What do you say when clients ask for a discount?

Most small business owners and even a lot of professional salespeople find it difficult to deal with customers who want to haggle over price.

In the past when quoting my professional fees, my usual practice was to say that I could only reduce my fee if I reduced the services. That sounds good in theory and it might work in some circumstances, but it never really worked for me. I always ended up doing the same amount, or more, of work and was usually ticked off at myself and the client.

So I just started saying no to discount requests. Sometimes I would soften it by pointing out that if I were willing to reduce the price it would mean that I was intentionally overcharging to begin with.

Recently I read an article by Jurgen Appelo who suggests a great way to deal with clients who ask for discounts:

Ask them why.

Jurgen is a public speaker. His fees are listed on his website. When a client asks him to reduce his fee, his response is to ask why they feel they’re entitled to a discount.

This technique, he says, bounces the issue back to the customer, forcing them to consider and justify what they’re asking. Sometimes the request is valid, sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes the request is withdrawn.

Compare the price of a cup of coffee to a good bookI’ve had clients include the “why” when they ask for the discount.

Sometimes they say they can’t afford my fee. In that case, I refer them to sources where they might be able to find writers who charge less.

Sometimes the discount can be justified by volume, such as when a client wants to buy 50 or 100 copies of one of my books to use as a gift to their employees or customers. In that case, I’m happy to reduce the per copy price; I’ll still make a profit and that many more people will have the opportunity to be exposed to my work.

And I’ve even had a few people say they just don’t want to pay what I’m asking, even though they can afford it. That’s fine. I don’t want those clients.

If you do any price negotiating on either side of the table, you’ll want to read Jurgen’s article, “When Clients Ask for Discounts, Ask Them … Why?”

I’ve learned over the years that my best clients—and the ones I work hardest for—are the ones who pay my fees without quibbling because they trust me and respect me as a professional. My best customers are the ones who buy my books at full retail price and thank me for them because what I wrote enriched their lives.

But instead of simply saying no, the next time someone asks for a discount, I’ll ask why.

Have you tried this strategy? How did it work for you? Share in the comments below.

Jacquelyn Lynn
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When someone asks for a discount, find out why they want it and feel they’re entitled to it.