How To Sell High-Quality Design Services
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How To Sell High-Quality Design Services

Do you sell high-end design services? 

Today I want to show you how framing the ‘Loss’ and the ‘Gain’ can make selling high-end design services that much easier.

Let’s start with a question – have you ever wondered what’s influencing your Client’s financial behavior?

Two behavioral finance experts (Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky) were fascinated by this question, so they devised a series of experiments aimed at testing how human beings respond to different financial situations.

According to the bestselling book, Priceless, in one such experiment Kahneman and Tversky asked a group of subjects which option they’d choose in the following two scenarios:


You have $1,000 and must choose one of the following options:

Option A:

You have a 50% chance of gaining $1,000 and a 50% chance of gaining $0.

Option B:

You have a 100% chance of gaining $500.

“Which option would you choose, A or B?”


You have $2,000 and must choose one of the following options:

Option A:

You have a 50% chance of losing a $1,000 and a 50% chance of losing $0.

Option B:

You have a 100% chance of losing $500.

“Which option would you choose, A or B?”

Images by Blue Turtle Consulting

The Twist:

The twist to this experiment is that Option A always leaves you with either $1,000 or $2,000, while Option B always leaves you with $1,500. The only difference is if the question is framed as a loss or a gain.

From a logical perspective, subjects should choose the same answer in either scenario. If you like to gamble, then you should always choose Option A because it gives you an opportunity to achieve more financial gain. While, if you’re more conservative, then you should always choose Option B because it guarantees your outcome and therefore removes your risk.

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a free Starter Kit packed full of useful resources):

Fee Proposal Starter Kit

The Results

However, people rarely behave logically. The results of this study show that just about everyone preferred the sure thing to the gamble in scenario 1 and preferred the gamble to the guaranteed loss in scenario 2.

Scenario 1 Results

Scenario 2 Results

Images by Blue Turtle Consulting

This study suggests that most people will avoid risk-seeking behavior when provided with a reasonable level of gain, and engage in risk-seeking behavior to avoid a guaranteed loss.

How can this study help Architects and Interior Designers write more successful Fee Proposals?

Traditionally Architects and Interior Designers only offer their Clients one fee and one service option, making it very difficult for Clients to frame any loss and/or gain in the service being offered.

However, if we change the approach and offer the Client a range of different fee and service options, at different price points, then we can start to frame the loss and the gain more clearly.

When fee and service options are presented correctly, you’ll see more Clients choose a higher level (more expensive), design service option for two reasons:

Firstly, because it helps them avoid the loss (pain) associated with the lower level (more affordable) service option.

Secondly, because it helps them experience the reward (pleasure) associated with a higher level (more expensive) service option.

Don’t believe me?

Look at your own purchasing behavior; did you buy the most affordable model of car, or did you choose an upgraded version?

How about your smartphone, did you choose the most affordable service plan, or did you choose the all-inclusive (more expensive) service option?

How about your last Uber ride, did you choose Uber X or Uber Pool?

And what about that last coffee you consumed? Did you choose the regular, espresso or specialty coffee drink?

To see an example of how other industries have framed the loss and the gain in the services they offer, check out the following post: The Number One Mistake Architects Make With Their Fee Proposals.

Solve your Clients Problems:

As these experiments show, humans are hardwired to avoid pain and seek pleasure.

As a fee proposal writer, you’ll want to understand what’s causing your Clients’ pain and/or pleasure (time, money, risk, responsibility, reward, design, cash flow, quality, quantity, sustainability, or maybe something else) and then make your Design Service options (the solution to their problem), the subject of your fee proposal.

Let us know what you think:

Do you frame the loss and the gain in the fee proposals that you write? Let us know in the comments section below by saying “Yes” if you do, or “No” if you don’t. 

Ready to Implement Options in your next Fee Proposal?

Blue Turtle Consulting understand that time (and money) are things that cause most Architects and Design Professionals pain and pleasure, and that’s why the following resources are available right now to help you implement a multi-fee pricing strategy in your next fee proposal:

• The Number One Mistake Architects Make With Their Fee Proposals (Blog):

• The Design Professional’s Guide to Design Fee Psychology:

• Fee Proposal and Contract Template (available for instant download):

• The Ultimate Fee Proposal Workshop (CE/CPD points available):

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Ryan

    Very insightful read, I chose option B for both and It is interesting to see the general outcome of choices.

  2. Eleanor

    That’s really fascinating. I can see why this is important when it comes to clients…

  3. Amazing! using this method always works for me. Knowledge of negotiation is useful in the market and this is one of the solutions that you explained well.

  4. Shahab Alidoost

    I think it is An excellent idea and approach for developed societies. But, in traditional countries like Iran, unfortunately, the richest clients is the difficult ones to negotiate indeed. They are suppose to do more bargaining than the weaker clients and it makes the negotiation process mor sophisticated.
    By the way, proposing different options with different prices, could be a remarkable solution in many cases.
    Thanks for sharing the article.

    1. Ian Motley

      Hi Shahab, Thank you for your insight. You are correct, the more affluent the client, the better they typically are at negotiating… which is exactly why you need to provide service options. Service options redirect the conversation from just the fee to the fee and service being offered.

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