Filip Łysikowski on

How to handle a haggling client

Haggling is not about money; it's about power.
How to handle a haggling client

You’ve had several meetings with a prospect. They like your work, you agreed to the terms, they seem to be OK with your prices.

You’re confident you can get this deal done. You send the final offer.

And then comes the dreaded reply.

“Can we do it for less?”

I hate the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when that happens, and if you feel the same way, here's how to handle it.

Politely decline

You have to start with a no.

And frankly, if you have confidence in your offer and are not desperate for the client, you should also end here.

There's no stronger statement you can make than a flat "I won't be able to do that" followed by "do you still want to proceed?".

But because you might be under some pressure to sign a client anyway, the alternative is not to say "yes" to their request but to say "no, but..." and provide them with options.

Express concern and find problems

You did feel disappointed getting that request, didn't you?

Then feel free to express it.

And if you feel like there's no reason for you to give the discount, then be genuinely interested in finding that reason:

  • Do they think that the quality of your work does not correspond to the price offered?
  • Did they find some issue with the terms of collaboration?
  • What was it that lowered the value of the offer for them?

More often than not, they will appeal to your relationship (even though they are the ones hurting it), their tight budget (to which the small decrease will make no difference, I promise), or the fact that they can find someone cheaper (of course, you can always find someone cheaper). None of which relate to your skill, the deliverables, or quality of work, and those are the only things worth negotiating over.

Propose alternatives

It doesn't really matter if their reason is sound or not. You still want to be accommodating and try to propose a solution.

  • You can offer to split it into installments that will sum up to a higher overall cost but hurt their budget less in the short term.
  • You can remove some elements of your offer and do less for the price they ask for.
  • You can agree to a lower price for the first few months, but if they want to continue later on, the contract should stipulate a higher price upfront.

To turn haggling into negotiations, talk about problems and solutions rather than play tug of war with the price.

Stand your ground

Haggling is not about money; it's about power.

It's about testing your limits, assertiveness, and principles. Once bent to their whim, you will be easier to crack the next time around.

For me, that's a form of negotiation that belongs in a bazaar and not in a professional environment.

So if someone throws a lower number because of "your relationship" and for the sake of "future collaboration," do not agree. Do not analyze whether it makes sense for you financially.

Remember, this is about the whole future collaboration.

Good luck, you've got this!