None of us could ever have imagined the trials and tribulations 2020 delivered. No one anywhere has been spared inconvenience and heartache, and for many health coaches, the impact may well continue for a long time.
The good news is, there’s never been a greater need to focus on wellness. Yet, at the same time, so many people have had their resources diminished or placed under additional pressure. Along with so many other professions, most health coaches have experienced a significant drop in the number of clients. People have either lost their jobs or been forced to redirect disposable income to more essential needs.
So where does that leave you as a health coach?
You may be having to respond to clients asking you to discount your services more than ever before. While it’s at your discretion who you give discounts to, you shouldn’t make it a habit. I can be a difficult balancing act between trying to help your clients in their time of need, and not undervaluing yourself!
I wanted to discuss an issue that many of my clients are facing right now, and it’s how to deal with health coach clients who ask for a discount.
How can you protect the value of your services as a health coach?
When preparing your response to a discount request, try not to take the request personally. For some people, asking for discounts is just standard procedure (after all, you don’t ask, you don’t get!) But, we can end up down a slippery slope if we reduce our pricing, and it can impact the the value of the service we provide.
Think of it like this, if it’s ‘so easy’ for you to reduce your pricing, why would you price higher to begin with? Giving out discounts like they are free sweets can make clients feel like you were overcharging to begin with and doesn’t give the same feeling of ‘savings’ as buying products does.
It can be particularly hard when it’s friends or family making the request. Some health coaches make it a policy not to take on clients that they have a personal relationship for this very reason! And it’s not a bad rule, because, personal dynamics can often interfere with the coaching-client relationship, particularly when it comes to money.
That said, given the pandemic, you may not be in the position to turn work away! So here are some professional ways you can handle discount requests, without devaluing your brand.
#1 Offer a quid pro quo.
Agreeing to a discount without anything in return is a sure-fire way to devalue your brand. But people tend to value their own time and resources. (Go figure!)
So, if you are going to offer a discount, emphasise that you are giving your client something of value by ensuring you get something in return. This works particularly well if they are a professional as well. That way you can engage their services in return! This can be excellent if you’re low on dough because you get something too, so it’s a win-win.
Other examples of a quid pro quo include:
- Asking for a video review or personal recommendation to friends and family.
- Feedback or testing for new services and products so you can tweak for paying clients.
#2 Be ready to justify your price.
A straightforward response to any request for a discount is replying that you don’t give discounts because you believe your services are already competitively priced. In this case, be prepared to justify your pricing, if you really want to win the client.
Research your competitors’ pricing and be confident in your ability to offer a comparable or better service. If a prospective client would be paying the same or more anywhere else, why should you extend a discount? Articulate the advantages you offer over similar offerings so that clients realise they are already getting great value at the original price.
Top Tip: By “justify your price,” I don’t mean explaining your expenses and personal lifestyle to clients. Avoid doing this; it can leave you in an awkward place – it is not your clients’ business how you spend your money. Instead focus on value, market rate, and competitor offerings if they want comparisons.
#3 Offer to hold current pricing for them when the price goes up.
You should always review your pricing annually – the beginning of the year is easy to remember. Or, you could make it your birth month or the anniversary month of your business. That way, it can feel like you’re giving yourself a celebratory bonus.
Additionally, if there is an unexpected increase in your input costs (business-related expenses), you should not hesitate to adjust your prices accordingly. For example, if the cost of fuel increases and you are driving to your clients’ homes, you should increase your prices to cover your extra expense. If you do so promptly, people will make the connection and hopefully not quibble.
An acceptable way to handle requests for discounts can be to inform clients that you are considering a price increase. Offer to hold your current pricing for them until the next increase. This has the added benefit of forcing them to make a quick decision or risk paying the new, higher price.
Top Tip: This Entrepreneur article will help you get your pricing pegged correctly.
#4 Explain that what you put in is what you get out.
So often when people are given something for nothing, they don’t appreciate it. Explain to your clients how payment is an integral part of the “accountability framework.” If they are not ready to make the financial sacrifice, then it’s likely they aren’t serious about the changes they need to make in their lifestyle.
Clients may be paying for your time, but they must earn the right to be taken seriously. Advising a client to come back when the time is right for them is a sensitive response. But, it also sends a clear message that you take yourself seriously and they had better too.
#5 Discuss their roadblocks
This might sound like a no-brainer but ask your client why they are asking for a discount. If they ‘just want’ a cheaper price, you know that they might not be your ideal client, but if they have a valid reason (particularly during the pandemic) but are willing to work with your full pricing long-term it might pay you to offer a discount now, and retain a long-term client and loyalty later.
That’s up to your discretion but it should be easy to see what is someone ‘pushing their luck’ and what is someone who genuinely needs to catch a break right now.
Other quick ways you can work with the discount question:
- Remove something of value from the service. If money is genuinely an issue for your prospective client, offer them a solution that fits their budget. If your sessions usually are 45 minutes, offer them 30-minute sessions until they are in a position to pay full price. If you include merchandise in your packages, exclude something in recognition of the discounted price.
- Get payment in advance, with no option of a refund. As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Money in the bank now is always preferable to the uncertainty of future payments. Offer your client a discount in return for paying for services in advance. Make it clear that refunds will not be given under any circumstances, and be prepared to stand by that.
- Get a direct debit instruction. Offer clients a discount if they agree to a direct debit. When payment is deducted automatically, people become less conscious of it. Whereas, manual payments can mean each payment raises the possibility of cancelling your services.
- Create a loyalty programme. Give clients a “retrospective” discount by rewarding them for their patronage. Creating tier memberships based on longevity or total spend can make clients feel appreciated. It can also be something they can aspire to as part of their health goals.*
- Offer a “finder’s fee.” Offer clients a discount, or free sessions, in exchange for referring new clients to you. You will need to be clear on what constitutes a new client, though. It needs to be more than just an introduction or an initial assessment. Define it in terms of the length of time they’re on board or total spend.
*Top Tip: The best loyalty programmes are simple. Don’t create an additional admin burden for yourself or your clients. A card you can stamp for each completed session is an easy way to track totals.
Don’t ignore a discount request
Although it can be tempting, never ignore a request for a discount, or fail to get back to someone. Firstly, clients hate being ignored, and it will build resentment. Secondly, you may be missing out on the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. There is a chance your client will walk away from the conversation with a better understanding of your position. And greater respect for you as a coach.
Overall, many people are feeling financial pressure, but consenting to every request for a discount devalues you and your services. The way to prevent this is to stop people from asking in the first place. Or, to respond professionally in one of the five ways outlined above. Establishing clear boundaries with respect to the value of your service is the cornerstone of constructive client relationships.