“Could you take anything off your fee?”


An estate planner who does a lot of seminars asked about discounting fees, a subject that comes up quite frequently. His question and my response:

Q: About 20% of prospective clients ask if I can "take anything off" my fee. I have positioned myself as being a specialist who charges a bit more. I usually do take a few hundred dollars off so I don’t lose the client but I wonder is that smart or am I devaluing my services?

A: The answer is, simply, don’t do it. Most clients don’t shop fees and the ones who do you don’t need. Especially since you (correctly) position yourself as being worth more. You devalue your services and professionalism when you say yes to a request for a discount. Word will spread and before you know it, you’ll have people say, "I heard you gave Joe Jones a $300 discount, could I get that, too?" Before you know it, you’ll be giving everyone a discount, and then where are you?
At times, it’s okay to offer a discount, such as when you tie it to a "good cause" or as a closing tool at the end of a seminar, but NOT when they ask. Can you imagine asking your doctor for a discount?

The proper way to handle someone who asks for a lower fee is to let them know that if they can’t afford you, you would be happy to refer them to a lawyer who charges less. Watch, not one in 20 will go. But even if they all did (all 20% who ask), that’s okay, those are the ones you want to let go. Lawyers should continually prune the lowest 20% of their client base in favor of upgrading the quality of their clients and the fees they charge them.

Alternately, see if there are any services you could offer them "within their budget". If your complete package has A, B, and C components, you could offer them A and B for a lower fee; perhaps they can get C later.