Is Haggling for Professional Services the New Way of Doing Business in 2010

We all want the best value we can get at the most economical price. I know from my own experience, working with other professional services, I try to find this when I can. When I contact someone for technical programming, writing services, or anything else, I ask for an estimate. I might even ask two different people for quotes, so I can get the best person or company for the assignment as well as the best price. It’s also a good way to compare and know the true value as well as what they will provide. Once I receive the estimates though, I don’t usually haggle, it is what it is, and because I’m a small business owner, I assume the professional has given me their best pricing.

However, what about when we’re dealing with clients directly. In this struggling economy clients seem to always say, that’s a bit more than I wanted to pay and can it be this? Of course there are always the clients who seem to respect the business and just accept the estimate without questioning the pricing, especially if I’m giving them my best prices.

So how do we feel when a client asks if the price can be lowered? Should we think they don’t respect our craft? In most cases I’d have to say that it’s always the fact that they just don’t understand the work involved. I mean they came to us because they respected the work we do and our professionalism. So why haggle for a slight reduction?

In most professions when someone is hired and the price is quoted we don’t haggle, so why is it all right in the design industry? 

There are online job posting sites like Elance or Guru, where a client has stipulated exactly what they want to pay and whether it’s $150 or $1500 for a logo, at least you know how they feel about the profession up front and can choose to either do the assignment or not. The difference here is that there is a barrier set up, and we’re bidding like many others, so the client gets multiple responses, offers, experience and capabilities and then chooses.

If you want to work for someone  and they try to get the price lower, how do you approach this without offending the client and ruining the relationship? I’d say it’s always going to depend on how much we’re talking about.

If you quoted $500 and they ask if it can be $400, I’d say it’s not that much less and will depend on exactly how complicated the assignment is. You may have to explain a bit more about what’s involved and why you quoted that price and once they understand they may agree to your original price. If however there’s a huge gap, you quoted $1500 and they can only spend $500, there may be no compromise and you must walk away.

Then of course there’s the client who you take the time to meet with, listen to them talk about their marketing goals and how they see themselves and their company. You’re going to help brand their company just the right way, you’ve outlined in person what you think they need. After the meeting, you take the time to write up your detailed estimates. And? They never call or email you again. This really troubles me because you’ve given them your best pricing, written the estimate a la carte, so they can pick what they want the most. So the question is, did they think it was all too much and they never dreamed it would cost so much, or are they respectful and wouldn’t think to call to haggle.

Now of course we hate when we don’t hear back from a potential client, but I’ll admit I’d rather not hear back and know that they were respectful, than someone calling to get my pricing lower. I know it means I didn’t gain that new client, but how can a good relationship between two professionals start if I feel belittled from the beginning?

I suppose the answer is knowing when haggling is appropriate and when it isn’t. If I want a new TV, I might look at different stores and online and go for where I see the best price, but once in that store, it is what it is and the retailer isn’t going to give me a better deal. It should be the same for professionals, no matter what industry.

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