Nobody likes to be denied. Hearing a ‘no’ has the potential to raise anyone’s hackles depending upon the context. It is an ingrained aspect of humanity. The best example is how children react in the face of a sternly delivered ‘no’ – they either try to circumnavigate the decision or throw a tantrum. It’s not like this tendency fades away with age. Adults just exhibit circumnavigation and tantrums differently. In the adult world, the best example of this tendency is seen in clients and customers. This is why businesses find it so difficult to say ‘no’ to clients.
It is understandable too. When you say no to clients, you have to accept the consequences of that decision. Your ‘no’ is probably going to affect your future relationship with the client, your client’s opinion of your business, and scope of any references. However, in some scenarios, it is imperative for the sake of your business or even the sake of your mind that you say no to clients.
After all, certain clients can be quite entitled in what ask for while others may be asking for something that you cannot provide without absorbing financial losses. The trick, of course, is to say ‘no’ to clients politely. Here are some ways of doing that.
Realise When to say ‘No’ to Clients
Sometimes, failing to say ‘no’ can be very damaging to your business but you can’t really deny a client unless you know it yourself. Setting limits on your business or even yourself is no easy task. However, if you don’t set these limits then you’ll keep getting trapped in contracts and projects that prevent you and your business from growing.
Therefore, the first step is to simply understand situations in which you will need to say ‘no’ and prepare scripted answers for those situations. Consider the following.
- The finances pertaining to the client’s demand are not viable.
- You don’t have the skills to deliver on the requested work.
- You have too many projects to take on more.
- The direction of the new request doesn’t meet with your chosen direction for your business.
- The client’s manner of working or even personality is too abrasive for you to work with him.
There could be any number of other situations that preclude the taking of another request from the client. You can only say ‘no’ to them if you recognise those scenarios.
Ask Them to Clarify What They Need
One of the easiest ways of saying ‘no’ is to ask the client to clarify on his request further. Whether it is a customer with short-term requirements or a client with long-term projects, asking them to clarify on what they need may reveal to you a more suitable way of saying ‘no’.
Once you have more information on their requirements, you can ask for more time to give them a response and try to find a workaround in that time period. This will not only give you time to think about the problem and increase the chances of a mutually acceptable solution but also make them think that they’ve been heard.
Keep Your Tone and Wording Positive
Regardless of how great an understanding you have with them, when you say ‘no’ to clients, there will always be the risk of souring it. However, a lot depends on how you deliver that negative answer too. It is very much possible to say ‘no’ positively. In fact, there are various ways to do so.
Instead of saying a flat ‘no’, you could actually choose to tell them how it can be made possible. For example, if they’re asking for something beyond the scope of work, you can simply state that expanding the scope of work and financial terms will make it possible.
Similarly, if the request is for something that you can’t provide then instead of denying it, you can suggest another way or even another vendor who would be able to offer it. The idea is to end the response positively and give a solution.
Guide Them towards the Closest Solution
Delivering a ‘no’ with positive wording becomes easier if you have something to offer. If your client has asked for extra work, price cut, or even a new feature, you can say ‘no’ positively by offering the closest solution possible to their request. Doing this has multiple benefits.
Since you’re offering a solution instead of just denying them, the first benefit of this strategy is that your client feels heard. Another benefit is that you may be able to upsell with this technique and, hence, help your returns.
Finally, if the client doesn’t agree with the alternative you provided, then they themselves will say ‘no’. This puts you in a superior position because you tried to solve their problem and they decided to not take it up. At the end of the discussion, you won’t even have to say ‘no’ to clients since they’ll say ‘no’ themselves.
Explain the Situation
The word ‘because’ is probably one of the most underrated in the annals of business. This is mainly because people see explaining themselves as a form of humbling. They assume that if they explain to someone they will be taking an inferior position. Effectively, it is about ego.
However, the word ‘because’ is wonderful when it comes to saying ‘no’. You can say ‘no’ to clients very easily. The only catch is that you add a ‘because’ at the end of that phrase and then go on to finish the sentence.
While the word ‘no’ has a negative connotation in people’s mind, the word ‘because’ gets a positive response. People are more compliant and understanding if you explain yourself or the situation. Empathy plays a part in it but it is all very subconscious and, hence, the compliant reaction is very reliable.
Quote Really High
Another very simple way to say ‘no’ to clients is to quote as high as possible. In the majority of cases, the clients will move on and find another service provider. Since they will be the ones making the decision, your relationship won’t be affected. Furthermore, it is even possible that they will view your services as elite or premium simply because of your rates.
At times, you may even find clients agreeing to your expectations. If a client accepts your quotation of astronomic proportions, then all you can do is play along. When this happens, you should make sure that you have an advance and give the project your all. This may set precedence and help you grow.