Regardless of how reasonable or competitive you believe your pricing is, you'll likely run into some customers who want a better deal. It can be tempting to play hardball, or in some cases, walk away—but if you can negotiate a win-win solution, you'll have the chance to preserve not only your own interests, but possibly build a long-lasting customer relationship as well.
Here are some tips for negotiating a winning scenario that can help keep both you and your customer happy.
1. Ask questions.
If you spend time asking questions and listening, instead of just repeating your bottom line over and over again, you can get to the heart of what your customer is really looking for. Perhaps they're comparing your price to another that isn't an apples-to-apples scenario, and a detailed look at that can help resolve things. Perhaps they've been "ripped off" before, and what they're really looking for is a little control or a little respect. Find out their true priorities and you may uncover how you can provide something they really care about.
2. Avoid negotiating on price alone.
If your customers aren't opening up about their needs, consider all the ways you can add value that don't involve price—and be prepared to use these as variables in the discussion. As you discuss value-added propositions from your end, you may trigger interest on the customers' side that shows what they're really looking for. When you understand your customers' agenda, and the ways you can add value beyond price, you may find your win-win.
3. Make smart concessions.
Consider giving a little by offering things your customer values highly, but that have a low incremental cost for your business. Perhaps there is a service or follow-up you can provide that will make the customer feel they are getting a longer-term commitment and more value. Perhaps there are timelines that can be adjusted so the work is done faster than anticipated. That can feel like a great bonus. Perhaps there is something in the payment schedule that can be adjusted. Maybe it isn't the price they're balking at, but when it’s due. If your customer is in negotiation mode, they probably want to walk away with something.
4. Be transparent about your dual needs.
Conversations are more productive when both sides are open. Instead of standing firm with no explanation, have a discussion that involves their needs and your needs. Explain what the cost involves and why it is what it is. If your price is different than a competitor, try letting the customer know why and what they are getting for the additional cost. Make sure they understand that you want to satisfy them and make them happy, but that you also have a business to run and can only go so far.
5. Keep the negotiation going for as long as possible.
Be open to a longer-term back-and-forth discussion. Rather than shutting down the discussion, having more options in your pocket, as well as an attitude that demonstrates you want to find a way to satisfy the customer, can go a long way. The customer will see that you value the relationship and really are trying to find a solution, and that, in the end, may be part of what they were looking for all along.
6. Always put the relationship first.
Show a level of care that goes beyond the immediate deal. Focus on how you can meet their needs in the long run and you'll insert a level of trust that may help shape all negotiations with them in the future. Whether it's a follow-up or future work that you know they will be looking for, if the customer knows you care about them and about the work you are doing, you could earn a customer for life.
Understand that a negotiation doesn't have to be a power struggle. It's a chance to listen and to be heard, to show and earn respect and to develop a solid relationship with your customers that they'll want to tell others about.
A version of this article was originally published on February 24, 2017.