Ask Dem: Great Job Please Take Less Money

Hi Dem,

How do you respond to a client where you have had very good success and they now want a discount because they are "giving" you so much business? The searches are hard and we work even harder because of our full fee but this is something that has happened more than once. Any suggestions how to avoid this objection created by successful searches? Thanks for your thoughts.


I had this situation just recently. And it got me really angry. I was going to pick up the phone, call the client and scream and yell and rant and rave, but I learned long ago that I should count to ten before I react. The theory is if you count to ten, your anger will dissipate.

I just learned to count faster (sigh). So I made the call, and since I found their request “offensive”, I decided the best defense is a good offense. Here’s, paraphrasing from memory, what I said:

“I have to tell you what makes this business endlessly fascinating to me is the daily dose of irony we all experience. When I got your email, I was literally writing YOU an email, the thrust of which was, “we respectfully request an increase in our fees, due to the speed and quality with which we have delivered our candidates. In the course of the work, we have amassed a network specific to your company’s requested profile, we have familiarised ourselves with the competitive landscape, and when something happens, we know about it sooner than possible before. We have examined our ratios and found we dedicated an inordinate amount of calling hours and researchers time to attract and evaluate candidates. We felt we needed to do all of the above for our standard fee to prove ourselves a worthy strategic partner, and couldn’t ask for a higher fee, justified by the customising of our process to your company, until we had done so.

And then I get your email, which I must say shocked me. From my point of view, what you are saying is: YOU DID SUCH A GREAT JOB WE WANT YOU TO TAKE LESS MONEY.

In every other walk of life, the better your work, the more you are compensated. I would love to continue working for you, but I don’t feel I should be punished for being effective. Please let me know what you want to do about the remaining searches. I’ll put things on hold until I hear back. Thanks for your time”.

And while I had to hear a rant about how expensive I am compared to other agencies, we eventually agreed that the fair thing to do, in light of my whining, was to keep our fee where it is.

I hope some version of the above works for you.