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How to Say No to a Client and Do it Politely

It can be challenging when you start a new business to say “no” to a potential client or customer. Still, there are times when saying “no” is necessary.  Saying “yes” to things you’re not adept in, don’t have time to do, or something you don’t want to do can reflect poorly on you and your business. You want positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations, but telling a client that you can’t do something can equal less than glowing reviews when that client speaks about you to others.

Having to say no is difficult because you don’t want to turn away a client should you be able to meet a future need.  Here are a few suggestions that may help you the next time you need to say “no.”

You’re not proficient at what they are asking for

By admitting to your customer in no uncertain terms that your current skill level cannot meet their needs, you can assert the moral high ground. One approach for doing this is to say something like,  “It’s not an area I’m familiar with, let me look into this for you, and if I feel I can do it, I will, and if not, I’ll find someone who can.”

You don’t have the time to manage this work

It is a tough decision to say “no” when it’s work you want to do but genuinely don’t have the time to do it right.  One way to deal with this is to simply offer a time when you can complete the work. This is better than trying to squeeze the work in around other clients. You’re not going to do justice to your current customers or the ones you’re cramming in by overdoing it. 

Say to your customer, “Thank you so much for your inquiry; I would love to work with you; however, my schedule is full at this time.  Could we arrange to do this in a few days or weeks when I can give you the attention you deserve?”

By doing this, you are actually putting the decision back on the client or customer. If they really want you to do the job, they will be willing to wait.

You don’t WANT to do the work

There may be valid reasons that you just don’t want a particular job. Maybe you have heard that a particular client is difficult to work with or that they don’t return emails. Maybe they have been slow to pay for work completed in the past. It could also simply be a personality clash, it does happen, and sometimes you just don’t want the drama.  One way to handle it would be to not have the time to do the work. Instead of suggesting a future date, go straight to,

“Can I recommend someone else who has the time and the skillset you’re looking for?”

Others would also go down the route of pricing the work out of the customer’s budget but find honest reasons for the increase in costs.

“Due to this increase in work, I have had to add a Virtual Assistant and other paid-for tools to keep up with the workload hence my price increase.” 

And/Or

“I may not be able to work on your account personally, and you may not meet with me directly.  You may want to consider other suppliers who may have more time to give you the support you want and deserve.”

Summary

Be as honest with customers as possible. The industry you work in may have a small network, or you live in an area where everyone knows everyone else. There is no escaping in business by lying.  Lies tend to crop up again as competitors, customers, and acquaintances talk. 

Always do your best to support a positive customer experience, even when sending the customer to the competition.  That way, they feel heard, supported, and ideally given an answer to their problem. Try to come to decisions quickly. By holding off on your response, you are potentially adding to the customer’s frustration. When possible, try offering an alternative like suggesting a person, a network, or advising them on how to search for what they need.

If you would like to learn more about Melanie, please visit www.stomp.ie or tag her at @STOMPSMTraining on Twitter.

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Melanie Boylan
Melanie has been supporting business owners with Social Media Training and Management since 2013 after a Magician asked for her help with Facebook. More on that later...
In late 2016 Melanie started writing for Irish Tech News and now travels to locations throughout Europe and reports, blogs and Live Streams her experience of events whilst she's there.

Her interests span Social Media (of course) Event Planning and Co-ordination, Start Up Business Support, Mentoring and Sponsorship on the job. However, off the job she's into SciFi / Sci Fact, STEM and Space. Oh and Cats rule.

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Melanie has been supporting business owners with Social Media Training and Management since 2013 after a Magician asked for her help with Facebook. More on that later... In late 2016 Melanie started writing for Irish Tech News and now travels to locations throughout Europe and reports, blogs and Live Streams her experience of events whilst she's there. Her interests span Social Media (of course) Event Planning and Co-ordination, Start Up Business Support, Mentoring and Sponsorship on the job. However, off the job she's into SciFi / Sci Fact, STEM and Space. Oh and Cats rule.

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