Something for Something! A Simple Way to Survive the Discount War.

Something for Something! A Simple Way to Survive the Discount War.

Have you heard the expression “something for nothing”? Everybody wants something for nothing or in other words, they want you to give them whatever you’re selling for free. As much as you’d love to do that it just can’t happen.

Everything comes with a price tag and, of course, the greater the value of what you offer to your customers, the higher price they would need to pay to get it. You can win any customer and have them pay your asking price if you can convey the value of your product and the positive impact it’s going to have on them. Unfortunately, due to the increased levels of competition, globalization and the arrival of the internet which make the world one market place, customers have more options than ever before.


A very common practice for certain cultures living here in the Middle-East is that they love to haggle and ask for discounts, free goods and services without any commitment to give anything in return to the selling company.  They want to tip the balance in their favor.  Yes, and that is what I call: “something for nothing.” If you are on the selling side, it can be quite frustrating.


What is the way out?  Well, it’s what I call “something for something.”  In other words, it’s when you give something your client wants and asks for something in return that you want.


I can explain this through a story of one of my students.


It was just after attending my “Sales and Negotiation Bootcamp” that she started her career in sales.  She got a job selling on line marketing services to real estate companies through yearly subscriptions here in Dubai.  On one particular phone call, she realized that she contacted her current land lord who also owned a real estate company.  They both recognized each other and he accepted to give her the appointment.  The meeting went well as she identified his needs, goals and obstacles to grow sales of properties and rentals.  She demonstrated how her service would help solve his issue and move him in the direction of his goals.  There was a clear advantage for him in using her services and he agreed on that.


Despite all that advantages and the fact that he was also searching for such solutions, he told her:


“Ok I will take the complete yearly package but I need two months free subscription.” 


Remember “something for nothing?”  Well, he wanted to get the product absolutely free for two months. Does that ring a bell?  What’s the value that the seller would get from that???  None!


My student remembered to ask for something in return for such a request.  So she said:


“Okay, no problem. I will give you 2 months free if you can give me 2 months free in my home rent”.  (Remember he is her landlord!)


He replied: “No, I cannot do that”.


So she said: If you are the owner of the apartment and can’t give me a discount, how do you expect me to give you a discount and I am just an employee at my company?


The result was that he accepted to proceed with the deal without a discount!


Now this story had a happy ending.

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I understand that companies need to have some leeway and offer some discounts to their potential customers to tip the value price balance. Still, you need to make sure that you are not just giving away that leeway without getting anything in return.  Things you may want to ask for are: payment terms, extra quantity, contract period etc…


Giving something free of cost and giving discounts without asking for something in return will affect the credibility of your company and products too.  If you give discounts easily, people will feel that your product is overpriced and will make them doubt your price in the future.  Even worst, this makes the customer expect that you are able to drop the price because they are asking for it and will become a common request in the future.  So in fact, you have trained your customers to ask for discounts which simply affect the credibility and fairness of your pricing and your profitability in the long run.


Remember, if people are asking for discounts or for free things, it’s because they are interested in what you are offering.  They have been burnt before from other supplier as a result they want to know if your price is really inflated or not.  If you drop your price then it is and if you don’t therefore it’s not!  As you guessed, they are testing you and want to be reassured of the value they would get in return.


Simply prepare your lists of asks so that you convert “something for nothing” into “something for something.”


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About the Author

Ramez Helou

Ramez Helou is the founder and CEO of The Academy for Sales Excellence. You can reach him via email at

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