It's Okay To Say "No" To A Client

It's Okay To Say "No" To A Client

Sep 15, 2022

The word "No" often brings up a negative connotation to most of us.

In our businesses, when we propose an offer to someone, a 'no' can set a whole train of things in motion.There have been times for example, when I have been on discovery calls with potential clients and I have felt uncomfortable. I knew right away that this person most likely isn't my type of client but I still have felt this tug, like I can help this person, and so I continue the call. I even say I'll follow up with an email yet deep down inside even after the call I wrestle with thoughts of 'I don't want to do this..this is not the right connection.'

When I first started my business I would push my gut feelings down and send over an email saying I would love to work together but over the years I have learnt to trust my gut and if that's the feeling that I am getting I instead follow up with a nice email letting them know that I didn't think that we were necessarily a good fit, even though I could sympathise with their situation and understand where they were at. I then always follow that with a couple of suggestions for next steps that they may want to take. 

Oftentimes this works and the potential client then goes on to find someone who is a better fit for me and the same for me but I have had it in the past where sending this email has triggered the other person and they have come back with a response filled with negativity. Often when this happens it is a lot about the emotional triggers that happen for that other person when they hear 'no'. 

A perfect example of this is the story of a consult I did quite a few years ago that went rogue.

I was meeting with a client and it was a mother of a bride. Prior to the consultation she had not answered my questionnaire, or given much information. She wanted to just come in and even had badgered my event manager until she could just get an appointment. At first, I took this as a sign of eagerness ~  she just wanted to make this happen right now. 

I rearranged my schedule to fit her in as she was adamant that she wanted to meet with me face to face and have me do the flowers for her daughter's wedding. When she showed up I could feel that there was something going on and automatically she put up a wall. However, I brushed this aside and put my professional hat on thinking maybe she was having a bad day. 

We started to get into the consultation; and, next thing I know, she's abrasive, almost to the point of, "you need to impress me". She is challenging me on every suggestion I make, saying how she doesn't really like it and it's not what she wants. So I ask her what she wants and she begins in great detail to tell me...then the a-ha moment happened...I realized that this is what she wanted and not what her daughter wanted. I mean, the daughter didn't even come to the consultation!

This carries on for a while until I finally just said, 'Am I upsetting you in some way? Is something have I said something offended you in some way?.'

She stopped and replied, 'Well, my daughter is the one that really wants you. I'm not convinced about you. Actually I plan on doing the flowers. And that's what I really want to do. And I feel like I have to do my due diligence by coming in and talking to you.'

At this point all those gut feelings that I had been having about her turned into a massive red flag and I replied, 'Well, you don't have to do due diligence at all. If you want to do this for your daughter, then that is what you and your daughter get to decide, and it sounds like this isn't going to be a good fit. And we probably should just go ahead and end the consultation now.'

She left in a huff! My staff, who had happened to hear the whole thing, were freaking out. They could not believe that I had been so bold with her. But here's the thing ~ as business owners we get to decide if we want to put ourselves in these situations that make us uncomfortable and that we know is not where we need to be.

Making clear our boundaries, even if it's just to ourselves and all the client is hearing is 'No, sorry we're not a good fit' allows us to take back our power and stop feeling so overrun by our businesses and clients. 

Yes this takes practice and isn't easy at first but the more you start to clarify who you do want to work with and how you want to work the more confident you become at turning down the opportunities and clients that aren't aligned with you. 

It gives you a sense of power to know that this isn't going to work. And you also know that it's also saying to yourself, money isn't the only reason why I do what I do. I do it because I love what I do. And I want to work with clients that want to work with me.

So when you're putting out your offers, or you're promoting your services, you get to say, 'Hey, do I want them as a client?' You get to say 'no' too ~ the power isn't always in the client's hands.

What comes up for you when you hear the word 'no'? Does it trigger you in some way? When someone says no to you, or your services or your product? What comes up for you?

Now reframe that 'no' as it's not a great fit so you're saving yourself a huge amount of issues further down the line. Or how about 'No, not right now'. So in that instance instead of feeling deflated thinking OK what else do they need to make it a yes? Do they need more information from you? Some space? This then opens up opportunities for you to realise that either there's something else coming along the way that's better aligned and you will have space to say yes to or to tweak your client experience before people get to this point so that they are more ready when they get on the call with you. 

And if a 'no' comes down to money then know that this says nothing about you. Either they are not in a place to afford it right now or it's not something that they're willing to pay for. That's their decision that has nothing to do with you.

And how we respond to that should still be on our terms so maybe we do want to offer them a discount (but because we want to and not because they are pressuring us or making us feel guilty about our pricing)  Or if it's something that we are like, Okay, I totally understand that. And I wish you well bless and release. I say bless them and release them. Release it out. 

So I invite you when you do hear 'no' to not think about the negative feelings it brings up but instead think about all the opportunities that it brings you. Try and shift from doubting yourself to concentrating on where it is you do want to be in your business and the people that you do want to work with instead. 

It's okay to say no. And it's okay to hear a no, because you've got yes's that are waiting for you. And you're going to say yes to yourself time and time again.

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