Ep27: Blair Enns – Pricing Creativity Applied to Products
Blair Enns is the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour. He co-hosts, along with David C. Baker, and the podcast 2Bobs: Conversations on the Art of Creative Entrepreneurship. Based on the remote mountain village of Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada, Blair lectures throughout the world on how creative professionals can win more business at higher prices and lower cost of sale.
In this episode, Blair shares the ups and downs of the business side of creativity. He takes us into the pages of his books sharing the principles behind pricing creativity, sales conversation and winning without pitching. He also deep dives into the rules and tactics to help creative professionals charge more for work and how to train their clients to a value-based pricing rather than hourly billable hours.
Why you have to check out today’s podcast:
- Learn the rules and tactics to charge more for new work and run a more profitable business
- Know the pricing training his company offers to creative companies and how it benefits them
- Discover and learn the four conversations in a sale and how to successfully apply it to boost your sales conversation and presentation
“I cannot think of a more valuable skill in all of business than the ability to conduct a value conversation which is to essentially find out what the client or the customer wants, and what they would be willing to pay if you could help create that value ”
– Blair Enns
02:31 – How Blair got into pricing
02:59 – What his company does and the type of professionals they serve
05:33 – Citing examples of creative companies
06:42 – Talking about the training on pricing his company also offers
07:38 – Blair explains putting a stake in the ground which is detailed in his book – The Win Without Pitching Manifesto
10:09 – Two most essential lessons for creative firms
12:52 – How they train their clients to a value-based pricing
15:00 – The four-step framework and four-step pricing guidance discussed in his book Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour
19:05 – The four conversations in the sale
26:37 – Mark asks for feedback on the ways they apply value conversations in product companies
29:35 – Advice for product managers
32:05 – Blair explains why and how he priced his book that much
34:56 – A piece of pricing advice that would impact the business of the listeners
“You need to put a stake in the ground. And the mistake that people make is that stake or that claim of expertise is too broad in terms of both the discipline on the market. It should be narrow enough in a way that allows you to be compelling and meaningfully different.” – Blair Enns
“A customized service means you have a small number of clients at any one time.” – Blair Enns
“If you can help this client create the value that you’ve uncovered, then your idea of fair compensation for yourself really needs to transcend the idea of your inputs or how long it’s taken you to do to help create that value.” – Blair Enns
“The goal of value-based pricing is to create an organization filled with people like that who are laser-focused on the client and how they can help create value for the client.” – Blair Enns
“Options with a high anchor. If you just always put forward options, three options and lead with the most expensive one. Your average settled price will go up, I promise you.” – Blair Enns
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Full Interview Transcript
(Note: This transcript was created using Temi, an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)
Blair Enns: I cannot think of a more valuable skill in all of business than the ability to conduct a value conversation, which is essentially find out what the client or the customer want and what they would be willing to pay if you could help create that value.
Mark Stiving: Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the hopefully, very tight relationship between the two. I’m Mark Stiving. Today, our guest is Blair Enns. Here are three things you want to know about Blair, before we start. First, he wrote a true best seller called The Win Without Pitching Manifesto. Okay. Second, he priced his newest book, Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour in an amazing way, and we’ll talk about that towards the end of our conversation today, I hope. And third, he got his start the way most of us pricing experts do. He has a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology and Underwater Welding. Welcome, Blair.
Blair Enns: Thank you, Mark. Those first two points were true. The last one is not. That’s… You pulled that from my LinkedIn profile and everybody falls for that.
Mark Stiving: Oh No, it’s not true?
Blair Enns: It’s not true at all. If you look at the university, it’s the University of Doggerland and Doggerland is the part of the world in the English Channel kind of going up towards the North Sea that when when a lot of the ocean’s waters are tied up in polar ice caps, then that becomes farm land and that is known as Doggerland. So I did my 23 and me a few years ago and one of the things I learned is I hail from Doggerland and I had to look up where Doggerland was and I immediately had this idea for selling Doggerland University tee shirts. And I thought, well if somebody attended the University of Doggerland, what would they study? They would study Marine Biology and perhaps Underwater Welding.
Mark Stiving: Oh, okay. I feel horrible. This podcast is now over.
Blair Enns:You’re not the first one to fall for it or to introduce me that way ahead of a speech or a podcast.
Mark Stiving: That’s great. That is great. Okay, so let’s find out. Seriously, how did you get into pricing?
