How to handle hagglers

How to handle hagglers

I’ll admit I’ve never been a good haggler.

While visiting the Tunisian souks, whenever the stallholders told me a price I’d simply pay it.

My Tunisian husband shook his head in dismay

“You’re supposed to bargain,” he scoffed. “It’s what they expect.

But while haggling in the markets might be the norm, is haggling in the business place really the done thing?

And how do you handle hagglers when they are angling for a discount? Here are my top tips.

“And no, I don’t think publishing pricing makes your sales story just about price, as long as you back it up with proof and quality. “

Ask for a budget

The best way to stop a haggler is to be clear on their budget right from the start. So I recommend asking for a budget.

A lot of people think asking a potential client for their budget is a huge no-no, but I disagree.

I’ve found clients who have a budget will happily tell you, and it’s a quick way to gauge whether or not you’re in their price range.

Publish your prices

There’s something about seeing prices in black and white that makes them more … well, black and white.

And no, I don’t think publishing pricing makes your sales story just about price, as long as you back it up with proof and quality.

The truth is, at some point every sales transaction is about price. So why not nip that prickly beast in the bud?

Give a ballpark

If the client has given you enough information to go on, try to shoot back a ballpark figure quickly. It doesn’t have to be exact, just a range from $X to $Y.

If your ballpark figure doesn’t make them spit coffee onto their keyboard, then you know you’re onto a winner.

It’s amazing how quickly these tactics can establish a client’s budget. They may not have a firm idea on what they will pay, but they’re usually pretty damn clear on what they won’t.

But isn’t every quote different?

Some of you might be thinking,“But every project is different. How can I quote it without knowing all the ins and outs?”.

I say tosh and tiddle to that.

Unless you’ve been in business for less than a month, you’ve probably done a similar project before to help you make a fair judgement.

Just make sure the client knows it’s only a rough cost so you have room to move when you write up your full proposal.

Once you’ve established you’re not wildly unaffordable, you can iron out the details and send a more formal proposal or invoice knowing it’s far more likely to be accepted.

Handling hagglers

But what happens when you send your ballpark proposal/quote, and the client says point blank that they can’t afford your rates?

You have a decision to make.

You can either say “Ta ta” and wish them good luck with their project, or you can start to haggle.

The hard line on haggling

Ideally, you should ensure your initial quote is as spot on as possible, and provides the lowest possible price.

If you randomly reduce the quote just because the client asks you to, you’ve kind of undermined that first quote.

And that can make you seem a little sketchy and desperate.

The softer line on haggling

Of course, sometimes you need or want the work and are willing to revise your quote to win the job. So how do you handle that?

If you don’t want to look sketchy but you do want the job, then you have a few options:

  1. Reduce the scope: Tell the client what you can do for their budget.
  2. Create phases: Offer them the opportunity to get some work completed before they commit to the whole project, which gives you time to prove you’re worth every cent.
  3. Be honest: Say that while you don’t usually reduce your quote, you’re happy to apply a one-off discount because you really want to work on the project. Note: Use this one with caution!


Never reduce your costs on the promise of future work. Not all promises are kept, and broken promises don’t pay mortgages.

How do I know if I’ve quoted too high or too low?

I know from my students that quoting is one of the things new soloists find the toughest. So here’s a little rule of thumb for you.

If your quotes are accepted first time every time, you’re probably charging too little.

If your quotes are always rejected, you’re probably charging too much.

It’s all about finding the middle ground and the right price point for your clients, then holding fast to those prices and resisting the urge to give into the hagglers.

It takes time, but you’ll get there.


Over to you

What about you? Are you a haggler? Do you enjoy the negotiation process? Or does quoting for jobs bring you out in a sticky rash?

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This post originally appeared on The Flying Solo website.

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