Can I Get a Pandemic Discount? 3 Tips on How to Handle

Can you give us a discount on that? Can we postpone our payment? Is there any way we can get some of our money back?  Admit it, you’ve all been hearing these requests since the start of the pandemic.  


As a sales rep, these kinds of queries and requests can make us want to throw up our hands in frustration. So let’s start with a little perspective. 


Take a second to appreciate the fact that you have customers to engage with and to serve. Be happy that you have customers that are asking for discounts. At least you have customers to work with and help navigate this unprecedented situation that we’re all dealing with. 


You should always be thinking of your customer as your partner. They’re under pressure from their organization as well – and as partners, it’s up to you to work together and come up with a solution. Their request for a discount is their way of asking you for help. 


So now that we’ve reframed the situation, here are some tips on how to navigate this changing business landscape in a way that is mutually beneficial to you and your customer. 


To listen to the full sALES with ASLAN podcast episode, check out Ep. 57 – How To Deal With Discount Requests Due To The Pandemic:


How to Handle Discount Requests 


First, we want to ensure that we’re using the opportunity to form, solidify and strengthen the relationship and partnership with our customer; instead of potentially harming or damaging that important connection. 


There are 3 things we need to keep in mind as we handle discount requests from our customers and clients. 


1. Empathize with Their Situation

Like everything we do in selling, we need to make a decision to put the customer first. Before you connect with your customer or prospect, ask yourself, “What is my motive?” Lose your ego and be there to serve them and focus on their needs. 


We covered Selling with Empathy vs. Sympathy in one of our sALES with ASLAN podcast episodes, which you can check it out here:


Express appreciation that they’ve reached out to you, even if it’s to ask for a discount. 

Be grateful that they’ve come to you instead of simply sending a cancellation notice or “ghosting” you. 


Ask how they’re doing, how their business is doing. It’s amazing what these OtherCentered® conversions can lead to when you allow the customer to open up and be real with you about how their business is being affected by the pandemic. They’ll share challenges and realities they’re facing that will ultimately allow you to be a better representative and partner to them. You’ll be able to understand their perspective, listen without judgement, and Take the Trip® as we say at ASLAN. 


Once you understand how they’re being impacted right now, the first thing you need to uncover is this:

Is the discount about the value of your offering or is it about their current (in)ability to pay that amount of money?

There’s a big difference between those two scenarios. It may be about justifying the value of your offering, which we see a lot with selling services. “Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith dives into the subject of selling services and how to highlight the value behind the offering and what you’re really charging for when you’re selling a service. 


If the request is related to an inability to pay, thanks to the current pandemic, that’s fair. This business landscape is affecting everyone and turning people’s lives upside down. So take a breath and dive into that, try to uncover more. What’s driving their inability to pay? Is it because they have fewer customers? Customers can’t pay them? Is it a cash flow problem? An employee problem? Basically, you want to establish the criteria that is putting them in a bad situation. 


It’s fair to ask them, depending on who you’re talking to, how their business is handling granting discounts to their customers. They may have no idea, or they may give you a laundry list of reasons they can’t offer them. 


This question is not meant as an accusation or a challenge, the point is to highlight that we’re all living on the same planet, in the midst of a pandemic, so we’re all in the same boat. It’s meant to be an opener. You want to give your customer the opportunity to help you understand their situation and where they’re coming from. 


As our CEO Tom Stanfill says, “listening without an agenda leads to a lot of creativity. Keeping an open mind allows you to really hear what the other person is communicating, and one or both of you may come up with a new compromise or fresh solution regarding price and payment that is beneficial to both parties. 


2. Confirm that Your Pencil Was Already Sharp

Essentially, the point here is to make sure that you were already offering your customer the best deal possible. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “sharpen your pencil,” it basically means to negotiate a better deal or drop your price. 


You need to establish and justify the value of your offering at the existing price, so make sure you’ve done your research and understand your market value. Help your customer understand the value of your offering. Help them see why it adds value. As they say in the famous movie Moonstruck, “It costs money because it saves money.” They need to know that you’ve given them a fair price and how you’ve arrived there. 


