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Responding to clients who are trying to get your cost down or asking for something they can't afford

"Curious to know how you respond to people who are trying to get your cost down or asking for something they can't afford. I mean other than just saying, 'sorry this is our cost, we can't do it any cheaper'. Do you accompany that with any explanations?"

The question comes from cocononos who asked this on Reddit.

Our answer

We never lower our price (discounts are reserved for regular clients who buy monthly contracts from us). And we never say sorry because we’ve trained ourselves not to do that anymore.

Explanations, in our experience, got us nowhere. They just annoy clients. Alternative solutions, however, make your clients feel like you’re there to solve their problem and ‘meet them half way’, price-wise. When you offer an alternative, you’re making the client choose between you and you, and not between you and your competitors. That’s a great way to make the client continue the conversation with you, and not with other agencies.

What I would do in a situation like this is foresee their price sensitivity and see their complaint as a great opportunity for me. Offer an alternative project of a smaller scope by removing features or come up with a project that does not require a substantial initial investment right now. 

For example, a client may think that they need a website with a fully blown CMS. Some of your clients will balk at the price. The alternative would be to pay for CMS later, when the monthly cost of paying you to maintain their website increases enough to invest in a CMS. You can persuade your client into an arrangement like that by telling them a story of a client to whom you would have saved a lot of money if they listened to your advice because, it turned out, the client paid for a CMS, but never once logged in. Stories like that are also a good opportunity to pitch them your monthly support and maintenance service (create one if you don’t have one - we wrote a whole book on support and maintenance services to teach you how and speed up that process).

Another alternative is to offer the same service, but of lower perceived quality or of lower level of service. This is a perfectly viable solution because it shines a light on the value of your premium services. Let’s say that the client cannot pay for original, custom-made design. Sell them a $10 theme and explain what is it that they’re getting. You may hear them say that design is too important for them and that they don’t want a theme. Awesome, now we’re getting somewhere! Now we’re involving them in the conversation about their values and what they value the most and the least. Ask them what is of the lowest importance to them and then remove that feature (if you technically can) or offer an alternative to it of lesser quality. 

Do not be afraid to offer lesser quality to clients who can’t afford quality. After all, imagine it was you walking into a car dealership. You want that sports car, but you can’t afford it. BUT the car salesman offers you a similar car with less features. Is that car of the same quality? No, it is not. It hasn’t got leather seats. What it does have, though, is that you can afford it, and it looks like a sports car. You’re after the looks and not leather seats. The car salesman will not be ashamed for selling you that car, that’s for sure.

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