really what I need to know is actually quite simple and quite finite when I saw that, I was like, oh, this is really great.
And then what I did was take that and say, how can I help my clients price back? In what they need to know cause pricing for CPAs and accountants is also narrow and finite. You don’t need the whole breadth. Just need to know this a little bit. And when you know it, it makes a huge difference.
A Lack of Understanding the Value
Janene: What I found, and maybe you found this too… Is that what most businesses, product service, software or other, tend to really lack is an understanding of the value?
Geraldine: Yes. A hundred percent, a thousand percent.
It’s very difficult to see your own value. You think the value is in what you do and what you deliver. The value for the client is almost orthogonal. Like it exists in a completely different space. So the value for the client is oftentimes help me get rid of my headaches. Help me make this friction-free and make this painless.
Like, especially I’ll just speak for my people taxes. Help me so that I don’t even have to think about it. Where the accountant, the CPA is like, I’m going to help you understand your numbers. And the client’s like, I don’t even want to understand my numbers. It’s like, it’s totally fine.
That’s why I say value exists in a different plane. Right. So it’s hard to get out of your own head when you’re the service provider or for my people, for my people, I’ll say, because we love what we do. And we think that what we do is so important and granted accounting and tax, it is important, but oftentimes it’s not what your buyer wants, what your buyer like. what the thing that you’re offering is a small wedge in the whole. And the giant pie of their business and what they want is for it to be as simple as possible. Right. They want it to be as pain-free, as friction-free as possible, they want the experience to be seamless and simple and effortless. And those are the things that make, that tend to make it valuable for the buyer.
Where is the Value
Geraldine: Right? Not things like in the minutiae, like I’m the most accurate, the most honest, the one with the most integrity, the ones that’s going to get your stuff on time.
Janene: Right or that like I see with coaches a lot, well, I can do NLP and I can do energetic schooling and I can do blah, blah, blah. And then lists like this laundry list of things they can do. But ultimately those may be benefits, but the value comes out of the ones of those that are actually important and solve the client’s problem in the end.
Geraldine: Right. Yeah, I don’t care if you can do NLP just make me feel better.
Janene: Exactly. But because that’s the wheelhouse where the person is comfortable, the coach in this case, is comfortable then that’s what they feel comfortable talking about.
Right. It misses the point that the value is what comes out of those benefits. I always, I always think that’d be, remember that commercial from, Hey, how was it? I’m guessing it was the eighties. Where’s the beef, where’s the value.
Geraldine: Where is your value?
Janene: Between two pieces of bread. Right?
Geraldine: We have it for it to make me hunt for it. If you want it to be easy, if you spell it easily, make it really apparent. Let’s tell the beef. Exactly.
Is Pricing more Art than Science
Janene: Something else you mentioned that pricing is more art than science. but that at the outset, you really had to understand the science. Can tell us a bit more about,
Geraldine: Yeah. Of all the books I’ve read on pricing, I think the one that’s been most helpful for me is Alan Weiss’s value-based fees, which you can see it’s the orange one back there.
He talked about the PR the art and the science. He was also laying out the case that it is much more art than science. And as a science person, I was like, give me some science to start. Cause if I just start with art, I’m just going to be like Jackson Pollock. And I don’t know what’s going to go on the canvas.
So give me some kind of formula that I can at least start with. And I understand that despite my desire for there to be an algorithm that I can have X, Y, and Z, and I can just plug things in and F of X, and it’s going to spit out this thing and it’s going to be all nice. I’m going to have the exact right price down to the decimal point.
I understand that doesn’t exist. Okay. Fine. But give me something to go on. He was kind enough in his book to give us linear thinkers, something to go on. Right. Here’s how I do it for my people and for me too, although I find it much easier to price for my people than I do for myself, because like we’re talking about it so much harder to see your own, right?
Working with People who can Generate Quantitative Value
Geraldine: I have the good fortune of working with people who can actually generate quantitative value for their. Right. Typically most obviously in the form of tax savings, I can save you $500,000 in taxes, right. That is like a lovely starting point when it comes to being able to price, to have a number, a dollar number that I can save you.
