Get an email script for responding to and encouraging a hesitant lead who lost money and got burned in the past and is now asking you for a discount.
What’s the comeback for when a prospect shares a horror story about their previous designer or developer and now wants a discount because they have already spent a lot?
There is a lot of talk in the professional services world, especially the design and development world, about clients from hell. But for as much talk as there is about bad clients, there is also a lot of talk about bad service providers, bad designers, bad developers, and bad copywriters — and those of us who run our businesses with integrity seem to pay the price.
On a near-daily basis, new leads and prospective clients share horror stories about their previous partners — designers and developers who made mistakes, didn’t uphold their promises and meet expectations, failed to walk their talk and deliver quality work, and often, didn’t even finish the work they were paid to do.
To be fair, there are two sides to every story and I know first-hand that often, the client isn’t innocent. With that said, perception is reality.
The prospect’s less than stellar experience has left them wounded, jaded, disappointed, angry, and frustrated — and they are skeptical of everyone else and hesitant to sign another contract. There is also a high probability that their wallet is quite a bit lighter than it used to be.
Now they’re looking for a new partner, they’ve filled out your project inquiry form, and as much they want to say yes, they also don’t have an unlimited budget and are hoping to recoup some of their lost investment by asking you for a discount.
The thing is…
A prospect’s previous experience has nothing to do with you.
You are not obligated to work for less than you deserve because someone else provided a crappy experience or a crappy product. Do not let a prospective client make you feel guilty for charging your full rate because of something you weren’t involved in, had no control over, and didn’t even know about.
If a prospective client wants to hire you and expects you to show up as your best self, do your best work, deliver a quality product, provide an extraordinary experience, and create delight, they need to pay your full rate. Offering to work for any less, diminishes your professionalism, contradicts your value, and sends a dangerous signal about the trustworthiness and integrity of your packaging and pricing.
After all, if perception is indeed reality, discounting your services and agreeing to deliver the same scope of work at a lower price lowers the perceived value of your services.
Thankfully, you can decline to offer a discount while also acknowledging pain, showing empathy, and providing reassurance that working with you will be different.
Here’s how to say no to a discount…
I am so sorry you had that experience.
As a professional in this industry, it breaks my heart to hear stories like yours. It’s also incredibly frustrating that this type of thing happens more often than you’d think. New clients regularly seek us out for help after having a bad experience with another provider.
I get it. I know that you’ve got a lot invested in your website already with not much to show for it — and that really stinks.
While we’d love to offer a discount and make this easier, we can not lower our fees and work for less because someone else dropped the ball on a project that had nothing to do with us.
If you’re ready to start fresh, I’d love the opportunity to show you what a partnership with [COMPANY NAME] is like. We operate with integrity, put our clients first, and practice open and honest communication.
I think you’ll be blown away by the difference.
What do you think?
This script is just one you’ll find in Confident Comebacks, a collection of professional client service scripts that will help you quickly and confidently craft firm, fair, friendly responses to sticky client situations.
Discounting Professional Services
In most cases, it is always in your best interests to remain confident and secure in your packaging and pricing and say no to requests to work at a discount.
- Discounting lowers profit margins and requires more sales and more work to hit the same revenue target.
- Discounts make a poor first impression and set an expectation that your pricing is flexible and negotiable.
- Discounting makes the conversation about price not about value.
- Discounts can lead to cutting corners in an effort to recoup lost profits — and that’s not good for anyone.
- Discounting can create feelings of resentment, especially if it prevents you from saying yes to a full-fee project.
But I’m also not a fan of broad, sweeping generalizations like discounting is bad for business because there are always exceptions to a rule.
For example, you may choose to support a non-profit or charity by providing your services at a discount. You might agree to work at a lower hourly rate to secure a large or long-term contract or a project that would boost the notoriety of your brand. Or, you may choose to offer discounts to secure new business when you’re not at capacity or in a slow period.
The good news is that as a freelancer, micro agency owner, or small business owner, you’re the boss and you get to decide how discounts are handled in your business.