One of the most common mistakes people make when running a small business is saying no to a client.
It could be the last conversation you ever have with them if you’re not careful.
Repeat business is never guaranteed, but it is an essential part of any pipeline when trying to build revenue streams. No matter what business you’re in, chances are, you are constantly competing for market share. Ultimately, everyone is looking for a way to get their foot in the door. So why on earth would you ever say no to a client once you’ve finally been given that opportunity?
The Client’s Budget Is Too Small
The client can’t afford the ask? Well, if a client comes to you with a project and your first reaction is to tell them that they don’t have enough money to make it happen, you’re probably not the right partner for them anyway. Take a moment and ask yourself why you want clients to come to you in the first place. If you can’t answer that question without hesitation, you might be in the wrong business.
JASON MAYO/COO CHIMNEY GROUP NY
When a client comes to you, they aren’t looking for a problem; they are looking for a solution. A wise person once told me, “Try not to be part of the problem today. Be part of the solution.” They probably already know that the budget isn’t ideal. It very rarely is. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in business, let alone in life, that doesn’t want to get the most value for their money. Why should a client be any different? Why not take a step back and try to offer them a viable path forward for the budget they have?
There is an old saying that “all roads lead to Rome,” which basically means that there are countless ways to solve a problem. More often than not, the way you approach a challenge might be the only thing that differentiates you from your competition. So instead of saying no, try offering them a solution that fits their budget, even if it’s not what they are expecting to hear. If they are coming to you, chances are they want your perspective and expertise. If it still doesn’t seem feasible at that point, that’s OK. In the end, both parties have to do what’s best for them. At least you’ve given them something to think about.
We Don’t Have The Resources Or the Capabilities To Handle The Project
Most people believe that the only way to cultivate and maintain business is to position their company as the best of the best in every single category. The harsh reality is that this is pretty much impossible for any business to achieve. Even the most successful Fortune 500 companies aren’t right for everyone. Clients are people, and people have different, beliefs, tastes, needs and wants. There is no one-size-fits-all in business.
I learned an extremely valuable lesson very early on in my career, and it completely changed my attitude — not only toward business, but how I handled my personal relationships as well.
I was working late one night, and before I went home, I ran into my boss, who was also working late. She asked me how the day went, and I told her that I’d had a frustrating experience with a client that had “unreasonable expectations.” She calmly asked me how I’d handled it. I simply told her I’d turned away the work. After she took a few deep breaths, she said, “Never, ever turn down business. Ever. No matter what!”
Then she explained to me that we aren’t only selling services or capabilities, and we certainly aren’t selling widgets. We want clients to think of us as a resource. We are selling ourselves as the resource. She was saying that no matter what the problem is, we need to be the one to find the solution. Even if we don’t have the right people or the right technology or whatever a client is looking for, that doesn’t mean we can’t be the one to figure out how to help them. Instead of turning them away, I could have asked them to give me a moment to think about it. I could have found someone to get the job done.
The goal is to always manage the client relationship. Leverage your contacts and relationships to foster strong alliances and partnerships. Utilize outside resources to bridge the gaps you might have in your offering. But always put yourself in the position to manage the relationship.
From that moment forward, I did everything humanly possible to be that resource for my clients. No matter what comes up, I always want my clients to think of me first. As long as that happens, the rest is easy.