At some point in your business you’ve probably experienced your friends, family, or random customers asking or expecting discounts from you.
As business owners, we put a ton of thought and consideration into how we price our products.
It can be super frustrating when customers ask for discounts that don’t even exist.
Not only that, but it's awkward!
This is a conversation that no business owner wants to have – and having to say no to a friend or family member, may be hard to navigate.
What do you say without hurting their feelings or potentially losing out on a sale?
But you also don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot and not make any money for your work!
I know, these are tough situations to be in.
That's why I'm going to give you some tips on what to do when people ask you for discounts.
I’ll give you a hint: it's okay to say no – even to your Great Aunt Hilda.
Hi, I'm Mei Pak and I help makers, artists, and designers make a living selling their handmade products online.
My business Tiny Hands is a handmade jewelry shop and I've seen every type of customer you can imagine.
From the super thrifty coupon chasers to the well-meaning negotiators who might not realize my prices are set.
I'm well versed in how to handle these tough, but ultimately manageable, situations.
Why People Ask for Discounts
Let's talk about why someone might want a discount.
Many artists assume that if a customer is demanding a discount, it's because they don't value you or your work.
Believe me when I say, that's not usually the case at all!
In fact, many people ask for discounts because they love and value your work – but they can only afford so much.
They probably figure, “it doesn't hurt to ask,” not realizing that in some cases, it actually does hurt a little.
Because now YOU have to deal with politely turning them down.
It's also important to understand that in some cultures, it's a default response to ask for discounts.
My Chinese mother does this all the time – she doesn't realize that negotiating isn't the norm everywhere.
All this to say, try not to jump to conclusions about your customers, or their intent, when they ask for discounts.
Usually, asking for discounts does not mean that the customer is cheap, greedy, or unappreciative.
They just love your product, want to support you, and are asking for some help to do so.
Though this may not be the case all the time, I find that I feel a lot better when I'm not assuming the worst of people.
This is already an unpleasant enough experience.
Of course, even if your customers have good intentions, that doesn't mean you have to say yes to them.
Just like some people might not be able to afford your product, YOU can't afford to sell it for under your established price.
Even if you can afford it, which if you follow my pricing calculator, you absolutely could afford it, it doesn’t mean you should do it.
Running a business is expensive – especially when we're just starting out.
You have to spend so much money to get your shop up and running.
Sometimes, we lose out on shipping fees alone, if the customer lives overseas and we didn’t account for the correct shipping cost.
So, if you do need to say no, PLEASE don't feel bad about it.
You need to keep your business running and there's NO shame in that.
I know that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re like me and you don’t want to upset anyone or lose out on a sale.
But let’s stand in solidarity and practice saying no together!
How You Can Handle a Discount Request
Dealing with discount seeking customers is really common for business owners, but just know that it can happen to anyone.
Heck, I've seen people asking for random discounts at Target!
I’ve found this happens a lot if you’re a handmade business owner.
My theory is, people think that when they can communicate directly with the business owner, their probability of getting a discount is much higher.
Here’s how I would usually respond.
On my website, I have a pop-up offering free shipping.
I'll usually direct customers there if they're looking to save some extra money.
I also make it clear that that's the only discount I'm offering at the moment.
That way I can still be helpful and of service by pointing them to some cash savings without going out of my way and offering an additional discount than what I was already offering.
Having said that, you can definitely consider having a small discount that you can share with your customers if they’ve met certain criteria like ordering multiple items at once.
Just Say No
I understand that saying “no” straight up is a little awkward – and could come off as rude.
The last thing you want is an online review saying you’re unfriendly.
So, if you need help saying no – feel free to follow this script.
This has been a big help to me in my years as a business owner, and I find that customers generally respond with understanding.
Not only that, but you'll find that if you use the same script every time, it removes emotion and keeps you from feeling resentful everytime this happens.
In short, it just makes the whole process as pain-free as possible.
Here it is:
“Hi there, thank you so much for expressing interest in my products. I appreciate your support! My prices are XYZ. I am currently not offering discounts because of the great deal of effort that goes into making my products. These prices allow me to ensure that you receive the best possible service and are completely happy with your purchase. If you need something that fits a smaller budget, I can recommend ABC.”
So why does this message work?
It's simple: We are calm, kind, and grateful to our customers, while still being assertive and firm about our prices.
We restate our rates near the top of the message so they know our prices don't budge.
We're also anticipating their arguments and questions ahead of time.
We let them know why we can't offer a discount (we don't have to be specific here if we don't want to) and finally, we offer an alternative solution or other shop they can buy something similar from.
This is polite but firm, grateful, but clear and concise and above all, helpful.
With this message, you're not letting the customer down entirely, because you're offering them another solution (if there is one available).
I love being able to refer business to other similar shops, and sometimes the customer will even come back to me saying that they prefer my design style and are willing to pay full price.
I know this messaging can sound really bold, especially since you’re potentially turning away a customer or sending them to your competitors!
The way I see it, it doesn’t do me any good to have a customer who doesn’t really appreciate my work.
Even if I discount it for them, they’re not going to be happy with anything I do so it’s best for everyone not to engage in working together because we’re just not a good fit.
If I was never meant to make a sale from them, why not send them to a sister shop?
Another possible solution is to raise your prices.
Sometimes stores with super low prices attract customers who think they can bargain with you.
When your prices are higher, it automatically sends a signal to customers that you know your worth – and your products are of a higher caliber.
For example, people don't go to Tiffany's and ask for a discount on an engagement ring, but they absolutely will bargain at a thrift store.
Now, let’s flip the script here.
There are some cases where you might not want to say no.
There are some situations when offering a discount actually makes sense.
If you’re tempted to say yes sometimes, don't feel guilty about that, either.
Maybe you really like the customer and feel like you'd love to work with them in the future.
Maybe there's a non-monetary benefit to your business.
You can see a friendship forming or there's an opportunity for a new experience working with tools or materials you’ve never worked with before but you’ve always wanted to.
This may be a chance to expand your portfolio, or maybe you’re just strapped for sales at that moment.
Whatever the reason is, just make sure that if you do provide a discount, you tell the client not to tell anyone.
You don't want to build a reputation for offering discounts to anyone who asks.
That's a good way to damage your business in the long term and it’s hard to take back your word.
Plus, it makes that customer feel special that you’re doing it just for them.
You'll find that the more you say no – especially to family and friends – the more you're training the people in your lives to know that you DON'T offer discounts.
We rely on our businesses to provide us with an income.
We wouldn't expect our barber friend to give us a discounted haircut, so our friends can't expect us to sell them a product for less than it's worth.
I also don’t do trades or barters, but that’s a topic for another day.
I know that saying “no” can feel awkward sometimes, and it's easy to resent customers for asking in the first place.
But if we follow a clear script, make limited exceptions, and we’re firm (but polite) in our reasoning, we can make the experience a lot less painful.
How do you handle when customers ask for discounts?
Let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more great tips and tricks for your handmade business!