Dear Client, Thanks But No Thanks
Have you ever said ‘Yes’ to working with a client and immediately had a sinking feeling in your stomach?
When I first started in my business I was so focused on growing my business that I wasn’t in the habit of being thoughtful about who I worked with. I thought that I needed to say yes to every opportunity because saying no wasn’t going to grow my business. So regardless of that little niggling voice in the back of my head after my first chat with a prospective client, I said ‘yes’ 100% of the time.
I don’t need to tell you that there were some unfortunate consequences to that. I was working with some clients that I wasn’t aligned with. Who didn’t appreciate or value our working partnership. Clients who didn’t respect or recognise the area of expertise I was bringing to their business.
I found that every time I saw an email or message from these clients that I had a sense of dread wash over me. That I was dealing with a dull feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I needed to interact with them. Not because there was anything ‘wrong‘ with them, but because working with them wasn’t ‘right’…and I knew it.
This is not the way to do business…
This is not the way to do life…
I’ve always been very strong and determined in all aspects of my life. So I started to question why I was feeling like this. Like I was the inferior party in these partnerships. Like I couldn’t expect more or be more selective in who I chose to work with.
I realised that I was being driven by fear…
Fear that saying no to one client would mean that I wouldn’t find any more clients
Fear that saying no to one client would damage my reputation
Fear that saying no to one client would mean that I would fail in business
But in reality, saying yes to those particular clients was more damaging to my business and me.
There is a saying ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil’ and that was exactly what was happening for me. These clients that I knew I shouldn’t be working with were taking up more time than I should have been committing. They were depleting me mentally. And the beautiful, supportive, and appreciative clients I was working with? Well, they weren’t getting the time and attention that they deserved.
Things had to change…
If I wanted to continue in my business, continue building my brand and position myself as an expert in my field, I had to do better at the critical step of choosing who I work with.
As I started to search for ways to help me shift my mindset on this I came across saying; “If it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a no”.
This spoke to me. If I was having any hesitancies or doubts, or if I had a feeling that it wasn’t the best choice, then my answer had to be no.
This has become my motto and it has been so empowering.
I’d decided to only work with the clients I was 100% aligned with. Those I felt confident were going to value and respect our partnership. Clients who saw the value I could bring to their business. I wasn’t sure how was I going to say ‘no’ to those I chose not to work with.
I was still feeling a fear that saying ‘no’ would somehow damage my business.
I’ve discovered that there is a fine art to saying no in a way that will reinforce your value and not burn your bridges. One that will bring abundance, and not scarcity.
And this art boils down to 3 key actions:
1. Be upfront. If you determine that this isn’t the right fit for you, be honest with the prospective client. Rather than holding back the genuine reason for choosing to say no, give them the truth. You can deliver this message respectfully and sensitively, by saying something like this. “Your project sounds great, but I don’t feel like I’m the right fit for it”. Or “I don’t feel that I can commit the amount of time that your project needs, so I’m not the right person for this job”. Now, they may feel rejected and that’s natural. But you can soften the blow of rejection with action 2.
2. Provide them with an alternative. So this client isn’t the right fit for you or your business, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t perfect for someone else. Before you start the discovery process with a potential client, have some referrals in mind. If you find yourself in a position where you need to say no, give that prospective client a great referral. You’re both going to feel more positive about the interaction if they aren’t left empty-handed.
3. Don’t apologise. While you should be respectful and considerate when saying no, apologising isn’t the answer. It can come across as being weak and not committed to your message. Remember, it’s okay to say ‘no’ and being firm and unapologetic in that message is as important as the message itself.
I’ll be honest. Saying ‘no’ to a potential client is still not easy. I don’t enjoy doing it. But I’ve learned from experience that the short-term discomfort of saying no the wrong client, has saved me from a world of hurt in the long run. And it opens space in my business for the right client, who is just around the corner.
If you’re struggling with saying no, I encourage you to practice saying no using these 3 actions.
It’s okay to be selective on who you work with, who you choose to share your expertise with. It’s okay to say ‘Thanks, but No Thanks’.