It’s okay to say no

We all know the old business rule ‘the customer is always right. I question whether this is really valid in today’s business world or perhaps if its meaning is misconstrued. Many business people think that a client’s opinion or request is ‘right’. The truth is, if we learn to say a legitimate ‘no’ to a client when it’s appropriate, we can avoid problems down the track and actually help them more.

Sometimes saying ‘no’ can be perceived as an objection to a client’s ideas. All of your clients are passionate about their businesses, new product ranges, or new ideas, and they want your help to realize the full potential of their proposition. You can bring your expertise to the table and really add value, but need to stick to what you know and avoid allowing the client to come up with the ideas, leaving you to implement something you’re not passionate about. If a client’s strategy or idea won’t work, say no and tell them why.

It’s not about building barriers or flippantly flicking ‘nose into every conversation, but stick to your professional guns and no only will you be all the better for it, but your client will thank you.

Your client has opted to outsource work to you because they believe that you have the specialized skills and expertise they need. This means clients are looking for guidance, and, when necessary, they want someone (you) to take the lead and tell them what is good and bad for business.

Another scenario where we need to learn to say ‘no’ is when the workload becomes work overload. Clients can’t be blamed for being passionate about their product or service and wanting to move things quickly. On your side, however, this can mean you are hurriedly and busily responding to client needs and not necessarily delivering your best work. Quality comes from time spent thinking clearly about your actions, processes, and outcomes, and constantly thinking of ways to improve. Saying ‘no’ to your client in the first instance will ultimately give them the quality result they are after, and they will respect you for wanting the result to be the best it can be.

Whatever the customer’s issue, a true salesperson should be able to have an honest conversation with their customer providing them with genuine solutions and advice. Saying ‘no’ to a customer can be difficult, but try to turn the conversation back to how you can help them. This approach shows the customer that you’re a professional and here to provide a service.

So … how exactly do we say no? Saying no to a client or customer can be more daunting to some than the initial sell or client win. When saying ‘no, you don’t want your response to be seen as aggressive by your customer or client. Whatever your scenario for saying ‘no’ may be, make sure you clearly explain why you are saying ‘no’, and finish with the positive things you can do or feel you should do. Here are some tips:

Your client wants you to implement a bad idea or strategy — Explain, example, solution. Explain to your client why their idea won’t work. Give them an example of the negative outcome that will happen if you are to implement their idea, and finally give them an alternative solution as to the correct way the situation should be handled.

Workload overload — Establish a monthly plan with your clients. Have an initial discussion with your client before you lock in a plan, and discuss the priorities for the month and your client’s objectives. Listen to their wants and respond accordingly by explaining what you will do to meet their needs.

Saying ‘no’ when appropriate, can save you and your client or customer time, money, and future problems. If you’re a professional, your objection will be taken by your customer and client as valuable and sound advice.

Sue Barrett is an experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider, entrepreneur, and founder of Barrett Consulting.

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