Value vs Luxury: Psych 101 on Prices and Positioning

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Have you ever thought about taking a psychology course just to be better in sales? I have. There’s so much psychology that goes into it! Seriously, so much. How you frame questions or conversations, body language, tonality, even how you price your stuff; all of these —and more— have a psychological impact on your prospect. 

One of the things that entrepreneurs struggle with the most is how to price their products or services. Do you go with a “value offer” so that they believe they’re getting a deal? Or do you price it as if it’s a premium or luxury product, letting your clients know that they’re buying something special?

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, let me break it down for you. If you already know this, skip ahead. 

Value Pricing

A value offer is about trying to make it seem like there is so much value in something at an incredibly low price. The price compared to the value is so low that they would be crazy not to buy it. You can achieve this in several ways. 

One of them is to show the inflated “original” price. You’ll be offered a great deal on something for “only $19.97.” And next to it, with a big, bold, red X over it, an original price of $49.99. With over $30 off, how could you pass that up?

One of them is to show the inflated “original” price. You’ll be offered a great deal on something for “only $19.97.” And next to it, with a big, bold, red X over it, an original price of $49.99. With over $30 off, how could you pass that up?

That tactic is often used with the always hard to resist bonus offers. “Not only do you get (this), you’ll also receive (this), (this), and (this) for FREE!” Usually, these freebies wind up being pretty low quality or value, but they were free, so how can you complain

Another option is to give them a short deadline to buy it so cheaply (even though a lot of those timers actually mean nothing because they’ll always be there). When the clock is ticking, you’re less likely to spend time thinking about whether or not it’s actually a good deal.

Another option is to give them a short deadline to buy it so cheaply (even though a lot of those timers actually mean nothing because they’ll always be there). When the clock is ticking, you’re less likely to spend time thinking about whether or not it’s actually a good deal.

(And just so we’re clear, none of these strategies are proof of a bad product. Far from it! They’re just designed to sell quicker and easier. It doesn’t mean they’re not worth it, or that you shouldn’t use them.)

Finally, there’s the price itself. Weirdly enough, prices that end in 9, 7, or 5, in dollars or cents, seem way cheaper to a lot of people. If they see something for $497, then they can tell their brain that it’s less than $500. A clearance item at $2.99 will often sell quicker than one at $2.00. 

Crazy, I know. But we all fall for it. That’s why you see it everywhere.

On the other side of that coin, you’ll see brands who use none of these tactics, but it’s still a tactic. 

Luxury Pricing

Take a look at these luxury items from Louis Vuitton’s website.

I won’t make you squint. The prices are: 

  • $1,150.00
  • $1,190.00
  • $8,350.00

For green sneakers, earbuds, and an admittedly cool watch. 

What do you notice about those prices? Zeroes.

Not only do they not end in “value offer” numbers like 97, but they even include the zero cents. And we all learned in grade school that you don’t really have to do that. 

But there’s a reason. Those zeroes are a sign of luxury. More zeroes = more dollars. And you’ll spend it because these are the kinds of things you buy when you know you deserve it.

Other high-end sites remove the cents, but they still almost all end in zero. Same thing, just a little cleaner. Even odder but apparently just as effective, some brands will completely remove the dollar sign from the price. 

These little differences all lead to the main idea that you’re not just ‘spending money,’ you’re investing in yourself. 

In addition to the numbers, they’ll use words like exclusive, limited, and things like that. Those are usually accurate in terms of only being able to buy a particular style or offering for a certain amount of time, but it still puts pressure on the buyer to break out their wallet quicker. Same thing as with value pricing without the obvious countdown clock.

These brands want to sell you something, but they know they can’t and won’t sell to everybody. That’s why they don’t need to make these look inexpensive because their customers are special. They don’t want you to think you’re getting a deal and that anybody can get it. You’re buying a name, quality, prestige, luxury, and that doesn’t come cheap. And they know that between the name and the high ticket cost, you’re going to be happy buying it because you get to show your friends, family, and coworkers the kind of life you’re living through your possessions. 

Again, rationally, you might know that you don’t have to spend that much money to buy quality stuff. You can get amazing-sounding earbuds for way less than $1200. But they won’t have that special ‘LV’ on them. The feeling of being “worth it” will make spending that kind of money a good decision for those that can do it.

So knowing that, how do you feel about your pricing?

Here’s the thing, there’s nothing wrong with either one. But you could be doing yourself a disservice if your prices are too low because you hope you’ll sell more.

That’s when we get into positioning. 

So What Is Your Value

The way you position yourself and your products and services should have a direct effect on how you price them. Especially if you’re able to frame that position to your prospects.

It starts with being able to get them to admit that they have a need. If you can uncover their pains and needs well enough, then hopefully you’ll be able to redirect their thought processes from “this could be better” to “this needs to change now.”

In some sales roles or with some products, getting prospects to that point might take too long or be unnecessary, especially with “turn and burn” style products or services. If so, that’s when value pricing comes in. When you’re a “nice to have” instead of a “need to have,” you’re pricing needs to reflect that. It shows that you have value without breaking the bank, or the value is significantly greater than what the cost would be somewhere else or at a different time. 

If that’s not the kind of sales you’re in or want to do, and you don’t have a name as well-known as Gucci, Tiffany’s, or Louis Vuitton (because let’s face it, most of us don’t), you’ll have to work a lot harder to justify luxury pricing. 

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for it!

You just have to position yourself in a way that shows you’re worth it. And you have to get them to admit they need you. 

This is part of the qualifying process anyway, and it’s always important. But the higher your prices are compared to your competitors, the deeper you’ll have to go with it. 

And just like Louis Vuitton, you’ll have to understand that you’re not going to be able to sell yourself to everybody. 

This kind of positioning isn’t just important in sales, it’s important in any partnership. 

On my personal blog, I just wrote about almost entering into a partnership where I would’ve been viewed more as a vendor than a partner. Because the CEO didn’t think he needed me and my partners, he wasn’t motivated to pay us what we’re worth. Even more importantly, he didn’t value our time or our ideas and processes. 

To him, we were a “nice to have.”

In any kind of partnership, from a new project to a sales transaction to a marriage, admitting that there is a need is huge. If you don’t think you need the other person, there will be less investment in time, money, resources, or just making it work. 

But in the sales process, it’s crucial to decide how you need to be positioned for your pricing. Whether you go with value, luxury, or somewhere in between, it just has to make sense for you, your selling style, and your selling and conversational abilities. 
If you’re struggling to have those conversations or don’t know what questions to ask to help your prospects find their pains and needs, click here to find out how I can help.

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