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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

How to deal when your prospect wants a discount

Picture this: you’re on a roll. You’ve got a great prospect, and everything seems like it’s on track to close. Your customer is excited. You’re fired up. Your manager is eager. Then, all of a sudden, they put on the brakes and start asking about discounts.

Womp womp. It can feel like a total trainwreck to have your sales groove interrupted by a discount or coupon request.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: companies don’t win on being inexpensive or offering the most discounts. They win by being valuable. Offering discounts anytime your customers ask for them can weaken your sales team, because:

If discounts can be so problematic, what do you do when your customer asks for one? We’ve got you covered. 

Acknowledge their request

Being ignored doesn’t feel good. The first step to handling a discount request is acknowledging it. If you ignore the request, your customer may lose trust in your sales process and you as their representative for the company. Trust is important. Trust gets you more customers.

Globally, 75% of respondents say they will continue to buy from a brand they trust, even if another more attractive brand comes on the scene. That number bumps up to 82% of people when surveying in the United States.

Let your customers know that you understand why a discount might be valuable to them. Then explain why you’d prefer to wait until later in the sales process to discuss it. They’ll appreciate your transparency and trust you enough to listen once the negotiations do start.

Try to understand their needs

Studies show consumers believe discounted products or items are actually of lesser quality than their full-price counterparts. If your prospect is asking for a discount, it may be a signal they don’t understand which of their needs is being met by your product or service.

Take their request as a sign that you need to be a bit more diligent in your discovery. Learning your customer’s motivations guides you towards making better pitches and using better methods of persuasion to move the sales process along.

You can counterbalance their request for a discount by showing them the features that bring the most value to their use case. In the long-run, this also means that you know how to upsell. 

If you uncover that their request is simply a budget issue, continue to maintain a relationship. Just because the customer can’t afford the service now doesn’t mean they won’t be able to in the future. 

No matter the case, it’s important to treat everyone with respect even if the sale won’t happen. Suggest some free resources or a different program you’re aware of that fits their price range. Be sure you let them know that you’re keen to help, whether they’re buying or not. 

It’s not just the nice thing to do — being helpful means they’ll be more likely to come back to you when they are ready to buy. Plus, it could boost your chances with other leads if your prospect spreads the word about their positive experience.

Add additional value

Customers love feeling like they got something special. One study showed a 73% increase in the sale of lotion, for instance, when sold in a value pack instead of singles. 

Sometimes you can fulfill the customer’s desire for a deal by adding extras to the sales contract. Think about possible extras you can offer to sweeten the pot. Perhaps your company offers professional services or an advanced training package. Take what you learned in the discovery period and use that to determine what your best option is to add on. 

If you aren’t able to add anything on, perhaps provide a free trial to give the customer more time to see the value. You could also offer a free extension to the contract or any agreements you’re drawing up.

What to do if you do offer a discount?

There are times when giving a discount does make sense. Maybe there’s a deal that’s dragging and you want to create some urgency using a time sensitive offerdiscount. Or, perhaps the prospect’s business was hit hard by some unforeseen circumstance, –like we’ve seen with COVID-19,–and you want to help them out.offering a discount is the only way to begin a business relationship with them. 

Small businesses estimated that they’d generate 17.7% of their business over the next year by customer acquisition promotions such as discount deals, daily deals, coupons, or similar offers. Here are a few ways to offer discounts that benefit both you and your prospect:

Modify the terms

One way to offset any lost revenue is by modifying your deal’s terms. By default, many companies offer a 10% discount, or something similar, when a prospect signs up for an annual plan. It’s a great proposition for you and your customer. That said, there are a few other methods to try:

  • Increase the deal size. Try saying, “We can absolutely get to that cost per seat, we just have to increase the number of seats to X
  • Remove something that you usually offer. “Great, happy to get that setup. We can make that discount work if you’re willing to [pick it up, install it yourself, forgo phone support, etc.].”
  • Change the scope of the deal. “We can get you that price if you’re also signing on for [xyz product].”

Get case-study commitments

Customers love reading success stories. According to a recent study, 90% of prospects reported that seeing customer success stories shared by a company positively influences their buying habits. 

If prospects are asking for a discount, use it as an opportunity to form a partnership with them. Customers with unique use cases or the potential for lots of success with your company are great opportunities to build deeper relationships.

Get referrals and reviews

Word of mouth is essential. As many as 91% of consumers trust online reviews and referrals just as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or loved one. If you are giving a prospect a discount, ask them to add a review to a popular site like G2 Crowd or Capterra in exchange for the cut in price.

Standardize the discounts

Some people might claim that policy is the death of creative salesmanship, but it has its time and place. Create policies around the types of discounts salespeople can offer. Empower your sales team members to get creative when they need to without worrying they’re stepping over the line.

Creating a clear-cut, standardized policy on discounts saves your team members a lot of time. Not needing to ask permission for the discount lets them focus all their energy on helping the customer and closing the deal.

Remember your value

Offering a discount to get a quick win can be tempting, but it’s not always the best course of action to take. Be sure you’re focusing on the value of your product, and how you can best serve the prospect to close the deal. 

No matter the outcome, remember your main goal is to set your prospect up for success. Though offering a discount may not always be ideal, sometimes it’s needed. Remember, closing a deal is really just the starting point of any customer relationship. If you’re committed to your customers, they’ll stay committed to you.  


Mercer is the Director of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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