Value-Based Pricing in Consulting

When embarking on a new project, finding the right fee structure can significantly enhance your company’s value. The optimal approach depends on factors such as the project’s essence, the nature of deliverables, the surrounding context, and your flexibility with fees, along with the level of commitment you seek from your consulting partner.

Value-sharing emerges as a strategic choice when aiming for high expectations, expecting consultants to exceed standard norms. This model is particularly beneficial for certain types of projects, clients and consulting firms. However, it also comes with its challenges. Success with this model hinges on clear objectives, effective communication, and mutual trust between clients and consultants.

In this episode of the Smart Consulting Sourcing podcast, Helene explores these questions and more. Tune in for valuable insights.

Key Takeaways

  • Value-based pricing, aligns fees with the outcomes and value delivered to the client, rather than the effort expended by the consultant, is gaining traction in the consulting world.
  • Value-based pricing in consulting transcends the traditional metrics of hours worked or the headcount involved in a project. Instead, it zeroes in on the impact and transformation the consulting work brings to your business
  • Value-based pricing aligns clients and consultants toward maximizing value, fostering mutual interests.
  • Clients can start with a modest flat fee, just dipping a toe in the waters of potential savings.
  • Defining baseline and success conditions with high precision is crucial here. Without clear, measurable objectives, clients risk paying a premium for nebulous value.
  • Intangible deliverables pose challenges, as they lack direct, measurable impacts on profit and loss statements.
  • In value-based pricing in consulting, a pivotal question is how to evaluate the expected value. This is where the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) becomes essential, serving as a cornerstone for understanding and justifying the shift towards value-based pricing.
  • In practice, value sharing requires a finely tuned balance between expectation and execution, where consultants and clients must work closely to define success, measure it accurately, and agree on the value each milestone or outcome truly represents.
  • Success of this model hinges on the details, like setting a clear starting point, establishing measurable parameters, agreeing on goals, and defining how those goals will be measured.


Welcome back to Smart Consulting Sourcing, the only podcast for in-depth insights into the world of consulting procurement. My name is Helene and I’m your host, and today we will be talking about value-based pricing in consulting. It’s a very interesting topic and I am really excited to dig deep into it.

Last week we decoded consulting prices and what really influences the so-called numbers. We learned how consulting prices hinge on people’s expertise, seniority, team composition, project specifics, delivery model, project duration and what not. But today, we will take a very close look at value-based pricing in consulting. So, buckle up, as we’re about to embark on a very interesting journey!

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Alright then! Now let’s get back to today’s discussion which will be all about value-based pricing in consulting. We’ll look at what value-based pricing is all about, its advantages and challenges, how to evaluate the expected value, and lots more. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into today’s episode!

Value-based Pricing in Consulting

Today, we’re zeroing in on a fascinating aspect of consulting pricing. We’ll be delving deep into value-based pricing and its exciting corollary; that is, value-sharing fee structures. Now, most of us are familiar with the traditional pricing models in consulting, right? It usually boils down to a daily rate multiplied by the number of days worked on a project. This rate is a blend of the total costs, the number of billable days, and, of course, a slice of profit on top. While this method is clear and transparent, it doesn’t always dance in step with the true value delivered.

Enter value-based pricing, a model that shifts the spotlight from costs to, you guessed it, value. It’s a broader, more expansive way of looking at how services are priced, one that ensures the fees you pay are directly tied to the benefits you reap.

What is Value-based Pricing?

Value-based pricing is gaining traction in the consulting world for a very compelling reason: it aligns fees with the outcomes and value delivered to the client, rather than the effort expended by the consultant. Have you ever wondered why some of the largest consulting firms are reticent to break down their fees into detailed daily rates and specific time allocations? It’s likely because they’re employing value-based pricing, sidestepping the traditional mechanics of workload times daily rates.

The Philosophy behind Value Pricing

Value-based pricing in consulting transcends the traditional metrics of hours worked or the headcount involved in a project. Instead, it zeroes in on the impact and transformation the consulting work brings to your business. This approach can be likened to a “willingness to pay” model, where the price is anchored not in the inputs but in the value derived from the project.

Consider this: if a consulting engagement is poised to deliver substantial value to your company—say, by unlocking new revenue streams, significantly cutting costs, or facilitating a transformative strategic shift—why should the compensation be limited to the mere hours spent on the project? This perspective brings to light the essence of value-based pricing. It’s about fairness and recognition of the consultant’s role in enabling the capture of this value.

Advantages and Challenges

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks and explore why this model is like a breath of fresh air in the consulting world. For one, it aligns the stars—both clients and consultants orbit around the shared goal of maximizing value, creating a universe where mutual interests reign supreme. The risk for the client? It’s about as limited as the chances of finding a pen that works the first time in a meeting room. And the commitment from the client’s side can start as modestly as a small flat fee, as if dipping a toe in the waters of potential savings.

But, as we navigate this new frontier, we must also be mindful of the asteroids in our path. Defining the baseline and conditions of success requires the precision of a space mission trajectory calculation. Without clear, measurable objectives, there’s a risk the client might end up paying a premium for value that’s more nebulous than a cloud in a nebula. And when it comes to intangible deliverables, those without a direct, measurable impact on the profit and loss statement, applying this model can feel like trying to lasso a comet—its challenging, if not slightly quixotic.