Blair Enns: I came at it through the sales world. You can come at it through the academic world. You can come at it through probably the world of Economics. I came at it through the sales world because I think selling, pricing and negotiating are inextricably entwined and for you to be good at one, you have to be good at the others.
Mark Stiving:Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. Now can you tell our audience what you actually do besides sitting on the beach cashing checks from your bestselling book and you know, what are you, what do you really do?
Blair Enns: Yeah, I’m the Founder and CEO of a training company called Win Without Pitching. We do sales training for creative professionals, so that is folks in the advertising and design professions typically and also some kind of adjacent professions or industries. And so from the name of the business, you can kind of infer my point of view on how selling should be done in the creative, in the creative fields, the creative professions, as I like to call them, the way creative services are typically sold is they’re given away for free. You are invited to solve the client’s problem as proof of your ability to solve their problem. So I and my team, we deprogram creative professionals of the need to give their thinking away for free as part of the sale. And then after doing that long enough, I kind of stumbled into the pricing challenges that go along with selling anything.
Mark Stiving: Yeah. It seems to me that you say you do sales training, but it seems to me like it really takes a business transformation to do what it is that you want companies to do.
Blair Enns: I think so. And sales training isn’t the right word. Like the word sales isn’t we, it’s not even used in the markets that I serve. We don’t use the ‘S’ word. It’s referred to as business development or new business development. And that’s kind of a code for sales and marketing and networking. All of the things that you would do to kind of drive a transaction or a new engagement. So I embrace that word in part because nobody else uses it and I’m aware that it costs us. If I send an email with the S word in the subject line, the open rate plummets. So I won’t, I’ve learned not to use it in the subject line, but then I’ll use it in the body of the email because I really believe in telling it like it is. And I think a lot of folks in the creative profession who maybe see themselves as marketers first, they really recoil from that word of selling because they think selling is the act of talking people into things. And I fundamentally believe that’s not what selling is at all. So I’m, I’m kind of here to take back that word.
Blair Enns: Yeah, I agree completely with that. Let’s talk about what a creative firm is, for a second, because what I’d like to be able to do is generalize this more to my audience and my audience tends to be people who work for high tech companies, software companies, product people. And so if you were to say, give us some examples of what you would think of as creative companies.
Yeah, so an advertising agency, a company that’s hired by a large brand like Nike or Ford Motor Company, et cetera, to run ads on their behalf or a design firm. And I would say most of our clients are kind of in the design sector, so you think of typical graphic design, designing logos, identities, posters back in the day and over the last decade or so that has been increasingly digital, you get to a digital design firm. That world is intersecting with technology and with consulting. So there’s a real hybrid, there’s a lot of technology chops in our client base. There’s some pure tech firms, there’s some pure consulting firms, there are some pure design firms. We even work with some management consultancies, you know, so I said we do sales training for creative professionals. That’s really, that’s me stating our discipline and our market in the, in the narrowest possible terms.
But I think you were kind of implying we’re leading to this, that that’s actually a much narrower than what we really do. We, in addition to sales training, we do training on pricing. We do training on negotiating, we do IP development, we do some marketing work as well. If you looked at our client base, you would see consulting companies, you would see staffing companies, you’d see some accounting practices. So I often say that the target should be smaller than the market. So you aim for the target and you’re happy to hit the market. So you carve out a narrow value proposition. We do X for Y. And then those in the adjacencies who had, who require adjacent disciplines or are in adjacent markets, maybe attracted to you and ask, Hey, do you, would that be relevant to us or do you also do these things? And if you lead with everything that you do and everybody you do it for, then you’re just a, in our case, we would just be a training company, training everybody on everything, so you really need to put a stake in the ground, and I talk about this, I talked about this in the first chapter of my first book. We will specialize in the win without pitching manifesto. You really need to put a stake in the ground and the mistake that people make is that stake or that claim of expertise is too broad in terms of both the discipline on the market. It should be narrow enough in a way that allows you to be compelling and meaningfully different, and then you just accept the fact that you’re probably going to do business outside of those narrow parameters.
Mark Stiving: Okay. I am now standing and applauding because that was such an amazing answer. Everybody who’s listening to this, just rewind and listen to that again because here’s what Blair just told us and I have this conversation with so many different people. Can you focus what it is that you’re going to market at? Can you focus what you’re going to target? And then if someone else comes in and says, Hey, can you help me? You’re allowed to say yes, it’s okay, but when we can focus, it gives us the ability to find the people we want. We build a level of expertise and people trust us more. So I thought that was just an amazing answer. Thank you. Thank you for being a role model.
