Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida Business
How to say 'No' in the business world
... and why it's important to say it once in a while.
At one time I had big a problem. I couldn’t say "No." My guess is that there’s a good chance you may suffer from the same malaise.
Think about all the times you’ve said, “Sure, we can do that,” and as those words rolled off your lips, you thought to yourself, “I don’t have time for that.”
Of course, there are some things in life we should never say no to. Like when your kids ask you to watch them act in their school play or if a truly close friend needs your ear to talk through a particularly tough situation.
But, how about when it’s business-related?
You know the drill -- a local chamber asks you to join a committee (and donate lots of your time) or a small business organization would like you to teach a workshop series for free.
Or, when a customer “requests” a new product feature. And then there’s the panic text, with a desperate plea for help to fix an issue “now” when you’re about ready to hop on a really important sales call.
It’s hard to say no, but it doesn’t have to be.
You can justify these intrusions if you’d like. After all, it’s important to give back to your community and it’ll probably help you company in one way or another. Maybe.
And when it comes to the request of prospects and customers, you think it will lead to more business. Yet, the real issue is that deep down inside you believe saying no will offend your customer and possibly destroy the relationship.
Here’s what you need to know when these thoughts begin to overtake you; saying no can be the best choice for you and your customer. If you don’t, stress and resentment will build, plus you’ll live in the misery caused by setting false expectations.
Instead of being rewarded for saying yes, it seems as if you are being punished. The more others hear yes, the more they demanded and the more chaotic your life will become.
The only question is, exactly how do you say No?
Shine the flashlight. The first thing to do is calmly assess the situation. No matter what the caller is asking, more than likely they truly believe that their request is a good thing for you, or if it’s a problem they’re having, they are in a pinch. Either way, you or your company didn’t cause it and don’t get defensive! Do what all great sales and marketing people do -- ask questions and listen to uncover the real issues causing the concerns. The answer will reveal itself and your job is to shine the light on that in a constructive way. Each time you say no to another person, they hear “I don’t want to help”. Learn to use positive language. Even if something can’t be done, or you don’t want to do it, there’s always a positive way to communicate to reject a request.
Saying no is not bad customer service. A service or support related issue requires a bit of education. Consider the urgency and learn to identify a reasonable request. Show some compassion and a willingness to help your customer solve the problem by stepping them through an action plan. Most people will want to hear your take on the matter. This is an opportunity to teach the customer what steps they can take now and in the future to solve the problem. Explain how that will help get to the solution a lot faster than you can, plus avoid it happening again. Let them know that you’ll keep an eye on the problem so they don’t feel abandoned. If the conversation revolves around a special feature that your customer insists on, let them know what’s currently on your development road map -- nothing proprietary -- and why that’s a good thing for them, with more education. If you must, say you’ll consider it, but do not commit! A great customer relationship relies on solving problems, even if the solution is not what your customer had in mind. Educating customers really does empower them.
Saying no to volunteering won’t make you a jerk. It’s not easy to reject a request when we fear loss of revenue. It can even be more difficult when an organization that does great things in our community needs our help as a volunteer. Yet, you can say no without feeling like a jerk. As in any part of your business, identify what's important to you and what's not -- this is the best way to know where to spend your time and where you don't. The questions you ask and answers you receive will allow you to quickly explore if the request is right for you, and if you’re the right fit or not for them. There’s a good chance the skills needed don’t really match. In any case, not having the time to commit will turn out to be a disservice to the organization if you say yes. Let them know and recommend someone who can help. Sure, you may feel awful. Just remember that non-profit leaders are taught how to push for a yes. You’re saying no to the request, not to the person, and just declining the invitation. Let them know that you admire their work and explain honestly why you’re saying no. If it makes you feel better, tell them how you can help in some minimal way, but only if you really can.
Don’t get me wrong -- I’m still a soft touch. Yet, I have a business to run and that takes lots of time. You do too.
That doesn’t dictate whether or not you help customers, act on requests, and donate time to community organizations. Just make sure there’s alignment with your mission and passion. And you can afford the time needed.
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.