Everyone who owns a business of any kind will be asked this question at some point: “Can I get a discount?“ What makes our business unique is that we know the crucial difference that our services make to families’ physical and mental health, and we don’t want anyone to miss out on them! So, how do we respond to this question in a way that is honest, balanced, AND healthy for us and for our clients?
DIG A LITTLE DEEPER AND RESET THEIR FOCUS
First, you may want to dig deeper into what lies behind their request. At the same time, you can refocus the conversation away from money and back toward value.
“Do you see cost being a major obstacle to getting the support that you need?”
This question puts the ball back into the client’s court, and helps you determine their motivation for asking. They might actually not have the funds. Or they might simply be interested in getting a cheaper price out of you if they can. You may be surprised how often the response is “No, I was just wondering”.
“Before we talk about numbers, let’s make sure that my services are a good fit for your needs.”
Shifting the conversation in this way accomplishes 3 things: (1) it focuses the client back on what they value and why before you talk numbers; it will help put things in perspective for them before you discuss pricing, (2) it delays the money conversation until you’re certain that you are a good fit; otherwise, the money talk is a waste of time and energy, and (3) if you offer multiple packages, you can be thinking about which one suits them best (and it may be one that’s at a lower price).
“What do you think would be a reasonable discount?”
Again, we’re putting the ball in their court, and requiring them to take responsibility for the question they have asked. We have no idea what their situation is or what kind of discount would be helpful or necessary for them. Rather than throw out an arbitrary number, let’s see what they are actually thinking.
Let’s say they respond “can I pay half?” You can follow up with, “Just to clarify… are you saying that half-price is what you think this service is worth? Or that you are not able to pay more than half at this time?” This will not only get to their motives, but it also ensures that they’ve actually thought this through.
WAYS TO OFFER DISCOUNTS THAT BENEFIT YOU AND YOUR CLIENTS
Offer a “cheaper” option
In marketing, there is a rule of 3. First, offer one small, scaled back package. For most clients, it won’t be appealing, but if they truly can’t afford more, it will meet their basic needs. Then, offer one expensive plan with a bunch of extras. Again, most will dismiss it right away, but some could be enticed to pay more to try it out! Finally, offer one middle of the road package – the one you expect most people to buy. This way if someone asks for a discount, you can show them your various options, and they can choose how much they want to spend vs. how much they want in return.
If you don’t want to offer different packages, can you bulk up your regular option a little? Add in a few extras that don’t cost you much time or money. That way, you can drop the extra services to offer a lower price to clients who ask for a discount!
Ask for something in return.
The barter system is still alive and well! Agree to lower your price a bit, but ask for something in return. This could be as simple as helping you get your certification forms signed by their care provider, agreeing to a set number of online reviews/testimonials, or a release to use their photos in your marketing. It could also be based on a skill that the client or partner has such as website design, tax preparation, or logo design.
Make sure your discounts are standardized.
Think through all of the options before someone asks. It prevents last minute panic-decisions, it keeps things consistent from client to client, and it looks more professional to potential clients. For example: each package has its own set price; 10% off for paying in full upfront; $10 off for each testimonial/review they leave online, etc. You don’t have print this out and offer it to every client! But by having the numbers in mind when someone asks, you can give them solid choices and significantly reduce the chance for haggling.
Set a limit for discounted or (nearly) free clients
Even the highest paid lawyers do pro bono work. It is an honorable option and a great way to serve the underserved in your community. However, I highly recommend setting a limit in order to make it sustainable. Whether it’s one client a year or one a month, it’s important to set your boundaries. Then, you can make sure that you factor those reduced services into the pricing for your paid clients so that you are not causing harm to your overall business. Sustainability with time, money and energy is key! It’s great to give back to the community, but it won’t do anyone any good if you burn out in 6 months.
