When You're Asked to Lower Your Fees

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Most of the times when I prepare a proposal and email it to a client, they may ask follow-up questions to get clarity on exactly what a service includes, when services will begin, who is on the project team, and about the engagement plan.

It is not often that I have a prospective client ask me to reduce my retainer.

This happened once when I emailed a proposal to a company that needed our services.

The first time the prospective client asked that I reduce the retainer he explained that it needed to be reduced to facilitate approval.

My response: If the services as proposed are too high, I’ll be happy to discuss how we can scale back our services to stay in line with your budget. However, note that the service I proposed is based on what is required to be compliant so your organization can be eligible for future funding.

The second time the prospective client asked was because he couldn’t sell his colleagues on paying such high fees when he knew of people in a related organization that were paid less.

My response: I understand but the people your colleagues may be aware of do not offer the 15+ years of experience I have in different types of environments, they have not built a highly rated training series on the topic nor my 2.5 years of running a business that specialized in the area, and they are not aware of my ability to refine our services and skills based on the business experience.

The third and final time he slyly proposed a much lower fee under his breath. Of course, I heard the amount he proposed.

My response: I’ll be happy to start next week at the amount originally proposed.

I also provided several other options such as shortening the retainer period and adjusting the services after the initial period because benefits would have been gained from the initial engagement.

I landed that client. I knew the company needed our services and I was aware that my contact also knew it.

After our kickoff meeting, I noticed an immediate difference in the way he communicated with me.


Because during the kickoff meeting, he realized the value of our services and his colleagues who attended the meeting were very appreciative of the actionable solutions we recommended that they could (had to) implement quickly.

Lessons learned:

  1. Know your worth and never lower your fees just because someone else doesn’t (yet).
  2. If asked to lower your fees, be willing to offer solutions that do not impact the fee initially quoted. Two possibilities are to offer a lower-priced service or shorten the retainer for the same service but for a shorter period.
  3. Decide how many times you will engage in conversations with a prospective client about your fees being too high and stick to your decision.


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