Moreover, traditional consulting firms often view value-based pricing with the same enthusiasm as a cat does to a bath. Why? Because it disrupts their well-oiled pricing and risk management models. Reserving a squadron of four consultants on the promise of payment for only two is a gamble that doesn’t neatly fit into their ledger.

How to Evaluate the Expected Value?

When we embrace value-based pricing in consulting, a pivotal question arises: how to evaluate the value we can expect? This is where the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) becomes essential, serving as a cornerstone for understanding and justifying the shift towards value-based pricing.

Firstly, let’s consider the link between the consultant’s fees and the anticipated value of the project. The premise of value-based pricing is not just about paying for outcomes; it’s about ensuring these outcomes offer a significant return on your investment.

For a consulting project under a value-based pricing model, establishing an expected ROI that is both ambitious and achievable is key. Consider, for instance, setting an ROI range of 5 to 10 times the investment. This doesn’t just pull a number out of thin air; it grounds the project’s ambitions in reality, setting a benchmark for what constitutes ‘value’ in this context. It means that the value you anticipate from the project should be reasonably attainable—a target that, while challenging, is within the realm of possibility given the consultant’s expertise and the project’s scope.

What if the Value is Uncertain?

Facing uncertainty in the expected value from a consulting project is a legitimate concern, often making the leap into a value-based pricing model seem risky. Indeed, predicting and quantifying outcomes for some projects isn’t straightforward. So, when faced with such unpredictability, how can you commit without taking on too much risk?

Enter the strategy of performance-based fees, a refined solution that ensures fees align with the actual value delivered, particularly when project outcomes aren’t clear-cut. This approach relies on a tiered fee structure, designed to match payment with varying degrees of project success. This is the essence of value-sharing pricing—adapting the cost to the level of impact achieved.

At the base, you can set a fee that aligns with the lowest reasonable expectations for the project—the minimum value you’re confident the consulting engagement will deliver. This creates a safety net, ensuring that you’re not overcommitting resources relative to the uncertain value.

Value-Sharing: A Dream Come True?

On the surface, value sharing might look like procurement’s dream come true. It seems to offer the best of both worlds: minimal upfront commitment and the luxury of paying only after seeing tangible results. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? However, as we peel back the layers, the complexity of implementing a value-sharing model in real-world scenarios becomes apparent.

In practice, value sharing requires a finely tuned balance between expectation and execution. It’s not just about setting goals and waiting to pay the invoice once those goals are hit. There’s a foundational level of trust and partnership that needs to be established first. Consultants and clients must work closely to define success, measure it accurately, and agree on the value each milestone or outcome truly represents.

When you’re embarking on a new project, pinpointing the right fee structure can significantly boost your company’s value gain. The optimal approach hinges on various factors: the project’s essence, the deliverables’ nature, the surrounding context, and your flexibility with fees, not to mention the depth of commitment you’re seeking from your consulting partner.

Value-sharing stands out as a strategic choice when you’re aiming high, expecting consultants to not just meet but exceed standard expectations. This model is about tightly syncing your consultants’ incentives with your goals, promising them a piece of the victory pie if the project hits its mark. It’s particularly effective for initiatives like slashing costs, finetuning prices, or launching new ventures.

But, let’s cut to the chase: adopting a value-sharing approach isn’t a magical solution that automatically aligns every star in the consulting cosmos. At a glance, it seems like your objectives and the consultants’ are moving in concert. Yet, the reality is more nuanced. Consultants, driven by the allure of maximizing their gains, might lean towards maximizing immediate outcomes, possibly at the expense of your long-term interests.

To steer clear of this potential pitfall, strong governance is non-negotiable. It’s about ensuring that while consultants play a pivotal role in driving the project forward, every step taken is in harmony with your overarching strategy and company culture. Remember, even as consultants take the wheel in execution, you’re the one charting the course.

Moreover, the timing of payments under a value-sharing agreement can be a double-edged sword. While it’s appealing to delay payments until results are delivered, this model also demands that clients are prepared to recognize and reward those results fairly and promptly. The consultant’s motivation hinges on the belief that their extra effort will be compensated not just eventually, but in accordance with the value they’ve added.

Then there’s the matter of risk. Value sharing shifts some of the financial risk to the consultants, who invest their time and expertise upfront, banking on the project’s success. For clients, this risk transfer can seem advantageous, but it also necessitates a willingness to pay for success at potentially higher rates than traditional fee structures. This is because consultants need to account for the risk of non-payment in their pricing models, especially when outcomes are less certain.

So, while value sharing holds immense potential to align interests and drive exceptional results, it’s not as simple as it seems on paper. It requires careful negotiation, clear communication, and a shared commitment to partnership. Both parties need to dive into this arrangement with their eyes open, aware of the mutual benefits and the challenges that lie ahead.