I say “(nearly) free”, because truly free services are not generally recommended. Most often, when someone does not invest in a service they either (a) don’t value it, or (b) feel that they don’t deserve it. These feelings can sometimes be manifested in the client suddenly ghosting you, or in being emotionally distant or difficult to work with. That’s not good for either of you! Instead, consider charging something – even if it’s a few dollars – so that your client feels that they have earned your services. It’s another way that we can empower!
WAYS TO SAY NO
There are many reasons why you may choose to say flat out say “no”. In those cases, here are some ways you can have that conversation:
Tell them you don’t offer discounts and explain why.
Often a simple explanation is all that they need. I have been asked many times by labor doula clients if they can reduce the number of pre-natal meetings and/or eliminate postpartum follow-up so that they don’t have to pay full price. I unapologetically explain that my service is a package deal. My standard package includes the number of meetings that it does, because I believe they are necessary for me to serve my clients well.
Explain your prices by showing the value of your service.
Is your service higher quality than others in your area? Do you spend more time with your clients? Do you have extras included in your service?
With CAPPA, we have the HUGE bonus of our superior training and the accountability that we receive with certification. So many birth professionals these days are getting only online training (and sometimes from “diploma mill” type organizations) with no hands-on practice of their skills, and no ongoing accountability. You, on the other hand, have had top-quality, in-person training, you have accountability with a long-standing and respected organization, and you are getting standardized continuing education.
Your clients have no way of knowing all of this – unless you tell them! The best way to avoid unnecessary discounting is knowing what others in your area are doing, and being able to show your potential clients how much more value you bring to the table.
Just say no.
If you’re getting bad vibes or they haven’t sufficiently answered your questions, and you don’t feel comfortable offering a discount, all you have to do is simply say no. If they are not willing to budge, don’t be afraid to walk away. It will be 1,000 times better to lose a client than to accept a lower price than you feel comfortable with, and end up feeling bitter about it while you are working with them. That’s an icky feeling that no one should have to experience!
Offer to do a payment plan.
No discount, but they can spread out their payments. Be careful with this one, because it does take more work on your part. If you offer to do a payment plan, make sure you have a good, consistent way of invoicing clients when payments are due. Also, be sure that you have a deadline written in their contract for when all fees must be paid (eg. “Funds must be paid in full by 38 weeks,” or “All payments must be made before our first class,” etc.)
PayPal Credit may be an option for some clients. If you are using PayPal to collect fees, then this is a no-brainer. They simply choose PayPal Credit at checkout, fill out a quick application, and PayPal will pay their fee to you in full. Then, your client has 6 months to pay off the total without repercussions. In essence, they are designing their own payment plan, but they are making the payments to PayPal instead of to you. It puts the responsibility in the hands of your client to make the payment instead of on you to send invoices and make sure you collect.
Refer them to local free services
If there are free services in your area, take the time to learn about them and make use of them! Get to know the pregnancy centers, family resource centers, WIC offices, and other non-profit organizations designed to help families in your community.
Confidence is the most important part of this conversation! Whatever decisions you make about your pricing, practice saying them out loud until you can say them with complete confidence. If you can’t, then you might need to rethink your options!
And remember – you can always change your mind. If you describe your pricing packages a couple of times, and it doesn’t feel right, try adjusting them a bit. Try the new ones in your next interview, and see what kind of response you get. It can take some time, but you’ll find YOUR perfect response to the “Can I get a discount?” question.
CLD, CCCE, CAPPA Faculty
In addition to being a Faculty Member, Laura is a CAPPA certified labor doula & childbirth educator. She is also the Essentials Program Director at Vintage Remedies, a school of natural health. These two passions blend together beautifully and allow Laura to offer classes that meet a variety of needs in her community – from preparing for birth to caring for your family’s health naturally. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, Eric, and their five young children. For nearly a decade, Laura has had the honor of working with families all over the Charlotte area. As Childbirth Educator Faculty, she is thrilled to help equip others to do the same! To learn more, you may visit her website at www.naturalabundance.me.