The Power of Saying No

By Eric Gilboord

Why say No
Some small business entrepreneurs want to own their own business in order to say Yes—Yes, I want to buy that desk. Yes, I’m going to hire you. Yes, I’ll take the assignment. Yes, I’m going to take today off. But the real power is in knowing when to say No. It is often said that you shouldn’t go shopping when you’re hungry because you’ll buy out the store and make choices that are not good for you. The same rule applies when you are growing your business. The short-term advantages of a Yes today could be far outweighed by the long-term disadvantages tomorrow.

The trap many small businesses fall into is when they assume that being busy and being successful are one and the same. Or when they take assignments/orders based on the need to pay the rent or salaries. While these are very real reasons to accept an order, they could also turn out to be costly and destructive to your future. There are businesses that take fewer orders, but are more profitable than their competitors. Some businesses enjoy tremendous profit margins from small ticket orders. They just happen to write many small but profitable orders each day, having learned to process small orders efficiently.

Success is not always based on gross sales. But staying in business is based on being profitable. If you learn to say no to the wrong opportunities you will create a vacuum to be filled by the right opportunities.

Have you ever been forced to turn down an order because you were too busy
processing other less profitable orders? If only you had turned down that last minute request for a special order needed right away, you might have had the time for the good order. Picking and choosing opportunities may seem like a luxury, but is really a necessity for survival and growth.

There is a caution, though—don’t be arrogant or too picky without thinking the opportunity through. The key is to have a formal business plan and marketing strategy in place to use as a basis for making your decisions. I have found much comfort and relief in turning down an opportunity because it was not on strategy for my company, since I have already determined which clients I want to service. When approached by a prospect or when going out proactively to seek out new business, my internal radar directs me toward the most appropriate situations and away from the undesirable ones. Through experience, I have learned to distinguish the good from the bad.

Saying No to customers or prospects
Not every assignment or sale is right for your company or makes the best use of your time. Every small business owner has at least a few customers they refer to as the “one day customers”—those with potential. One day I’ll make money on this customer. They look good on our client list and one day they will be profitable for us. This is just a learning experience until we get to know each other better and, one day, we’ll see some profit. Sometimes that day never comes. You have invested hours or days in a relationship and it can be difficult to let go. “If I hold on just a little longer, I’m sure the big order will come.” Sound familiar? It is important to be realistic about opportunities. I’m not suggesting that you walk away from an opportunity just because it isn’t a big order right off the bat; I’m saying that it’s important to take a good, hard look at each situation honestly and with a view to the future. You have the power to say No and doing so might save you from future anxieties.

Saying No to employees
You don’t want to diminish the enthusiasm of your staff or associated companies. Their ideas may be good, but not appropriate for your company at this time. Try building upon their idea instead of killing it. The way it was presented may not fit with your current plans for the future of your company. Or perhaps the suggestion is better suited to a point in time later on. Be open to new ideas, as the next concept may be the one that takes your business to a new level. Write it down and place it in a “bring forward” file. You never know where the next great idea or insight will come from. Sometimes, an outside source can see things a little more objectively or clearly. An internal staff member may have more direct customer interaction and, therefore, is in a better position to recognize real customer needs.

How To Say No
1. Quickly—You want to say no quickly, but not without giving the situation a reasonable amount of thought. In some cases, the person who came to you needs to make alternative arrangements and your decision will impact their next steps.

2. With An Explanation—An explanation for saying no may be required so they can understand your reasoning and won’t ask for the same thing again. Due to circumstances beyond your control, you may not be able to provide the caliber of service needed at this time, but would appreciate an opportunity next time.

3. Politely—Arrogance will always bounce back to bite you, usually at the most inappropriate time.

4. In Writing—Some situations require a more formal approach, and in the process of writing out your reasons, you will give yourself the opportunity to thoroughly examine the situation.

And that’s According 2 Eric.

ERIC GILBOORD is a specialist in making marketing easy for business owner/operators and any staff with sales or marketing responsibility. He demystifies marketing so they can use it to generate sales today and grow their businesses faster. Eric believes in blending traditional marketing with new media/social media. ROI is a must. Eric is a popular speaker, coach, columnist and author of many articles and books on moving a business up to the next level.  The Expert Business Calls for Marketing Advice... That's Easy to Understand. For more information call 416-686-2466. To sign up for his marketing tips newsletter and to read his blog please visit:

By Adam

June 22, 2011