Blair Enns: Thank you. It’s, you know, I’ve been spouting these words for years and as my business has grown, I’ve been tempted many times to broaden out my business. And a lot of people look at my first book, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, which is you’ve graciously pointed out, it’s still selling very well. We’ve just passed 30,000 copies and the annual sales volume has increased every year over the last five years and it’s been out for nine years. So it’s just building up momentum. And so people read this book and go, you know, the thinking in this book applies to not just creative services, but all professional services and many other businesses as well. You should rewrite this book for a broader audience and you should broaden out your practice to a broader audience and as soon as I do that, I kind of water down what makes it different. I invite vast hoards of competitors and when I start to compete against these other direct competitors, I’m left with nothing. That makes me kind of meaningfully different. Now when I’m selling our core services to our core target market, I’m in a real position of strength and if people outside of those markets see relevance in what we do and they want to, they want to hire us for training and coaching too, we’re open to having those conversations.
Mark Stiving:Yeah, I love that whole concept. Let’s actually jump into talking about pricing for a little bit and I’m going to give you the wide open softball question for you.
Blair Enns: Okay.
Mark Stiving:What do you think is the most important lesson for creative firms? If you are going to say this is the thing that you really need to get from what I can teach you.
Blair Enns: I would say, if I could combine two things, you’ve probably been systematically underpricing for a very long period of time. Point number one and point number two, the reasons are all in your head.
Mark Stiving: Oh, so first off, point number one seems obvious to me because I run into so many people who don’t… Solopreneurs don’t have the confidence. Other people are thinking, oh, I can’t leave that money on the table. I’m going to lose all this business. My competitors are competing on price. But point number two, I’m fascinated about what’s what’s going on inside my head.
Blair Enns: Uh, well as you know, Mark, anybody who works in the field of pricing, we like to have the conversation about is it art or science. Is pricing… What do you think? Do you think it’s more art? Do you think it’s more science? And my answer to that question is, when you’re pricing products and productized services, a business that is built for scale, pricing is mostly science. And when you’re pricing services, customized services. So my clients almost exclusively, not entirely, but almost entirely fall into the category of customized services. customized service means you have a small number of clients at any one time. Every engagement should be a creative act. Every pricing or compensation plan, every proposal should be a creative act. So when you fall into that category, customized services, pricing is mostly art and the art is you have to understand some of the basic underpinnings, you don’t even have to understand the science.
Blair Enns: You have to understand some of the principles, you know the subjectivity of value, some of the ideas around anchoring and the power of options, et cetera, things that you would talk about regularly on the show. You have to understand some of those basics, but after that, it’s really just a sense of are you worth it? Can you help this client create value? And if you can help this client create the value that you’ve uncovered, then your idea of fair compensation for yourself, It really needs to transcend the idea of your inputs or how long it’s taken you to do to help create that value.
Mark Stiving:All of us that are in the world of pricing, we use the words value based pricing a lot. Most people don’t understand what we mean when we say that. They just think that means, oh, let’s charge a little bit more or something. But in your field, you’re really teaching people how to go figure out what that value is. If I’m going to go engage with this client, how much value can I deliver to that client and then can I get some portion of that value? How do you do that?
Blair Enns: Yeah, and again, speaking of the customized services firms, I would put productized different because you in a productized services firm, you’re doing all this segmentation analysis and you’re trying to figure out what groups have value. In a customized services business value is entirely subjective. You cannot sit there and make a judgment of what the client values. You have to get the client to tell you, and this is why selling and pricing when it comes to customized services cannot be. You cannot decouple these two things because you cannot be an effective pricer of customized services if you are not an effective salesperson. And what I mean by that is somebody who’s able to skillfully navigate a real proper two way conversation. And at the heart of uncovering value is, as you know, is this idea of the value conversation. You have to be able to have a good value conversation, which I think, I think the ability to, to master the value conversation is without exception. This is going to sound like an overstatement, but I truly believe this. I believe the ability to master the value conversation is the most valuable skill in all of business. Full Stop. I cannot think of a more valuable skill in all of business than the ability to conduct a value conversation, which is to essentially find out what the client or the customer wants, how much value might be created, and what they would be willing to pay if you could help create that value.
