We all know the old adage “if you don’t ask, you don’t get“. So it is perhaps unsurprising that some people ask if we will reduce our fees.
This even happens occasionally when accountants approach me for my NED-style mentoring support services. Fortunately it’s very rare. But it has happened.
A little part of my heart sinks when an accountant asks me for a discount as I don’t like to turn anyone away. I want to help those who will benefit from my insights and advice. And I have been told enough times that I offer superb value for money to be comfortable with my quoted fees.
If you are reading this then perhaps you too are sometimes asked if you can do a deal, reduce your fees or discount them. Few accountants appreciate such conversations with prospective new clients. Typically such requests will come from people new into business, start-ups and those who are short of money. (Wealthy bullies may also ask you or insist on discounts to bring their work for you. Relationships that start like this rarely go well so avoid them and refuse to back down).
We want to help BUT we have businesses to run. Perhaps there are occasions when you are willing to discount your fees – for a specific service, for a limited period of time and on certain conditions (including payment of the discounted fees up front or at least on time). That’s your business.
In the legal world the concept of pro-bono (free/charitable) work is well established – less so in accountancy.
In the tax world there are two wonderful charities to which you could refer people who cannot afford to pay for your professional services.
- TaxAid – free, confidential advice on tax to those on low incomes
- Tax Help for Older People – free, independent and expert help and advice for older people on lower incomes who cannot afford to pay for professional tax advice
What do I do when I am asked for a discount?
Fortunately I don’t get asked for a discount very often. This could be a function of the way I reference my fees with confidence on my website and when I am asked about them. Simply stated, clients can choose from a range of fixed priced mentoring support packages that best suit what they want and what they can afford.
Incidentally the three tier pricing model I use has proved to me many times that I should never assume which level of service new clients will choose. Quite often they pick a higher value and higher priced package than I might have anticipated.
I am aware that those accountants who ask me to discount my fees are likely to be those who struggle to hold their own fees and who give in to requests for discounts from new clients. They probably need my help to build their self confidence and to improve the conversations they have with prospective new clients.
By the way. Have you ever noticed that existing clients don’t ask for discounts (unless you have made mistake of course). The discounts we are discussing here are only sought by people who have yet to appreciate the value of your work. Non-clients. Prospective clients. Will those who asked for a discount ever become your best clients?
I have been told by many people both within and outside the profession that my mentoring fees are too low, too competitive and too reasonable given the service that I offer, the experience that I share, and the support that I provide. But they seem fair to me and to my clients. That’s all that matters. There are plenty of more expensive and cheaper mentors out there. We are all different.
My best clients will happily tell you that they value my common-sense input, practical support and commercial guidance. That I never limit our conversations to exactly 45 minutes or an hour. I do not clock watch. I’m available to them in between meetings (within reason) and that I love nothing more than providing excellent value for money given my passion to help them be more successful.
There is another insight that I encourage accountants to raise when responding to people who ask about discounts (and which is equally true in my case). This is to suggest to prospects that “if the money is the biggest issue for you, and that’s where you want to focus rather than on the value and support you will receive, then I am not the person for you”.
You might also like to consider whether your approach to discounts is limiting your ability to be as successful as you could be. Offering discounts and asking for discounts is not the most common trait I have ever seen amongst successful accountants. Indeed I have never seen it seen a successful accountant who operates like this. So I don’t either.