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Business Proposal Pricing Mistakes: How (Not) to Present Your Pricing Table

Writing a great business proposal is crucial for getting new clients, scaling your business, and building your reputation. And while we've already covered what an ideal proposal looks like, there's one section that holds the power to make or break it all. 

You know, that section no client will skip? The one that holds the power to seal the deal or send them running for the hills?

If you guessed pricing, you're absolutely right. The truth is, no matter how well you present the value and benefits of what you're selling in the rest of your proposal, a badly presented pricing table can undermine it all. So, to make sure your pricing tables are assets, and not liabilities, let's look at some real-life examples of pricing table mistakes to avoid.

Pricing table mistake no. 1: Too much industry jargon

While you might be tempted to use industry jargon to come across as knowledgeable and professional, overdoing it can backfire. For one, if you're at the stage of sending a business proposal, your client already thinks you're a good candidate for the job.

In addition to that, nothing in your proposal should confuse the client - and that includes the pricing table. Take a look at the following example:

pricing table mistake too much jargon

While these are line items from a web design proposal, the wording has the potential of sending the customer straight to Google. Sure, an industry professional knows exactly what wireframes, sitemaps, and Hi-Fi designs are. However, using jargon can negatively impact customer experience because it:

  • Creates confusion for people not familiar with the terminology
  • Excludes non-expert readers, which might result in them feeling disconnected from your business, rather than excited for the project
  • Results in misunderstandings and incorrect expectations, especially if people reviewing the proposal make the wrong assumptions about the terminology
  • Delays the decision-making process because important details get buried in technical terms

At the end of the day, you want every part of your proposal to speed up the sales process, not the other way around. The easiest way to make it happen is to tailor everything, including your language, to the clients.

Pricing table mistake no. 2: Failing to present the solution

While the example above does have its problems, at least it tries to present the solution. Our next one only presents the service without going into any detail, which comes with its own set of problems:

pricing table mistake no description

As you can see, this pricing table lists line items with no explanation of what the service actually does, so missing line item descriptions are our first strike. But what stands out the most is the last item with estimated additional changes of ten hours. Here's why it's a problem:

  1. It's an estimate, which we'll cover in more detail in the next paragraph.
  2. The estimate is ten hours, so what happens if not all ten hours are used up? Does the customer get their money back? On the same note, is there an extra cost if additional changes take more than ten hours? And how will the customer even know how many hours it took?

See how many questions can come up from only one poorly chosen line item? The thing is, selling a service is a lot different from selling a product. Products have fixed prices based on production cost, shipping, etc., but there are better ways to price a service than setting an hourly rate.

Pricing table mistake no. 3: Estimates instead of a grand total

A business proposal is never your first point of contact with potential clients, especially if you're selling a service. Before sending anything, you'll want to find out more about their company, their goals, their expectations - after all, that's what discovery sessions are for.

So, if you've talked to the prospect, asked the right questions, and identified their pain points, why would you not know how much the job is going to cost? Right on cue, our next example:

pricing table mistake estimates

Right off the bat, you'll notice none all the line items in the pricing table come with a price range instead of the actual total. Now, seeing that the timeline is also an estimate, you could come to the conclusion that the price goes up if you want it done faster. You might be right, but we'll never know because it's not stated. 

What's more, a 4,000 difference in any currency for the grand total is not an insignificant leap. So, what can you do to avoid sending proposals with estimates in your pricing tables? It's simple - if you have additional questions that will impact the price, just ask. Book a meeting, send an email, call your potential clients. But don't create a confusing pricing table that doesn't tell them anything about the final cost.

Pricing table mistake no. 4: Making clients do the math

Don't you love it when you want to buy something, but you need to break out your calculator to see how much it's going to cost? Neither do your clients. We've got two examples here, so we'll start with the less offensive one:

pricing table mistake no grand total

There are two things that would dramatically improve this pricing table. The first one is better wording for the last item, which is currently "Excluding VAT". Usually, when a pricing table says this, you get the price without the VAT included. Here, you'll eventually get to the conclusion that it's not the price of the website without the VAT. Instead, it's 20% of the total, meaning this is how much VAT is charged on top of the price. Remove "Excluding" and the line item's fixed.

That said, since there are already separate line items for the website build and VAT, why not just add another one that adds them up? That way, the pricing is completely transparent and the customer can see the total right away. Speaking of transparent pricing tables, let's take a look at the following example.

pricing table mistake do your own math

We'll address the optional items in the next paragraph, but for the sake of demonstrating how confusing this pricing table is, imagine you want to get all the extras. The initial, one-off website cost was £5,250, then add 250 for CMS, figure out how many months you'll want hosting and the assurance plan for, add those up. Then add it to the first total, multiply to get the 25% extra price. Finally, take 5% off because you're paying in advance. 

All in all, making them figure out the prices is not the best way to attract customers. What's more, making your pricing hard to figure out adds an element of doubt in your business. A potential customer might think that you're trying to confuse them on purpose to make more money even though that wasn't your intention. So, make sure your pricing tables are simple to understand.

Pricing table mistake no. 5: Too many optional items

Adding optional items to your pricing tables is a great way of upselling. That said, overdoing it can have the opposite effect, especially if you're mentioning items that should be included or listing every single service you offer. 

The following pricing table is a good example of how not to upsell. First of all, hosting is listed as an optional service. And while some clients might want to take care of their own website hosting, this is something that should have been talked about before sending the proposal.

pricing table mistake too many options

Another thing that stands out here is the Assurance plan item. Without the description, it's anyone's guess what it actually means. And if a customer doesn't know what something means, chances are they aren't going to choose to pay extra for it.

Better Proposals interactive pricing tables to the rescue

When you're sending your proposals as PDFs, you're missing out on incorporating interactive elements that can make the sales process easier for both you and your customers. Since we're on the topic of user-friendly pricing tables, automatically calculated totals are just one benefit of using web-based documents. Here's what you can do with Better Proposals pricing tables.

Give your prospects a choice

If your company offers different service or product packages, an interactive pricing table is exactly what you need. Simply put in your package options, let your customer tick a box, and collect their signature - all in one place.

better proposals pricing table choices

Sprinkle in some options

So, you've talked to your prospect and now it's time to write up the proposal. You've noticed them being slightly interested in other services or products you offer, but they were still on the fence. The easy way to upsell? Make it an option and let your customer choose!

better proposals pricing table optional items

Add multiple pricing tables

Have a complex pricing structure, multiple package options or different sets of choices? No problem! Make your proposal pricing section clean and clear by adding separate pricing tables.

better proposals multiple pricing tables

Let them choose the quantity

If you sell products and want to let clients choose how many they'll buy, Better Proposals lets you do that as well. And don't worry about running out of stock - set quantity limits and you're good to go!

better proposals pricing table quantities

Apply discounts

Whether it's a percentage of the total price or a specific amount, you can apply discounts in a few clicks with Better Proposals. The pricing table total calculates automatically so everything stays transparent.

better proposals pricing table discounts

Final thoughts

Clear and transparent pricing is key to maintaining customer relationships and establishing a positive brand image. Avoid these common pricing table mistakes to support your customers in making informed decisions and build trust. And if you want to see what Better Proposals pricing tables can do for your business, sign up - the first 14 days are on us!

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Patricija Šobak's profile image
Patricija Šobak puts her talent in spotting questionable grammar and shady syntax to good use by writing about various business-related topics. Besides advocating the use of the Oxford comma, she also likes coffee, dogs, and video games. People find her ability to name classic rock songs only from the intro both shocking and impressive.