You can save quite some money by claiming discounts that are often announced only in small print and in hidden places on websites, and sometimes negotiate even better prices for many products and services you use.
As researchers, our funding is usually tight, especially when the group is still young, funded maybe by just a single grant. It’s often not easy to decide for a purchase, even if you feel that it would be valuable to the team.
Luckily, many companies offer education discounts. Most of the time though, these are not advertised on their web pages. So, you have to write them and ask.
To give you a few examples, companies that will give you a discount are Evernote, Dropbox, Tresorit, Microsoft (e.g. for the iPad Office version), Asana, Apple (google Apple education for your national website though), and toketaWare. These are just a few examples, and many other companies offer discounts as well.
First off, it often looks as if education discounts are for students only. Usually, this is not true. Mostly, if you teach, or even if you just work at, a university, then you are eligible for education discounts. If in doubt, write them and ask…
These discounts can be substantial, as high as 75% off the regular, advertised price! I don’t think I’ve found a software over 10$/€ that doesn’t offer a discount. Discounted prices are becoming more and more important with the current trend that software is sold via subscription models (“only $4.99 a month!”), so that you sign up for long-term costs. For example, the serious plans of online storage companies like Dropbox and Tresorit can cost in the hundreds if you want to use their business plans for your entire team. But even if you only want to buy the “professional” (single user) plans, many apps and softwares nowadays cost near 100$/€ per year.
But not only software companies offer education discounts. Hardware companies and stores, like Apple and Dell, do as well.
If the product you buy is sold as a subscription model, another way to save some money is usually to pay on a yearly, and not monthly, basis. Most companies cut their prices by 1/6, that is, they give you 2 months free.
This option is often, but not always advertised on the pricing pages — so again, if you don’t see this option, write them and ask!
Finally, you can often negotiate your price. I’ve been surprised about how fast many companies will get in touch and offer discounts when you indicate that you are interested in buying their product – even before you’ve asked for the lower price. They might offer to call, and if you are seriously interested in the product, take them up on that offer: this makes negotiating faster and easier.
You might wonder what kind of leverage you have to negotiate. I’ve found that companies consider different aspects valuable, so they might be worth bringing up.
- The first step to get a better price is to just ask, “Can you offer me a discount?”, or “Is there something you can do about the price here?”
- Be aware of your leverage. For instance, a young company really needs customers. You usually wouldn’t bring this up in a conversation, but keep it in mind. Don’t simply say yes to the first offer.
- You want to buy several licenses/seats/…: the more you need, the higher is a potential discount. Negotiate harder if you are planning to increase the number of licenses in the near future.
- You might be willing to take a reduction in service for a lower price (e.g. less storage from a cloud service than advertised). You can combine this with asking “Is there another way to reduce the price?”, so that they can offer you to take out some aspect of the regular offer. You can also try “I could pay X%. Is there some way to modify the offer so that you can meet that price?”
- You are considering several similar services (e.g. different cloud storage services). Get quotes from all of them. Bring up the price in the negotiation with the other ones. When you do this, you will hear arguments about why the product that you are negotiating is better than all the other ones. So before you throw price comparisons at the sales representative, think about what aspects are important to you.
So: Try it and start saving today
For some people, it is normal to ask for discounts. For most, it feels weird and difficult at first. It did for me. But I can say that I have saved substantial amounts by simply asking whether I can get a better price, and sometimes by being persistent about wanting a better price after an initial “no”.
Also, don’t worry about hearing “no”. You won’t always get the price you hoped for. Still, negotiating is a normal part of business. The sales person won’t think bad of you.
Most of our funding is tax money. It’s not just nice to save some money here and there. It’s also responsible use of our resources.
Have you had positive or negative experiences in trying to get better prices for some products? Have you found good ways to negotiate, and good arguments to bring up during negotations? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments!
If you feel insecure about negotiating, it might be worth reading a book on it.
Secrets of Power Negotiating (Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator) by Roger Dawson is a collection of small chapters, each of which talks about one tactic or “trick” in negotiations. Many of them can be used in “small” everyday negotations like the ones I talked about here. Not all parts of the book are great, and the style is a matter of taste. But I found the first ⅔ of the book interesting and useful. (Warning about the last third of the book: try not to get a screaming seizure when you read the part about negotiating with Europeans).
Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G.R. Shell is a much more moderately written book, based on scientific investigation about negotiation. But it talks about large negotiations, and could be useful, for example, to prepare for negotiating a job position or a collaboration contract with a company.