Your Certifications are Worthless

September 17, 2019

Earlier this year, I was working with a bookkeeper who wanted to sharpen his proposals and achieve better pricing for his work. I ask him to role play with me as if I were the client and he were talking with me about what he could do for me.

“Well, I'm QuickBooks Pro Advisor," he began.

“Stop,” I said.

“Why?” He had a puzzled look.

“That does nothing for me,” I said. I went on to explain to him that there are 50,000 QuickBooks Pro Advisors in the United States. He's not made himself unique to me by telling me that.

I went back to my client role. “Here I am, my books are an absolute mess, my wife is upset with me that I’ve missed the tax deadline, I’m bone tired, and on top of that, one of my best employees just quit today. And with all that going on in my life, you’re sitting here boring me with something I already know. Can you just tell me how you’re going to fix my problem?”

I recently had a similar conversation with a leadership coach.

“I’m a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Coach,” he said.

“Who’s John Maxwell? Is he the coffee guy?”

In both cases, I’m roleplaying the narrative that’s going on inside the client. Maybe not explicitly, but in their guts the client is sitting there with major problems. Their problems are now big enough finally to overcome the inertia caused by some combination of procrastination, fear of the unknown, and concerns over what a solution will cost. These fictitious clients I’m roleplaying are finally to that point, sitting there, desperately hoping and wanting to hear how these two professional services providers will fix their problem.

It’s at this point that our certifications mean nothing to clients. They come to us assuming we are qualified. Maybe they've been referred to us by a trusted friend or advisor. Maybe they've already seen our website. They might have read a few of our blog posts.

However they come to us, they come assuming a certain level of expertise. They come assuming we have solutions to their problems.

And how do we start the conversation? We start in with our certifications.

Certifications are the coat room. If you want to dance in the ballroom of the client’s mind, then you get right to the problems which are the reason you have the privilege to be sitting in front of that client in the first place.

If this is where you start a conversation with a client, you’re starting a value conversation, and that value conversation eventually leads to a much better price, and a client more willing to pay that price, than you would have had before.

At a certain point, certifications are worthless. Clients don’t pay for certifications.

They pay for solutions to their problems.


©Ray Business Advisors, LLC and John Ray


About me:  I’m enthusiastic about how changes in pricing strategy can significantly change profitability for a business and enhance life choices for business owners. I live this passion through Ray Business Advisors, my outside CFO and business advisory practice, in which my pricing is exclusively value-based, not hourly. I work with business owners on how they can change their pricing not just to increase their profits, but better serve the wants of their customers. Click here to learn more or call me at 404-287-2627.


  1. Finding the Ain’t – Ray Business Advisors on January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    […] Your certifications are worthless. […]

  2. Tom Doiron on September 19, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Hey John,
    I lived this scenario in real life one time. I got carried away telling a client too much about my background. She looked me in the face and asked, “when are you going to tell me how you are going to fix my problem?”
    Never will forget it.

    • John Ray on October 9, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Wow, Tom, great story that definitely illustrates the point. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Katherine Simons on September 18, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for these comments. We have an excellent career ministry @RUMC Job Networking which we are trying to expand to other churches. When we talk to church leaders, we see their eyes glaze over as they think about the amount of work and difficulty for start up. People love the results. Maybe you can help me find a better way to present the benefits and overcome the fear and impression of being an overwhelming project.

    • John Ray on October 9, 2019 at 9:35 am

      Hi Katherine, thanks for your comment. I see the difficulty, particularly when churches and their volunteers are already stretched. What they don’t see is where RUMC started; they only see where it is today. I understand how that can be overwhelming (and congratulations on what you and your team have done, by the way!). Part of what the answer may be is to take them back to the beginning and paint a picture of what that looked like, as it’s less intimidating. Happy to talk more about this with you. Thanks again for your comment.

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