We start there and then we go to, how can I make the service? Excellent. How can I make the experience? By things like making it super simple to onboard, making the experience of working with you, super seamless, having white glove concierge service, if you will. So if you need me to talk to your financial advisor, I will, if you need me to talk to your state planner will, and then what’s the value of that, right?
And then we just put a number on that and it is a hundred percent. Which for us linear thinkers as Matthew people, I’m talking me and over in the CPA land is very uncomfortable place to be. I get it. What we like is experiments and testing. My people are okay with experiments and testing, right?
We put an arbitrary number on it and I say, it is arbitrary. Gotta get used to it. You’re going to be okay and you’re not going to die. And then we go out and we test it in the marketplace. I’ve got enough examples in it. Experiences with other clients. That I can say with some degree of confidence, I think this number is reasonable.
I think this is going to fly. Let’s go test it. And the worst thing that I say is, no, that’s fine. Now we have a data point.
Create the Science
Janene: Great. We love it. You have, you have science.
Geraldine: We have science. That’s exactly it. Is that we create the science. You’ve got it. Like where you only have. You go create the science by creating data points for yourself, right.
Janene: Especially when you’re working with CPAs, who kind of love the land of concrete numbers and figures and whatever, then you have to have the science there in order to get that buy-in.
Geraldine: It’s exactly that. So we’ve got the quantitative plus the qualitative as the total value, and then we price off the total value.
And I have my clients run numbers when scenarios in advance so that they have a reasonable, a reasonable degree of confidence that they can save their client half a million dollars in taxes or a hundred thousand dollars in taxes or $25,000 in taxes, whatever it might be. But that is the underpinning of the total value.
We move up to the total value. and go test it in the marketplace. We get a yes or a no, the first one that we tend to under price. Because I want them to go into the conversation, feeling confident rather than having sweaty palms, which doesn’t help. Right. To increase the likelihood of a yes. And then we get a yes.
Then we say, okay, great. Let’s test it again at the same price. Let’s confirm. Now we’ve got two data points. You can draw a line through two data points, right? Let’s just say a third time. Now you’ve got confirmation that your line is okay. And then let’s bump it up from there and see what happens. We’re not always going to maximize.
Quantify the Value
Geraldine: But we want to understand where people start to push away from their desk and go home and suck air through their teeth and say, oh, I’ve got to talk to my. Compared to easy. Yes. Where they say, oh, that sounds great. Sign me up. When can I start? Right. We want to understand, we want to find the place away from their desk so that we can go, oh, okay.
Maybe the price limit is up there and maybe we’ll dial down or maybe we’ll leave it there because we are so far beyond capacity that we actually need to be pricing people out. It depends on the circumstance, the pricing choices that we make. But anyways, coming back to total value equals quantitative value plus qualitative value and then taking pricing at perhaps 30% of that or 20% of that, or 10% of that bronze, silver gold packages options. That’s kind of how we back in.
Janene: Right. Excellent. I love it. It’s totally aligned with how I work with people as well. And being able to quantify the value, both, the things that seem more quantitative and those things that are qualitative that are easier to do. It’s so important. I love the fact that you do that. I’ve not met very many people that approach it from this context. A lot of accountants, lawyers, people who traditionally work based on hourly rates would argue that it’s not possible.
Geraldine: Okay. I’m glad that they’re talking to you.
Janene: I hear it all the time. Oh, that’s not possible. We don’t, we can’t do that in my industry.
I can’t do that in my Industry is just a Thought
Geraldine: It’s only a thought, right? I can’t do that in my industry is not (a fact), it’s a thought. They think that’s a fact but it’s just a thought. A fact is the Rangers beat the devils five to four and overtime last night.
That’s a fact, but we tend to convince ourselves of our thoughts as if they’re true, just because we’ve thought them so many times. We need to separate out what are facts and what are in fact, just beliefs that feel super true. Because we’ve taught them so many times and because we’ve seen we’ve, sought and confirmed our data with other people in the industry who also haven’t figured it out.
