Awhile back I was having lunch with a few friends. After the bill came she looked at it, called the waiter over to the table, and explained that she wanted 10 percent off of the bill.  Looking somewhat puzzled the waiter asked if there was something wrong with her food? “No,” she replied. “The service,” he inquired. “No,” again was her reply. “Why?” then he finally asked. Her reply stunned all of us at the table. She simply felt that the cost was too much and wanted a discount. We all chuckled as the waiter left to speak with his manager about the request. However, to our surprise, he returned a few minutes later and said his manager agreed to give her 10 percent off of the bill.

We were amazed. How did she do it? How did she literally get them to knock 10 percent off of the bill? We asked her what the secret was? Her reply was brief and amazingly simply: “I asked.”

It seems that our friend had learned long ago to always ask for a discount. Why? Why not?  Over the years she had made a practice of simply asking for discounts. This practice was not merely limited to restaurants. Every time she would buy something  she would always ask. Most times she gets a discount. Just for asking. From the purchase of clothing at department stores to groceries, she always asks.

A few weeks later we were at a neighborhood party and the subject came up among some of the attendees. One of our neighbors is the CEO of relatively large company. He stated that one of the most fascinating courses he took while getting his MBA was one in which on a given day the professor challenged each member of the class to bring in a gallon of milk the next day and see, through negotiation, how little they could pay for the same.  Amazingly, the next day the class arrived with their stories concerning their various negotiation tactics. Of note, roughly 80 percent of the class had received the milk completely for free with the remaining 20 percent having purchased it at a severe discount. What was the common element of all of the stories? Quite simply, they asked for a discount.

So how does all of this apply to your business? Simple. Ask for discounts.

On the heels of my lunch and neighborhood party we began looking at our various ways to save our company money. As a business heavily reliant upon accepting credit cards, one of our major overhead costs is merchant account fees. So what did we do? We called our merchant provider and requested that they reduce the rate they charge for our processing our credit card transactions. How did they respond? They agreed to reduce our rates! In one phone callabout ten minutes of timewe received a reduction in our merchant processing rate which equates to thousands of dollars in savings every month. Just for asking.

So how can you use this to save money in your business?

1. List Your Expenses:  Create a list of your recurring monthly expenses. Make sure to include credit card processing fees, advertising expenses, other service providers.

2. Call and Ask for Discounts: Call your service providers and, quite simply, ask for discounts. You’ll be surprised how readily you will receive the same. And don’t be shy about mentioning how their competition would love to have your business. That will often be the spark they need to offer that discount.

 3. Train Yourself to Keep Asking: Finally train yourself to keep asking for discounts, personally and professionally.

 You may not receive a discount every time you ask. But you will definitely get some. Just for doing one, simple task. Just ask.