In my experience, both personal and professional, there can be quite a difference between getting a good deal (i.e. where you get a good product or service at a reduced rate) and getting something less than you want, because you can’t/won’t pay for the real thing. If you buy a knock off handbag, it will always be a knock off handbag. It may look the same (at least to start with) but eventually the differences will start to show as the zip breaks and the “leather” peels off the handles. This is very different from buying your dream handbag in the sale – you may have had to wait until the end of the season to get it, and it might not be the exact colour that you wanted, but if it fits your budget, and the alternative was to go without, then that’s a bargain.

Getting a good deal can be beneficial to both parties. You get what you want (possibly with a few concessions) at a price you can afford. The supplier gets to make some money, although possibly not as much as they wanted. Everyone is content, if not happy.

In the knock off handbag scenario, the handbag seller is probably still quite content. They’ve off loaded a knock off handbag and been paid. If you were ever to go back and complain about the quality, they will either have long since gone, or told you that you got what you paid for, so what were you expecting.

However in business, it often happens that neither side is happy. I often have clients who have agreed to do work for their customers at a discount in order to win the business, but could not then afford to do the task justice, and have ended up with a discontented customer, who perhaps thought they were going to get a top rate job for a third rate fee.

If you agree a lower price, does that mean it won’t be a priority, and so won’t be turned around as fast as your client would have liked?

Does it mean that the work has been delegated to someone less experienced, and so it may take a few goes until the client gets what they want?

Most importantly, does the client appreciate that you get what you pay for, and if they insist on a reduction in price, they may get a reduction in quality of service?

When negotiating your terms, whether at full price or a discount, it’s important to consider both your expectations and the other sides, and where possible, to record that, even if it’s just in an exchange of e-mails. If getting/giving the products/services at a discount, make sure that any variations to the standard terms/working practices are clearly set out, particularly if the other side is someone you’ve worked with before and so who think you’ll be trading on the same terms as before. That way, if you do end up having a dispute, at least there will be a clear paper trail of what was agreed.

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