Defining and Comparing Various Pricing Approaches

The various pricing approaches discussed in the accounting profession these days can be really confusing. There’s a lot of overlap between them and many misconceptions, especially about “value pricing.” Defining any of these with a tidy little soundbite is tough so I’ve listed several characteristics and indicate where each falls along the spectrum of exhibiting that characteristic.

This chart compares a handful of approaches including my own, Advanced Pricing Methods® (or APM). APM is a built upon a foundation of worth-based pricing that harnesses best practices that a) position the seller for higher worth in a buyer’s eyes, and b) package multiple services together to achieve a buyer’s overarching goal.

Chart to compare pricing approach characteristics

In addition to the chart above, this written description might help explain why I don’t advocate using the phrase “value pricing” ever, preferring the term worth-based pricing instead.

Definitions of worth based price and value price

I hope you’ll find these helpful and I expect these definitions may involve so I wholeheartedly invite feedback either here, on X/Twitter (@michellegolden) or LinkedIn.



What Exactly are Advanced Pricing Methods?

What Exactly are Advanced Pricing Methods?

Advanced Pricing Methods℠ (APM) is a term I coined to encompass techniques that I teach professionals to use to price knowledge work before the work is performed. Key is presenting the work in such a way that the focus is on the worth of outcomes and results of the sellers’ solutions, rather than a list of activities and tasks the seller will undertake. My methods include learning how to incorporate options into offerings, significant attention to defining scope, and ways to engage in deeper dialogue with the buyer about what’s important to them, and discovering why or why not.

With APM, the buyer has certainty in price and a welcomed sense of control in the initial purchase as well as when accepting additional work that is also pre-priced. And with APM, once both buyer and seller have a strong sense of WHY the work is going to be done; they can agree on the worth. The buyer agrees to a price worth paying for their defined outcomes, and the firm agrees it’s worth doing the work for that price associated with their thoughtfully defined scope.

When would you rather know the buyer is happy with your price, before you do the work, or after?

Pricing in advance is not a foreign concept to CPAs who have pre-priced audit and certain other work for years, but it’s usually with the caveat that the price is just an estimate and will be adjusted if “actual” work took longer than the CPA firm originally thought. Long-term fallout from having this built-in “cushion” potential, firms simply aren’t careful about overages. But with that comes a handful of consequences that include having to choose between suffering unchecked profit-margin erosion or risking damage to customer relationships from hitting them up to pay “surprise” bills after work was already performed. I call this “billing and ducking.” As someone who did it, too (once upon a time when I used to charge hourly rates), billing and ducking was exactly what it felt like to send that bill and hope beyond hope that they wouldn’t be upset, they’d just pay it. What a terrible way to feel (on both ends). And I knew it was a lousy way to do business and that it compromised my buyers’ trust in me when I did that.

The biggest difference between pseudo pre-pricing (with after-the-fact adjustments) and Advanced Pricing Methods℠ is that APM eliminates surprises. When price certainty is adhered to, customer trust is not only preserved, it increases.

I suspect that the ability to rely on a back-up plan of billing overages after the fact has led to an unfortunate skill deficit: most firms lack people with highly developed project-management skills—skills that start with really good project definition—which is the number one way to prevent scope creep. Great project management corrects much of that margin-erosion problem even if work isn’t priced in advance. And it becomes essential when the firm commits to absorbing overage risks instead of transferring the risk onto the buyer. It also improves communications for managing expectations, both with the customer and among your team members. APM will enhance your project management skills, too.

My Advanced Pricing Methods℠ teach:

  • How to ascertain the most valuable part of what you do
  • How to identify scope risks and head them off at the pass (leading to better project definition for better project management)
  • How and why to offer multiple price options instead of a single price
  • How to use your options as a key scope-management tool
  • How to anticipate and easily capture extra revenue for the additional work that arises
  • Why it’s advantageous to put your customers in control of their purchases


Is your firm ready for Advanced Pricing Methods℠? Some firms institutionalize it, and others pilot with an industry group or two. No two firms are the same. And lots of CPAs just want to learn the methods and “go rogue” practicing the techniques one proposal at a time.

Either way, let’s talk.