If you agree to a discount too readily, your customer may think you have been charging them a price higher than the value of your offering. Or if you agree to a discount immediately, they may feel remorse that they didn’t ask for more of a discount. 


The point is, you are bringing value to the table and you need to make money as well. The value of your offering didn’t lessen due to the pandemic, so you need to keep that in mind as you navigate discount requests. 


Try to find out if the discount request is due to a pricing issue/ not seeing the value of your solution, or is it a timing/ cash flow issue? Are they asking for the discount or is it their boss asking? Are they just testing the waters or are they looking for a win?


Maybe there are other ways you can come to an agreement on price, instead of acquiescing to a discount right off the bat: by throwing in some “extras,” offering to extend the length of subscription, allowing them to customize something, offering them a payment plan, etc. 


Obviously this all depends on you and your customer’s unique scenario and relationship, but this brings us back into the creativity piece from Tip #1 – see if you can communicate and collaborate together to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on the deal.  


3. Show Them Real Effort

This last piece is really about showing your customer that you’re on their side. You decide you’re going to engage in a discussion with your customer about their request and work towards a compromise, instead of telling them, “I’m sorry, my hands are tied here, there’s nothing I can do…” 


What gains you points with your customer is tangible effort on your part to save them money. That piece is key because giving a discount is not necessarily the same thing as saving them money. 


If a customer is coming to you because they don’t like the price or don’t understand the value of your offering, that’s a completely different conversation than if the discount request is due to their inability to pay thanks to the current business climate. In the second case, the conversation becomes all about saving them money


So even if you can’t grant the discount, it’s important to avoid giving a flat “no.” There are other ways to save your customer money. So as you hold the conversation, you want to hit each of these 3 points:


1. Acknowledge their request. 

First things first, acknowledge them and their situation, assuring them that you understand their request. 


2. Give them a reason.  

If you can’t offer them the discount they requested, tell them why and sincerely express regret: “I’d love to, but the reason I can’t is xyz…” while transitioning to the next piece of the conversation.


3. Use the “I can” response. 

Now you want to focus on what you can do to help your customer out. The whole conversation should be about what you can do for them; this is where you show that you are putting in real effort. Together you can get creative; get your pencil back out and start drawing on the board. Come up with some ideas and solutions for what you can do. For example, you can offer to have them:

  • Reduce their order size
  • Change what they’re buying
  • Change their payment terms
  • Lower quality of product, i.e. switch to version B instead of version A for the short term


The last thing we want to do as a salesperson is to discount a line item, because it’s really hard to raise prices again. But if you “have to” lower the price, which you can determine based on the interaction and conversation with your customer, there are 2 rules: 


1) It has to be temporary. 

Establish an understanding that the price adjustment is temporary, just due to the current pandemic, and will return to normal once things recalibrate. 


2) You should get something in return. 

Maybe they can give you a referral or introduction to another department or sister company, and you’ll gain an opportunity to win a new prospect or customer. This helps them feel good about getting that temporary discount, because they can offer you something in return as well. It’s more of a win-win while keeping the relationship intact. 


We’re All In This Together


Especially in these strange times, in sales, it can’t be an “us vs. them” scenario. It’s about a collaborative approach. When it comes to discount requests, it doesn’t necessarily mean dropping your price right off the bat, it simply means working together to figure out what is fair and doable for both parties. 


To summarize, making sure you hit each of these 3 tips will help you navigate discount requests from you customers and come to mutually beneficial solutions. 


  • Empathize with Their Situation
  • Confirm that Your Pencil Was Already Sharp
  • Show Them Real Effort


If you found this information useful, we’d love to connect with you about our new Virtual Selling Skills Course or our OtherCentered Selling Course available *temporarily* at a discounted rate due to the current pandemic. 

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As VP of Marketing at ASLAN Training & Development, Scott’s passion is to share our solution with those in need and those who seek sales transformation. Find him on: Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

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