Mark Stiving: Oh my gosh. So many things I want to bring up and talk about now. I think that statement, the, the full stop is spot on correct. And yet so many people are clueless. What I find fascinating is go to any company, any business, and asked them how much value are you creating? How much do your customers value your product? They don’t even know how to go about answering the question, let him know, let alone knowing about how to go find out the answer. It is just such a powerful concept
Blair Enns: And it’s the longest chapter in my book, Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour. And it’s the chapter I spent the most time on and I felt like I’m really going to kind of earn my money in this chapter. And I look back at the chapter and I think, okay, it’s been about 18 months or so, and I think I’m pretty proud of it. But what I say to all the audiences that I’ve spoken to since then is you’re not going to learn this from reading it in a book. It’s simple. It’s a simple four step framework and most people’s methodologies, it’s a three step framework. Identify the objectives or what the client wants, identify the KPIs, what are the measures of success, identify the value that might be created. And I add a four step set pricing guide. Find out from the client what they would be willing to pay in a broad range.
Blair Enns: That’s it. It’s really that simple. It’s a simple framework but it’s not easy to learn to do. And the reason it’s not easy is because almost everybody that I’m talking to and training, they are subject matter experts. And in most people listening to this podcast would be a subject matter expert in something. And as a subject matter expert, you see patterns everywhere. So you begin the value conversation by asking the client what is it that they want to be true in the future. And there’s all kinds of nuance about how you might handle these steps and I have my ways of doing it, but you uncover what it is that the client wants to be true in the future. And you get them talking about what they want. And as soon as the client starts to talk, you see the patterns and you jump ahead immediately.
Blair Enns: As a subject matter expert, you go, ah, I’ve seen this before. I know what your problem is. I know what the solution is, I know what we typically charge for this solution. So the hard thing, the reason why this is such a difficult skill to master is you have to learn to let go of one form of expertise and that is subject matter expertise in this moment and you have to embrace this blank slate blank mind of the beginner and replace subject matter expertise with process expertise and that’s Canadian for process expertise. And the process is this simple four step methodology where you, the difficult thing to do is to quit thinking about what you would do. Quit thinking about solutions, quit thinking about price. You want to get through the entire value conversation. We’re at the end of it. You’ve set some pricing guidance, you’ve you’ve uncovered from the client and you haven’t thought deeply about solutions and you haven’t brought your own ideas of price to the table. So that’s the goal. You get through that conversation and it’s all about the client, all about what they want, all about what you will measure, all about the value you might create for them or that they’re looking to be created, and then even what they would pay for that. And you should get to the end of that conversation not having thought about solutions at all. And that is the difficult thing to do. And when you can overcome that hurdle, man, your world will change. You truly will learn to master the value conversation. After a few dozen of these things, you’ll get very good at it. Your world will change.
Mark Stiving: How’s the podcast going? Are you getting value? Research shows that people don’t really value what they get for free, but I’m hoping you’ll prove this research wrong. Please demonstrate to us and the entire world that you value this podcast. Would you please pause the podcast? Subscribe if you haven’t already done so. Rate the podcast and leave us a short review. You’d be doing a huge favor and research shows. If you invest this little bit of time, you’ll probably like the podcast even more. Win-win! Pause, do it now. We’ll wait for you.
Mark Stiving: And so what I just heard you say is, it doesn’t matter what the solution is, it doesn’t matter if we can solve the problem or not. The only thing that matters is that you have a problem and this is how much you would pay me if you could solve it.
Blair Enns: Yes, and I see, I talk about the four conversations in the sale. It’s kind of our overarching model of how we think about the sale. You think of the sale is just for conversation, so the probative conversation ideally happens without, without you present through your agents of thought leadership and referrals and that’s where you move from vendor to expert, the mind of the client. Then we have the qualifying conversation, which you think of as a typical sales call conversation. You’re, you’re vetting the lead to see if there’s an opportunity here. Is there really something here? Is there a match between what the client needs and what we might do? The third conversation is the value conversation where the goal is to uncover the value that you might create and then the fourth conversation is the closing conversation. Just like it sounds, you transition from the sale to the engagement so when you get to the end of the value conversation, you’re three-quarters of the way through the sale and you should get to the end of that conversation without thinking about solutions.
