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3 Tools To Deal With Fee Negotiators

30 May 2024

Sometimes, you’ll come across clients who only want to talk about price—the ‘Fee Negotiators,’ as I call them.

So, should you negotiate?

Well, I’ll give you four reasons why you shouldn’t and three tools to use instead.

Why you shouldn’t….

  1. You’ll break the seal in your mind – Once you give yourself permission to reduce your fees, you’ll do it again and again. It’ll become a crutch you lean on whenever you encounter a difficult client. Worse, you might start offering it when you don’t need to.
  2. The relationship will never recover – If you start the relationship by conceding on price, it sets a negative precedent. Essentially, the client has pressured you into a fee reduction, and you’ve complied. The balance of power is skewed, and they’ll likely continue to push you around.
  3. Professional Pride – You’ve worked incredibly hard to reach your current level. Long hours of study, professional development, and learning from mistakes have led you to provide an excellent service. You’re a professional, not a market stall trader.
  4. Referrals – If you take on the Fee Negotiator at a reduced rate, what happens when they refer someone to you? You’ll have to offer them the same deal. Fee Negotiators will always refer other fee negotiators, perpetuating the cycle.

“It’s easier said than done when you have bills to pay and Paraplanners sitting idle,” I hear you say!

True, so here are three tools to deal with fee negotiators:

  1. Involve the partner – If the Fee Negotiator is in a relationship, they are likely to be quite technical and transactional in mindset, while their partner might be more holistic and relationship-focused. Your service is holistic, so sell it to the partner who is buying what you are selling. They’re also likely to be morbidly embarrassed by their partners bartering and the one person most skilled in reigning it in.
  2. Call it out – A useful line is, “If cost is your main driver, we’re probably not for you.” This simple statement forces the client to admit that other factors besides price are important. It opens the door to discussing how your services meet those broader needs.
  3. Give them choice (just not with you) – Often, clients want top-level service for mid-level prices and expect you to reduce your fee. Instead of conceding, show them mid-level service alternatives from competitors that come with a mid-level price. This shifts the responsibility of making the equation work away from you and forces them to consider the service level they would get elsewhere. They’ve now got to argue with themselves – not you.

Remember, a client who won’t pay you your worth isn’t a client you want. – Software, Training & Business Services for Financial Planners


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