How to Tell Your Client “No” Without Actually Saying “No”

Saying no to clients without saying noWho likes hearing “no” for an answer? I don’t and I’m sure neither do you.

Think about this in terms of your clients you work with. Clients are your bread and butter, they’re your cash-cow, and they bring in the dough.  Which means, let’s make sure we satisfy their every need, right? If you have an unlimited amount of resources, then hell yeah, let’s do it. But if you’re like every other business out there, then that hell yeah can easily turn into… uhhhh, no.

Although client satisfaction is key to yours (and your client’s) success. There comes a time when you have to put your foot down. Maybe you don’t have the manpower, the money, or even the time to do everything your clients want.

“But if we don’t do what the client wants they’re going to cancel!”

I’ll be honest, that may be true. But if you’re good at what you do (your business that is) your client will see more value in what you’re providing than what you can’t provide. Even so, saying “no” to your client is daunting. Check out the following tips to tell your client “No” in a way to maximize client satisfaction.

  1. Always emphasize what you can do. This is a quick ‘one-two’ combo. Hit ‘em first that their request is, “Just outside of the scope of work at the moment,” and then him ‘em again with a, “However, I can do this instead.”See? “One-two” combo. Redirecting the client from ‘can’t’ to ‘can’ validates them and gives you the opportunity to say “no.”
  2. Set those expectations from the start. Have a clear, defined contract, service level agreement (SLA), and/or arrangement that details exactly what you will do for your client as your pre-emptive “No.” If your client asks for something outside of your original bargain, strike back with:“That’s a great idea. And what we can do is adjust the original agreement to include that service,” or product, or whatever.Let your client know that it can be done, but at a price.
  3. Be the expert. You’re there for a reason and that reason is provide value to your client by knowing what’s best for them. So that being said, know what’s best for them. That includes saying no to your client.“I appreciate the input Mr. Client and those are great insights. However, based off my experience, I believe this is the direction we should take.”See? Not so hard after all. Be confident in your abilities and prove to them you know what’s best for their company.
  4. Validate, validate, and validate. Sometimes we have to remember that clients are human too and just not “business.” They don’t mean to be clingy, mean, or demanding. They’re under deadlines just as you are. Make sure to validate their feelings, their frustrations, their wants, but then bring them back to reality… gently.“I understand Mrs. Client that you’re feeling anxious and that you want me to do this. But rest assured I know what direction to go in.”Validate their emotions, my friends. And guide them in the direction you know that is right. This is how to say “no” like a boss.

Saying “no” to a client is never easy, but using the above tips as part of your utility belt of client relationship, it can be a little easier.

And remember, it’s okay to say “No” without actually saying, “No.”

Darren Faber

About Darren Faber

Darren is one of the first employees Foxtail ever had. Aside from that he enjoys starring in low-budget rom-coms (true story, look it up).

Foxtail Marketing is a digital marketing firm that provides content marketing, digital marketing, and lead generation services for small and mid-market companies.

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