Blair Enns: And then I believe especially in a large customized engagement, there should be a gap between the value conversation in the closing conversation where you say, okay, this has been a great conversation. I have all of these notes on what it is that you want, what the KPI’s of success is, how much value we might create and the price range that you’re willing to kind of invest in possible solutions. Now I’m going to go away and if you have a team, I’m going to go away and meet with my team and we’re going to brainstorm on different ways that we can help you create this value, deliver what you want, hit these metrics, create this value, and I’ll come back with a few different ways that we can work together and if the client tries to pin you down on solutions, then in that moment, in the middle of the value conversation or at the end of it, you just don’t go there. Just say I, I don’t know. Like part of how I work is in this moment, I don’t want to think about what I would do. I want to be solely focused on you and what you want. I want to take this information and then I want to, I want to give myself the freedom to think big and expansively about the many different ways that we can help you create this value. And I’ll come back with different ways that we can work together and some of those options, some of those different ways that we might work together, they might be radically different and I don’t even know what they are yet. So that’s the place you want to get to you. Three-quarters of the way through the sale and you haven’t thought deeply about solutions.
Mark Stiving: That sounds scary. Sounds really scary actually.
Blair Enns: Why is that?
Mark Stiving: I don’t know. It feels like I have a product that I want to sell. I know what it is I’m trying to, to sell. And now here it is. You’re asking me to go out and just listen for problems. Just get the value and not yet at least know am I gonna be able to solve the problem. Is this in my bailiwick? Although you did kind of cover that in the qualification phase.
Blair Enns: Yes. And again, I’m making the distinction between customized services firms and productized services or product companies where it’s at scale. As soon as you start talking, I have to match your challenge to the suite of products or services that I have available and I could probably put them together right at the end of that call, right in the end of that conversation and give you some options there because it’s all fairly, you know, it’s there, the pricing is standardized, the delivery is standardized and it’s built that way for reasons of scale in a customized services firm, again, every engagement should be a creative act. Every compensation plan and proposal should be a creative ad. So by thinking about trying to match solutions in the moment, you really are going to limit yourself. And we’ve all been in situations as buyers. If you’re old enough where you’ve had a conversation with a potential vendor or salesperson about helping you and you’re still describing the problem and they’re nodding their head going, Yep, Yep, Yep, we can do, we can help you, we can help you.
Blair Enns: And it’s not a very good feeling as a buyer. And we experienced that a lot. And what’s happening is the salesperson is, he’s jumping ahead, oh, I’ve seen this before. I’m like, you don’t need to talk anymore. I know what all the patterns are and whether they’re right or not, we don’t feel like we’re being heard. We don’t have the sense of trust in that person. If you think of the value conversation as I described it, those four steps where you’re not thinking about solutions, just imagine what it feels like to be on the end of that conversation. It feels like there’s a person sitting across the table from you and they are focused completely on you and what you are saying and what you want and what you want to be true. And they’re not interrupting you to tell you a story of, Oh yeah, we did that for So-and-so, or we’ve got this product, Oh, you’re going to love this product. They’re not thinking about what they’re going to say next. They’re not trying to sell you something. They’re just completely focused on you. And I like to say we all have a person like this in our personal lives, right? And I think of a friend of mine, when I tell this story, I always think of her. I don’t see her very often, but at the end of every exchange I always think, oh my God, I love her so much. She’s so wonderful.
Blair Enns: And then I’ll say to my wife, Hey, I ran into our friends and she’ll say, oh, how is she? And I’ll say, she’s, Oh, I don’t know how she is because she did it to me again and what she did in the brief exchanges that we have every few years or so, she’s just completely focused on me. How are you? How is the family? How’s the business? Have you been anywhere interesting lately? And I feel like these are great conversations and I have this incredible warmth and love for her, but she never reveals any, she’s not telling me anything about herself. And because our interactions are so short, they’re one sided. They don’t feel that way. They feel, I feel like, oh my God, this is, this person understands me. And so you take that, take that scale that my friend has and you transpose it into a business context that is the most valuable skill in all of business and the goal of value based pricing isn’t to charge more.
Blair Enns: That’s just a delightful consequence. The goal of value based pricing is to create an organization filled with people like that, who are laser focused on the client and how they can help create value for the client. You do that, everything changes. Your organization will be unrecognizable. If you could wave the magic wand and have every client facing person build that skill to mastery level overnight, you would not recognize your business in three years and the reason you wouldn’t is, when these people start to come back to the mothership with the debrief of the value conversation and you start brainstorming on how you can help. You’re going to come up with things that you’ve never dreamt of before. You’re going to come back with budgets that are multiples of the largest budget that you have ever had before and you’re going to have to get creative with how you would spend this money to help deliver this value and it’s going to stress the boundaries of your business model.
