It’s hard knowing how to say no to a customer without saying no. This is why we have written this guide to say no effectively.

How to Say No to a Customer: Tips to Stay in the Helicopter

Saying No When You Need to Can Enhance Your Reputation and Revenues

Saying no to a customer is not always easy, but it is necessary. When you hear a client’s requests, you need to take a step back and think about the consequences of saying yes. Start by asking yourself, how will this impact our firm? 

If you always accommodate every client request, you will run out of time and resources. You’ll fall out of the helicopter. 

You need to take a step back. You must learn how to say no to a customer without damaging the relationship. 

The typical day of an ‘always yes’ leader

As an ‘always yes’ leader, you aren’t controlling your firm. It is controlling you. You are always doing, too busy to do your real job well.

You respond to things differently from how other people do. Your default setting is yes. You love to help, and you have difficulty saying no when there’s something else on the line.

Now, this might sound like a great leadership quality… until you realize that in saying yes to everything, it can be difficult for you to focus on what’s important and get your work done.

The most common day for an ‘always yes’ leader is one where you are running from meeting to meeting and solving one problem after another. 

You have a never-ending task list, with no time to stop and think about what needs to be done to achieve the goals of the bigger picture and scale your firm. You are always busy, often fighting fires, and risk business owner burnout.

This is not sustainable long term. As a leader, you need time to reflect on what needs to be done, how tasks will get done, and how you will spend your time and energy. You also need time to recharge your batteries and avoid burnout.

The terrible consequences of a business leader never saying no

If you never say no, you are more likely to make poor decisions that can be disastrous for your firm and your clients. Here are five ways in which never saying no can have terrible consequences.

  1. Underpricing

Saying no is an important part of pricing and negotiation. When you say yes to everything, you end up underpricing your service. This can lead to poor quality of work or even financial distress. At best, the client will expect the same price next time. At worst, poor-quality work will lose the client’s business. Either way, you lose.

  1. Overdelivering

Overdelivering means that you feel like you must do more than what was expected of you, to satisfy the customer.

Do this, and you will end up always working and never able to take a break. As will your employees. This can cause burnout and poor quality of work, and damage professional relationships with your employees and customers.

  1. Over-changing orders

If you always say yes, your clients will expect you to take on whatever changes they request. This ‘scope creep’ on projects can be extremely costly. You’ll spend more time on work, and be required to complete orders quickly. 

The result is overdelivering and undercharging. It can also lead to poor-quality work, disgruntled employees, and unhappy clients.

  1. Issues with creative control

While it is important to be flexible, it is also necessary to remain in control.

You must make sure that you are not over-extending or committing to too many projects. One reason is that you don’t want any projects to suffer from a lack of attention and creativity because you said yes to everything.

Always say yes, and you will feel like you have no say in the project. This can be demotivating and make it difficult to produce work at the same level as before.

  1. Not getting your deliverables completed

A habit of saying yes to every request can lead to problems in the long run. If we never say no, it is likely that we will end up with more projects than we can handle.

When you get too many requests from your clients, it becomes impossible to prioritize and complete them all. This leads to failing your deliverables.

How to say no to customers’ requests or demands 

As you can see from the above issues with never saying no, being an ‘always yes’ business will damage your ability to grow. You’ll never reach your potential. So why do so many business leaders and firms always say yes?

Firms never say no because they want to please their client. They want to make sure that the client is satisfied with what they are buying, and they don’t want to risk upsetting them.

If a firm says no, then there is always a chance that the client will leave. And nowadays, firms are trying to make sure that their clients stay as loyal as possible to maximize revenue potential.

So, when someone asks for something, firms will try their best to comply with the request even if it compromises their services or products in some way. Ultimately, this is bad for business. 

So, how do you say no without suffering the potential negative consequences?

Here are our top seven tips.

  1. Say ‘no’ without saying ‘no’

Once you tell a client you cannot do something, it leaves them with nothing to do. It also makes you seem unapproachable and unreasonable.

How do you say no to a customer without saying no?

Try and find a mutually beneficial solution. It may not be what they originally wanted, but should still satisfy them on some level. This is also an opportunity to show your empathy and understanding of their needs.

This is important because it doesn’t seem like you are denying the client anything when they ask for something new or different. It also shows that you are being respectful of their request, but that it may not be possible.

  1. Use positive language

It’s always best to use positive language when rejecting a client’s request. You want the client to feel like you are open and willing to work with them, not get angry or frustrated with you. If you say no politely, they’re less likely to take it personally and more likely to understand that it wasn’t possible for your firm right now.

When turning down a client’s request, it’s best not to attack their ideas and instead try and learn what they’re looking for. This will help them feel heard and respected.

  1. Give choices

Instead of saying no, you should give choices. This makes your client feel like they are in control and have the power to make their own decision. For example:

“We can complete by this Friday, but with an expedited charge. Or we can complete by next Friday within the parameters of our current contract.”

  1. Stick to your guns – don’t cave in like other agency owners

Another tactic is to stick to your guns and not cave in like other agency owners. When you show that you value what you do, clients will be more appreciative of the work that you provide.

  1. Ask for clarification before refusing the request

Clients often come up with requests that are not really feasible but have the potential to be if the client is willing to cooperate. When you’re faced with a request that seems impossible, make sure to ask the client for more details and clarify what they want.

This shows the client that you care and want to help them. You are also showing your professionalism by not jumping to conclusions. Should you then say no, or offer choices or alternatives, the client will know you are doing all that is possible.

  1. Explain why you are saying no

It’s crucial that you provide an explanation for saying no. This will ensure that your decision is understood, and provides a possible opening for negotiation.

For example, you may say that your team is too busy at this moment. In such a case, the client may offer an alternative timeline.

Perhaps you might explain that part of the work is outside the skill set of your firm. Might the client negotiate on the part that is within your remit?

  1. Offer alternatives

When you say no to a client request, you should endeavor to offer alternatives. This will make them feel like they still have control over the situation, and they will be more likely to stick with your firm.

When it comes down to this point, you should consider what is best for your firm. It might affect your reputation if you go along with everything that clients request, only to find you have a hard time sticking with deadlines and meeting expectations in general. How do you offer suitable alternatives? Here are three tactics:

  1. Offer an alternative that meets their needs

  2. Find a different solution for them

  3. Help them with their needs by suggesting the best way to meet their goal

Say ‘no’ to make your ‘yes’ more meaningful

Before I sign off, I want to explain one more thing. Saying no will increase your value, improve your reputation, and deliver more loyal clients. It’s an absolute fallacy that saying no will lose you clients, revenue, and profits. And if a client does move on? Replace them with a higher-value client.

Saying no effectively will cement your relationship. It will demonstrate that your services are valued and in demand with other clients. And this gives you the leverage to increase your prices without losing clients.

Are you struggling with the confidence to say no? In my webinar about ‘Consistent Confidence’, I’m going to show you how to learn and cultivate the confidence you need to dramatically improve your firm’s financial performance! Click here to sign up.

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