Saying ‘No’ in Business
Sometimes, you just have to say ‘no’ to a client.
For such a simple statement, you’d think it wouldn’t be so tough to follow. But for some of us, it is incredibly difficult to say no to a client’s request.
Maybe your client requested a modification to an agreement that just isn’t possible. Or maybe they are asking you for a discount. Do you find it hard to turn down the client’s request (assuming it’s a fairly reasonable one)?
When encountering a situation where I must tell a client ‘no’, it’s never really fun. As a business owner helping other business owners with their marketing, I want to exceed the client’s expectations at all times. This is turn helps their business succeed because we’ve teamed up to improve their marketing. However, if a client requests something that just can’t be done, I know I need to tell them ‘no’ because the alternative just isn’t a good one.
Consider this: You say ‘yes’ to the client’s request that you know can’t be done or isn’t in line with the agreement you set up, and could end up wasting not only your time chasing an unproductive task–but your client’s time is wasted too. And their hopes were unfairly raised, potentially causing major client dissatisfaction. Definitely a lose-lose situation!
If you struggle with having to tell your clients ‘no,’ there are a few pointers you can follow to help. First, always be polite and respectful! (Even if you’re having a bad day and this is your client’s tenth time asking you the same question.) Ever heard of the saying “You’ll win more flies with honey than vinegar?” Not that you’re looking to catch flies here, but showing irritation or getting upset with your client is not the way to go.
Second, ask yourself if you are sure the answer must be no. In order to provide the best customer service and go above and beyond for your clients, have you researched options for accommodating their request? Is there a reasonable way to give them a ‘yes’ that satisfies them and doesn’t involve achieving the impossible for you? Sometimes, a ‘no’ can be turned into a ‘maybe,’ or you may be able to offer an alternative to their request. Providing the client with a ‘no’ followed by an alternative option helps them see that you are looking out for their interests.
And if you must tell your client that their request absolutely will not work, make sure to include a brief explanation of why you’re saying no. For example: if your client is asking for a discount and there is no reason they should have expected one, you need to find a way to convey that message. You’ll need to be a bit firm in your ‘no’ and you’ll need to tell them why. The ‘why’ could be something as simple as stating your business is unable to give discounts (this worked very well for me as an insurance agent–and it was completely true). If need be, you can (politely) remind your client that the prices you charge are how you make a living and pay your bills, so giving discounts is not an option at this time. (For more information on setting your prices, read this.)
In business, saying ‘no’ to a client is just part of life. As long as you’ve searched for alternatives and are sure there’s no way to give your client what they want, tell them no. Be polite and tell them the reason for the ‘no’ and they will be more likely to accept it graciously and move on to the next task with you!