Blair Enns: You will, you will not recognize your business in three years. Now it’s almost impossible to wave the magic wand and build these skills to mastery level overnight. It takes time and it takes not just practice but guided practice because people listening to this podcast are thinking, oh yeah, yeah, I get it. I can do this. I can learn to let go. Man, unless you have somebody kind of coaching you, watching you. Unless you’re going in with a buddy whose job is to watch you and to debrief with you afterwards. It’s really hard to break the old habits.
Mark Stiving:I can see that completely. Can I ask you to… I’m going to stress your boundaries just a little bit, if I may.
Blair Enns: Yeah
Mark Stiving:And I want to ask if we… There’s two ways that I apply value conversations in the product world and I would love your critique, feedback, thoughts on what we do. One is, if I’m talking to a sales team, it is, you know, we have a product, we’re not going to go customize the product for them, but if we have the value conversation absent thinking about the product first, what we’re doing is understanding the value that our client has and then we can talk about what is it that our product is going to do for them and how they can help, how we can help them. Does that seem right or would you change that?
Blair Enns: I think you’re, even if you’re selling, let’s say you’re working for a product company and you just have one product, I think you’re still better off having the value conversation and really putting yourself in the client’s shoes and then having an honest conversation about where the value that they’re seeking and the value that the product delivers, where it aligns and doesn’t align. And I think you just, you’re going to build credibility by having that value conversation and then more credibility by being forthright about here are the things that you identified and here’s where I’m confident we’re going to deliver that value and here’s where in full disclosure you’re going to have to find ways to get these value met elsewhere or are you just going to have to accept that you’re not going to get everything that you’re looking for here.
Blair Enns: I mentioned the four conversations and in the probative conversation we’re looking for, it’s where you prove your expertise and move from vendor to expert. And the moment in time when that happens, we call that the flip the moment when you go from vendor to expert in the mind of the client. And if that hasn’t happened by, you know, ideally it happens before the first exchange, but it might not. It may be it’ll happen in the qualifying conversation, but maybe you get through the qualifying conversation and you’re still treated like a vendor. When you get through the end of a good value conversation, it’s likely that the flip has happened and the shields go down. You’re no longer seen as just another vendor. You’re seen as an expert practitioner. So I think even if you just have one product to sell, it’s not a bad thing to have the value conversation and then just at the end of that value conversation, don’t retreat like I suggested. At the end of that value conversation, do an honest kind of appraisal of where your product delivers on the client’s needs and where it doesn’t.
Mark Stiving: Yup. Excellent. Now every product manager who’s listening is saying to themselves, boy, I sure wish my sales people would go sell like that and now I’m going to put it back on the product people because we have to figure out what are the right segments to go after, what are the right products to build? How do we tweak our products and have the right offers for the right segments? And the only way we do that is by having value conversations with lots of potential buyers and customers so we can understand their value. Any advice for our product managers who are listening?
Blair Enns: I think that’s a great insight. And essentially you’re saying you use the value to get that deep customer feedback on what it is that they want. So if you, if you’re keeping score at home and you’re keeping track and you’re coming back to, let’s say you’re the product manager and you’ve got these salespeople coming back and debriefing on the value conversation and you’re seeing a repeated theme here, people are looking for this type of value and our product doesn’t deliver it. That’s an invitation for you to go there in the future. And I would also say that, you know, there are a lot of product companies and productized services companies like ours or ours as a productized services companies, it’s a training company, we have various products or products and services that we can match to a specific situation. So we don’t sell everybody the same thing. We have a value conversation and then we try to, you know, we take the items that are essentially on our shelf or in our stock and we customize the combination of those things to the client. So if you’re, if you’ve got a portfolio of products or services, then that’s the approach that you would take. But your initial point that this is a great kind of a market feedback mechanism. I think that’s great insight.
Mark Stiving: Yeah. So just to be, to be open, I wasn’t thinking about a product, listening to salespeople coming back, I was thinking about product people going out and having value conversations. But I loved what you said too, because if the sales team really is having value conversations, they’re suddenly bringing back information that’s truly valuable to the product team.
Blair Enns: Yeah. And I could see, I mean again, I think it’s the most valuable skill in all of the business. And I’ve given you an example of how it’s valuable in a personal context too. I don’t, when we do training for say, an ad agency, we’re asked like how many people should you have in the room? And the answer is like, as many as you can free up for the day because it’s a valuable skill to have even if you’re not on the front lines every day.
