How many discount offers should you make in a year?

When a supplier offers you a discount, this is a push to try and make you move forward your purchase and do it now. However, the question is how many times can you use this tool to encourage buyers before it loses its impact?  There is not one simple answer to this, except maybe in the context of your sales cycle and the feelings of the purchaser during this journey.

Whether people take months of hours to come to a buying decision, they all have to go through various stages of interest before they purchase.  There are three factors which develop during this time. Their pain caused by a need,  their confidence in your ability to fulfil that need and the price they will pay, which is one measurement of how bad their pain is opposed to how great, or better your product will make things afterwards.

Don’t believe anything you are told about your requirement to fulfil the exact requirement of their need. We humans don’t buy on spcification. We buy on emotion. Afterwards (maybe only millisewconds) we will justify our action with some level of logic.

The need is the pain and your fulfilment is the pleasure. So, how does the discount come into it?

Price perception

Let us consider that your product is $100 and you have an average quality product when compared to any competition. What would happen if you dropped the price to $1? – Probably anybody with the pain for your product would purchase. Even with a low confidence in your ability to fulfil their pain, they would take the chance.

What if you raised your product to $200. People would now need a high level of pain and would have to have a high confidence in your product to fulfil their needs to purchase as you are now a premium offering.

So, a discount will only work when the buyer has a level of need, is close to considering your product will fulfil their needs, and feels the price is justified. In which case, a general discount offer is only going to attract those ‘on the fence’ who are close to but not suffered enough pain, or confidence to make the purchase.

For people at an earlier stage in the purchasing process, the discount actually has the possibility of undermining the value that they see in your product. “if they were offering it for $80 last month, why should I want to pay $100 now. Is it only worth $80? – Why would I want to pay $20 more?”


There are some companies, like furniture makers, that are constantly having sales. So, they do two things different to the average company. Firstly they start with higher than expected initial prices. This gives the impression of a premium product, it makes their discounts look bigger and means that their sale prices are still profitable. Secondly, they never discount everything, so they hope that the feeling of a few low prices surrounded by higher priced goods will keep your feeling of the high perceived value of their goods, with the chance you may buy something not even in the sale!

Many companies use the tool of Black Friday or other target days for massive discounts. Those doing it well, (like Amazon) will build up excitement before the event. Copy cats have made the mistake of offering the discounts early and running on extra days, but that dilutes the need for quick action, which is the emotion being produced to overcome the previous reluctance to buy.

So, what is your advice?

If you want to run frequent discount offers, then you need a higher perceived value in your product, whether it is justified or not. Many people selling products with no direct competitors, like consulting, will often report increased sales when they pump up the price because it is affecting the customers feeling of the quality of the product to fulfil the need.

If you want to use the discount as a tool to push through purchases then you really need to make it targeted, not only potential buyers but those almost at that point of purchase. So, put the discount into a stage in your sales funnel. For those that expressed a good level of interest, make an offer of insider information, or latest news. This will confirm their interest and that they are close to purchasing. If they take action for that information, then make the discount offer at the end. In effect, you are creating a targetted tripwire.