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Piles of three coins Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Set Sales Fees In Threes

Lee Warren Headshot By Lee
08/11/2018

One of the best ways to get a positive response to your proposal and reduce haggling is to present your fees and solutions in threes

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If you’re in any kind of professional service, you’ll be familiar with the terror/excitement/awkardness of letting someone know your fee in a sales situation.

You’ve built the rapport, created a value-filled proposal and you’ve put a lot of thought into your fee, but still too many people say no, or negotiate hard on your fee. What can you do?

The answer is – think in threes.

One of the best ways to get a positive response to your proposal and reduce haggling is to present your fees and solutions in threes.

Why three rather than four or five?

There’s something about threes that suit the human mind. If you watch a good magician you’ll often see that they structure their tricks to have 3 moments of surprise. We seem to remember threes well – think of fairy tales and phrases like:

‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

‘Just Do It’

And my favourite:

‘Use the Force’*

Why not a single fee?

Presenting your fees in threes helps you to avoid ‘Binary Buying’ – if you offer someone only one option, then they can only say yes or no to that single option. But what about if they were 80% leaning towards a yes? They’ve still got to say no, but you might have been able to rescue that sale.

Equally, you don’t want to offer too many options, since this can cause delays and confusion. There’s a reason we tend to like three courses in a restaurant, rather than fourteen. In fact, if you think about it, restaurants use the model of three courses to help us make a decision. If we had to pick three options from a menu that wasn’t broken down into ‘Starter’ ‘Main Course’ and ‘Dessert’, we’d probably find it much harder to choose.

So where possible offer three options, and this is often the best format and order to follow:

Option One It’s expensive, difficult or risky BUT you get a very high reward.

Option Two Reasonably expensive, difficult or risky and you get a decent reward.

Option Three The budget option. Affordable, easy and low-risk, and you get a budget reward.

For example, I’m a speaker, so my fees could look like this:

Option One Speaker plans and delivers main keynote, plus a VIP workshop for up to 12 of the exec team. The speaker will bespoke the content and attend a client briefing meeting, and as many phone meetings as required. In addition, they’ll record a video welcome in advance of their speech and be available after the speech for a 30 minute Q&A. All attendees will also receive a copy of the speaker’s latest book ‘Fees in Threes’.The fee is £XXXXX

Option Two Speaker delivers main keynote, plus a VIP Workshop for up to 8 of the exec team. The speaker will attend phone and Skype meetings as necessary to prepare. They’ll be available for a 30 minute Q&A after the speech. The speaker’s latest book may be purchased by attendees on the day.The fee is £XXXX

Option Three Speaker delivers keynote ‘as known’ and is available for a 30 minute Q&A after the speech. The speaker’s latest book may be purchased by attendees on the day.The fee is £XX


The reason this format often works well is that most people automatically read the ‘best’ option first and want it, which usually means they ignore the budget option by the time they’ve got to it.

If they’re going to negotiate, they’ll usually try and get the value of option one but for the price of option two.This is great because it means you have a conversation about which tradeables to include and which need to go.

Notice also that each paragraph has more information and value than the one after it. You can see which option has more just by looking at it!

Of course, you can use lists of three in lots of other ways in your proposals. For example service levels, deadlines, and payment schedules.

And, in case you didn’t spot it, that last sentence used a list of three!
Try it, and let me know how you get on.

*If talking in threes is good enough for Jedi Knights, it’s good enough for the rest of us!
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