Mark Stiving:Yeah. Awesome. Okay. I want to talk all day long, but we are going to have to (inaudible) here just a minute. I mentioned your new book briefly and I, and I’m fascinated when I first saw the price of your book, I was shocked and I smiled and I loved it.
Blair Enns: Pricers love the way this book is priced. It may be the first pricing book in the world priced based on the principles in the book.
Mark Stiving: Yes. Well, so go ahead and tell us, uh, why you priced it the way you did if you don’t mind.
Blair Enns: Yeah. One of our company values that win without pitching is doing as we say, do what we say. So what that means is we, we sell the way that we advocate that others should sell. And when people are in conversations with us about training or coaching, we use the principles that we teach and that we advocate. And it’s, you know, if we’re, as I was writing the book actually in the very early stages, I was thinking, well, do I go to a publisher to write a self publish? I thought, well no, I want to control the pricing and you know, selfishly. Another reason is any book on pricing, you go buy a book on pricing if you’re up a small business owner or if you’re somebody who has authority to set price. The value of that book is immense. Like it makes a mockery of the price that you pay for the book.
Blair Enns: I went to my first book, which was self-published. I charged $1,000 a copy for it and I just, I realize, you know, if you feel like something is valuable, don’t be bound by the constraints of the package and there’s this thing around books that we think books are priced at a certain, should it be priced at a certain price point. Now having sold a book at a thousand or $995 a copy previously I knew that there was a market for this, so I decided I was going to embrace what it talked about in the book. So options, a high anchor and some other things that don’t talk in the book. I know you’re very learned in the area of price endings. So one of the middle options has a charm price and the anchor price is $320. The middle option is $199 and the cheap option is $100. So it’s $100 for an ebook, $199 for the ebook and manual and $320 for the ebook manual and a series of five videos.
Mark Stiving: Most expensive ebook I ever bought.
Blair Enns: Yeah. And I look at that as cheap. Yeah.
Mark Stiving: Oh, absolutely.
Blair Enns: Compared to 199 or 320. It’s cheap.
Mark Stiving: Yeah. And I think the thing that you rightly point out is the content in the book is amazingly valuable and people should get value. A lot of authors, myself included, when we write our books, we write the first one because we’re trying to build a brand as opposed to trying to make money. Yeah. So, hey, free is okay. All right, let’s, let’s get it out there and let people know. Um, so my next book might be 100 bucks.
Blair Enns: You know, I used to play when I was thinking of this book, I was driving my kids to soccer games or hockey games and I would play this game. All right, let’s, how do you, how do you earn $1 million from a book and well, you could sell… My kids would say you could sell a million copies at a dollar and then somebody would say, well, you could sell one copy for $1 million, and it just this really interesting creative exercise of how do you get to that number and there’s just so many different ways to do it.
Mark Stiving: Alright, I end every session with the same question, Blair. So you probably have heard it already, but what’s one piece of pricing advice that you would give our listeners that you think would have a big impact on their business? And it can be something we’ve already talked about if you want.
Blair Enns: Yeah, I would say I’m going to sneak two answers into my answer. Options with a high anchor. Just if you just always put forward options, three options and lead with the most expensive one, your average settled price will go up, I promise you.
Mark Stiving: Nice. Nice. All right. Blair, thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?
Blair Enns: Thanks, Mark. It’s been my pleasure. You can reach me at winwithoutpitching.com. You can reach the book, find firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m at Blair Enns on Twitter and Linkedin.
Mark Stiving: All right and Blair Enns will be spelled obviously in the show notes and even the show title. Episode 27 one of our best. I have to say my favorite part was watching. I have video so I could actually watch Blair was watching Blair get excited when he talks about value conversations. It was amazing. So what was your favorite part? Let us know in the comments or wherever you downloaded and listened to the podcast and while you’re there would you please give us a five-star review? It would help us immensely. If you have any questions or comments about the podcast or about pricing. Feel free to email me at email@example.com. Now, go make an impact.
Mark is a pricing expert who helps companies understand value, how to create it, communicate it and capture it. He has a PhD from U.C. Berkeley and an MBA from Santa Clara University, plus 25+ years pricing experience. As an educator, speaker and coach, Mark applies innovative, value-based pricing strategies to guide growth and increase profits for large and small companies.