Well, it’s a way, but I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of lawyers and accountant. There are plenty of accountants for sure who have moved off hourly billing. And I had a lawyer on my podcast, who is pioneering getting off hourly billing in the legal space. It’s absolutely being done.
And I read just quickly. I write emails to my list daily and yesterday I wrote an email about where to see hour come from. Where does the second. Why do we even have seconds? What are they? And that the measure of a second is 9 billion phases of a cesium atom. You tell me how your value and how your bill for an hour’s worth of work, is connected to the fees of a cesium atom… there’s no correlation. There it is sheer lunacy to price your service based on time you spent, it makes absolutely no sense at all.
Janene: We can speak for another 30 minutes on that, just if we so choose to it for another time, I’m sure you cover it.
Pricing is Something that I can Learn
Janene: There’s a lot of people out there thinking, I feel like pricing is this voodoo mystery thing to me as well. What can I do to make it easier? What would you say to them?
Geraldine: What can I do to make it easier? If pricing feels voodoo and mysterious. So, first of all, change the thought pricing and some serious, because when you think that pricing is just going to continue to be mysterious, right?
You just do it self fulfilling prophecy. So pricing is something that I can learn. Right. You think pricing is something I can learn then your next action is go to Amazon. Pick up three books on pricing. Start reading pricing is not an a, once you start reading about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. You will start to see pricing examples in your own life and your own daily life.
You’ll understand the choices that you’re making. You’ll (begin) to ask yourself, why is this price okay with me relative to the value that I think I’m going to get, and you will become a student, an observer of your own purchasing choices. And that will help you come to appreciate and understand value.
When you understand value pricing will become so much easier than it’s nothing but mechanics. So really focus on understanding value and then pricing mechanics just fall out of it. Yeah.
Janene: The key that had locks, that little box of mystery for you. Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate it. Okay. Let’s wrap this up with a few more questions. What is the best of business advice that you’ve been given in your own entrepreneurial journey?
Geraldine’s Business Advice
Geraldine: Follow the value, talk (the) value. Look for expensive problem. People will pay to have their problem solved.
The more expensive a problem is to a person. The more they will pay to have it solved. So keep digging and digging until you find the most increasingly expensive problems and then find the solution, look to create a solution that gets your clients the best possible results in the shortest amount of time. That’s the most valued.
Janene: And that’s just to segue on that one for a moment. If you’re looking to deliver them, to do it in the shortest amount of time is another reason not to price by the hour. Right?
Geraldine: Let me extend, let me make it take 24 months for my client to lose seven pounds. No, I’ll be quiet, lose seven pounds in seven weeks. It’s way more valuable than
My wedding was 23 months ago. I don’t want to lose the weight after I fit into my wedding, I couldn’t fit into my window. That makes no sense best past the best possible results in the shortest amount of time. Charge them more for that. That’s what that favorite book or tool you’d like to share with. I already shared Alan Weiss’s value-based fees. I would also (share) Booker tool and the book subscribed by T and zoo. Excellent book also on my bookshelf, but you can’t see it. It’s out of the picture and an excellent mind, business model shift, business mindset shift on.
The ongoing on creating value for your clients. So that’s the top, that’s the tie back, right? It’s like, what is the endless stream of benefits that you can create for your client? Such that they are a customer for life.
Take Away from the Discussion
Janene: Okay. Excellent. I love that customer journey so important. Okay. Two more questions. One thing that you think people should take away from our discussion today.
Geraldine: Well, if we haven’t hammered it, on a nut. Learned to understand value, learn, to understand value. What is the value that you provide? It’s not in the service that you offer in the NLP or in the, whatever, the way that you deliver your thing, understand what it is that your clients really want from the thing that you’re doing.
And if you’re still stuck on hourly billing by goodness, get off of it as fast as you can. It is carcinogenic and this time.