You are talking to a customer and after you present your product, service or solution, she asks, “What discount can I get?” or “What can you do about the price?” Think before you speak otherwise this innocent-sounding question will cost you money right off your bottom line. While it’s tempting to offer a discount or better price resist the desire to do so. Here’s why.
First, just because someone asks you for a better price, does not mean they expect to get it. Some people ask for a discount because they have been told to. They are often uncomfortable doing this and will seldom press the issue. However, professional buyers and key decision-makers know that many sellers will drop their price at the first sign of resistance so they ask everyone for a discount—and they can be aggressive in their approach. Plus, experienced negotiators lose respect for people who drop their price too quickly. Standing your ground and refusing to cave in right away is also a show of strength and executives respect this type of behaviour.
Second, when you drop your price too quickly, you teach your customer to repeat that behaviour in future transactions. Remember, everything you do now affects your customer’s behaviour toward you in the future. When I first started my private practice, I gave a client a discount on a package of services. The next time he contacted, he demanded that same discount which put me in a somewhat precarious position—did I give the same discount or risk losing the sale? A business executive once told me that she knew which of her suppliers she could browbeat into giving her a better price and she always took advantage of that perceived weakness.
So, what is the best way to respond to a request for a discount or better price?
Professional negotiators will tell you to flinch. A flinch is a visible reaction to a request or demand and goes something like this, “You want a discount!?! Even though we have been working together for four years and you know our services will help you get better results you still want a discount?” When coupled with the right facial expressions and body language, this technique is extremely effective. However, I have found that most people are extremely uncomfortable using this approach and even I find it difficult to apply on a consistent basis.
An effective way to respond to a request for a better price is to ask, “What did you have in mind?” or “What were you looking for?” When you ask one of these questions, you get the other person to tell you how much of a discount they want. In many cases, their expectation will be less than you are prepared to give which means you will increase the size of the sale and save money at the same time—a double win. One word of caution here—an experienced negotiator will say, “Well, I want a better price than this” which means you need to be prepared to ask the question a couple of times.
This also applies to email correspondence. Many people will ask their sales person for a discount via email which makes it next to impossible to use some of the standard negotiating techniques. Before you respond by offering a better price, take the time to properly craft your email. Here is what you can say, “We might be able to do something for you. What did you have in mind?” The key is to give the indication that you have flexibility without committing to something you might regret later.
This sounds like an easy technique to use but it’s not. You have to train yourself to listen for your customer’s question and be prepared to respond with your own. I hate to admit it but I have fallen for this question because I wasn’t expecting it. In one situation, an existing client asked me for a package price on some bundled services. Instead of responding by asking what price he was looking for, I automatically offered a small discount. I kicked myself afterwards because I felt that I should know better.
It is essential to listen carefully to what your prospect says and to think before you speak. It is also critical to practise asking your question until it becomes second-nature so you can respond quickly when a prospect asks for a discount or better price.