Leadership & Strategy | March 7, 2016

Just Say No (to Drugs and a Few Other Things)

Naturally, you want to please your customers with their projects or services. In fact, not only do you want to please them, you want to amaze them with your superhuman feats. There is only one catch: you are not superhuman. You are a regular human, which is fine as long as you know your limits. For that reason, there will be times when you will have to tell your customers “No.” Telling people no is difficult. Obviously, you should only do it when it’s necessary. The trick is identifying when it’s necessary, and then knowing how to say no. Here are some suggestions.

Knowing WHEN To Say “No.”

There are times when you should absolutely tell your client that you can not accommodate them. When this is a must, be considerate and also be sure. Times that you should tell your client “No” include:

  • When you don’t believe that you have the skill, the expertise, or the time to do the work they want, or you can’t give them the quality they expect. You won’t be doing your client any favors if you deliver poor quality work, or don’t deliver at all.
  • When they ask you for work that goes above and beyond what they’re willing to pay, or if it goes beyond what you have contracted to do. If you don’t value your time or abilities, how will they? You might be afraid of losing your customer or of them not liking you, but in business, being respected is more important than being liked.
  • Don’t agree to do anything that goes against your moral code. If you feel you’re being asked to do something that is unethical, you’ll regret doing it more than you’ll regret losing a sale.
  • If you think the customer is asking you to do something that is not in their best interest. You have been hired for your expertise, so don’t be afraid to share your opinion if it benefits the customer.

RELATED: The Importance of Honesty and Integrity in Business

Knowing HOW to say “No.”

When you need to decline a customer’s request, there are tactful ways of going about it. Sometimes, you won’t be able to make your customer happy no matter what you do. More often than not, however, there is a way you can satisfy your customer even when you can’t give them what they want initially. Here are some suggestions on knowing how to say no:

  • Make a counter offer. This is one of the most popular ways of softening the blow. If you’re able to follow up “I’m sorry I can’t . . . ” with “But I can offer you . . .” or “Would you like to try. . . ?”
  • Try to use language that is positive rather than negative. For example, instead of saying: “I’m sorry, I can’t do (B) because you already said you wanted (A),” try: “Sure, I can absolutely do (B) if you would rather I do that than (A).”
  • Be unmistakably clear. Yes, you want to use positive language, but when the answer is “No,” don’t be ambiguous. While you might be able to offer an alternative don’t let them think there is room for further negotiation if there isn’t. Stick to your guns.

As a business owner, you don’t want to turn customers down. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary for the sake of your business and your customers. So make sure that when you do say “no,” you’re doing it tactfully and for the right reasons.

Client Tips

For more client tips, take a look at these tips for building strong client relationships.