The 5 steps prospects take when they buy accountancy services (and what this means for your firm’s marketing!)

When it comes to pricing for accountants, one of the biggest pieces of advice we tend to give is to think about and understand the Prospect’s buying journey. Once you know how Prospects buy, it becomes much easier to create products and services which they see as high value and to provide them with the right information when they need it, both of which enable you to charge more for your services. To help you charge what you are worth, here are the 5 stages of the journey they take when they buy accountancy services and how you can use this to improve your marketing. 

The 5 stages of the buying journey

The journey a Prospect goes through to become a Client tends to have 5 discrete stages:

Stage 1: Everything is fine

This is the stage when your Prospect has no need for your accounting services. It could be that everything is absolutely fine without a proverbial cloud in the sky or if they do have problems they need to fix, they are already working on them with an internal resource or an external supplier. 

If your Prospect is in this state, then due to Confirmation Bias, it’s going to be very difficult to persuade them that they have a problem and need your services; they need to make the mental jump themselves. (Understand what the confirmation bias means by reading our article - What neuroscience says about how people buy accountancy services)

Stage 2: I know I have some problems

Stage 2 is where your Prospect knows that he/she has a problem. Whether a minor niggle which they are happy to ignore or a full-blown crisis which they need to fix right now, in this stage, they will be consciously or subconsciously looking for answers to their problems. 

These problems that Prospects have that will drive them to buy your services are called Pain Points. This makes sense as if a certain problem is a ‘pain,’ then they’ll look for the solution. What many don’t know, however, is that the reason why they decide to do something about these Pain Points is often rooted in a deep-seated emotional reason rather than a rational one. If you have read our previous blog (what neuroscience says about how people buy), this is because decision-making happens in our subconscious brain initially which only takes emotional rather than rational inputs. 

For example, a business owner is unlikely to buy more advisory services from an accountant because they want to grow their business. The real reason they want to grow their business will be more emotional and far more personal, such as “I want to build a business with a capital value of £1 million to provide me with a pension fund,” and therefore they need an accountant.

Stage 3: I have decided what I need to do about my problem

Now that your Prospect has found answers to his/her problem, he/she will have a clear idea of the outcome they want. This could be as simple as doing nothing or deciding to change accountant. 

At this stage, a typical Prospect may not have decided exactly how they will solve their problem but they will have very rational questions that they’ll be asking themselves to help achieve their desired outcome. Questions such as:

  • Who can help me fix my problem?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What are the risks with choosing each particular course of action?
  • What are the steps in the process to fix my problem?

Stage 4: Finding people to help me and choosing the right solution

It is at this point that most Prospects will actively look for an accountant to help them decide on the right solution to solve their problem. After spending time with a selection of accountants to refine their ideal solution, they will then decide who is the right person to help them achieve it. 

If the Prospect has been engaging with you (or your content) much earlier in their journey, it is very likely that they will actively make contact with you to see how you can help them. After all, remembering the Affection Bias (see our article - What neuroscience says about how people buy accountancy services), if they like your website and the messages you communicate online and offline and find it useful, they will assume that if they have you as their accountant, you will be able to help them solve their problems.

At this stage in their journey they are highly likely to look at the directory of recommended advisors for their particular accounting platform. This means if you are a Xero, Quickbooks or Freeagent partner, you need pay just as much attention to your profile on this directory as you do to your website and LinkedIn profile. In fact we have helped many of our members start to unlock business via LinkedIn and the Xero/Quickbooks Advisor Directories.

Stage 5: Making the decision to buy

The Prospect has now decided on a solution and the accountant they will use to help them achieve their desired outcome. Very often, this point in the buying journey is known as the ‘closing the deal’ part of the process. 

A little piece of advice when it comes to pricing for accountants

Compliance tasks are not optional for Clients. They can either decide to do them in-house or engage an accountant or bookkeeper to do them for them; the bottom line is, the Client needs to do these tasks. When it comes to advisory services, however, although it’s best practice, Clients do not need them. Advisory services are a discretionary or optional service for a Client. 

When it comes to pricing for accountants, optional advisory services make the process a bit more difficult, mainly because your firm’s sales processes and general level of sales skills need to be much, much higher to sell them than the skills needed to sell compliance services. If you do it right, however, you can charge what your firm is worth! (See our 4 tips to sell more advisory services to your clients)

By ‘doing it right,’ we mean bundling your services into packages that include both compliance and advisory services relevant to your Clients main Pain Points. You may not think that this will work, but trust us when we say that packages are the secret to selling more to your clients at a higher price! (Find out how to sell your expensive advisory services to your clients)

Every single person has a tendency to choose options that appear simple or have more complete information rather than complex, ambiguous options. Therefore, by reducing the number of decisions your clients need to make when opting to buy from you, you are ultimately making it easier for their brains to make a decision.

Start charging what you’re worth

By understanding the buying journey of your Prospect, you can create a service package that speaks specifically to their Pain Points, thus allowing you to charge what it’s worth. If you do this right, your now Client will make the decision to buy from you much quicker (even though the cost is higher) because they can see the value in your services. (Discover Why your accountancy firm’s pricing package names really matter)

As well as the 5 stages of buying, remember that people make decisions based purely on emotion initially, so appeal to their specific needs at each step of their journey. 

Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?