Making Value-Sharing Work for You

Unlocking the power of value-sharing fees is a bit like setting ambitious goals for your team. It’s about understanding the basics that are covered by the regular pay and then defining what extra achievements deserve a bonus. How do you pinpoint these extras, and more importantly, how do you measure their success? Here’s a practical approach:

First, zero in on the essential outcomes you’re expecting from the project. What’s the baseline of success? Next, identify those stretch goals that would significantly enhance the project’s value for your organization. Assign a clear value to these goals, and establish a method to measure success—keeping it SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. And, of course, consider potential hiccups along the way on both sides of the equation.

Now, let’s look at some real-world scenarios where value-sharing models have driven success:

Time is Gold

Picture launching a new product. Every day saved in getting to the market is invaluable. Here, you can link the consultant’s compensation to how quickly they deliver. Set a firm deadline with a specific payout. Deliver earlier without compromising quality, and there’s a bonus for every day saved. This approach isn’t just about speed; it’s about maintaining high standards under tight timelines, applicable to scenarios like accelerating development cycles.

Cutting Costs Wisely

Consider a project aimed at reducing overhead in less critical spending areas. You might start with a diagnostic phase, offering a flat fee plus a bonus for early wins. The next phase’s compensation could be tied to the savings identified, structured around a smaller base fee with bonuses for realized savings over time. Since these savings often recur annually, you’re sharing a slice of the first year’s pie.

Boosting Profits Through Pricing

Imagine an airline tweaking its ticket pricing strategy. The consultant’s goal? Help boost revenues by $100M. Achieve that, and they earn a flat fee. Surpass it, and for every additional $1M in revenue, they receive a bonus. It’s a clear incentive for driving substantial revenue growth.

In each of these cases, value-sharing aligns everyone’s interests towards hitting those high marks. But remember, the magic of value-sharing isn’t just in setting the targets; it’s in the careful crafting of those goals, ensuring they’re ambitious yet attainable, and keeping the lines of communication open every step of the way. It’s about partnership, strategic goal setting, and, ultimately, sharing the rewards of success.

The Cheat Sheet for Value Sharing

So, what’s the bottom line with value-sharing in consulting? The key to success is in the details—specifically, setting a clear starting line and establishing measurable parameters. It’s not just about agreeing on a goal; it’s about laying the groundwork for how that goal is measured.

First things first, you and your consultant need to be on the same page regarding the baseline. What’s the starting point from which improvement or impact will be measured? This sets the stage for a fair assessment of the project’s success.

Next, pick a timeframe for measurement that aligns with the nature of your project. Not too short that it doesn’t capture the project’s full impact, but not so long that the connection to the project’s efforts becomes tenuous.

Also, it’s wise to anticipate and agree on how unforeseen events might adjust your game plan. Life’s full of curveballs, and your project’s no exception. Having a plan for the ‘what-ifs’ ensures that unexpected changes don’t derail your value-sharing agreement.

Once the project wraps up, it’s time to crunch the numbers. Identify which changes or improvements can directly be traced back to the project. This is where your prep work pays off, allowing you to calculate the project’s tangible impact accurately.


In wrapping up our episode, it’s clear that this approach isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not suitable for every project, nor will it fit the bill for every client or consulting firm out there. The path of value-sharing is strewn with its own set of challenges and potential points of contention between clients and consultants. But here’s the crux of the matter: the success of value-sharing hinges on approaching discussions with an open and honest mindset.

If your primary goal is to maximize value while sticking to the lowest possible fee, you might want to rethink. Why? Because value-sharing models, while promising added value, often result in higher fees compared to traditional consulting arrangements. The essence of value-sharing is a trade-off—consultants accepting lower initial fees in exchange for the promise of potential higher rewards upon delivering significant impact.

This model demands a willingness to share risk on both sides; it’s about balancing the scales between upfront investment and the possibility of greater returns down the line. It’s a partnership that thrives on mutual trust and shared ambition, not a loophole for cutting costs at the expense of the consultants.

As we wrap up this episode, for those eager to explore more about the topic we’ve discussed earlier today, check out Episode 97, ‘Consulting Fees: The State of Market’, available on under the thought leadership section. In that particular episode, I break down why consulting services are so expensive by clarifying how consultants define their fees as well as examine the different fees structures.

Also, you can visit for the article ‘Decoding Consulting Fees Structures: Insider Insights’ where we talk about the key parameters used in defining the pricing for a consulting project, the most common types of consulting fees, and how to select the right fees structure for a project.

Next week, we’re diving into a very hot topic that’s sure to turn your heads. Yes, you’re correct, we’ll be digging deep into how to negotiate consulting fees effectively. This is a piece of the puzzle that’s often overlooked, yet fundamentally shapes the negotiation landscape and we will be going all in next week, so do join me for that.

Alright then! Thank you so much for hanging out with me today as we zeroed in on value-based pricing in consulting. I really hope you found it very useful and that you enjoyed the episode as much as I did. I’ll catch you all next week for another deep dive into the consulting world!

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or drop an email at You know I am always game for a chat.

Until next time, stay safe and keep up the smart consulting sourcing game. Au revoir for now, and happy sourcing!

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Helene Laffitte

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting. To find out more, visit the blog or contact her directly.

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