Jordyn Rickard

Client Service: Learn How to Just Say “NO!”

By: Jordyn Rickard | March 18, 2014 | 

Client Service: How to Just Say "NO!"By Jordyn Rickard

Whether it’s a quick favor, a huge project or something completely off the beaten path – we’ve all been there.

A client wants some obscure, weird favor or project not within your scope of work.

Here’s where you have the opportunity to become stronger or weaker.

Do you sheepishly give in? Retaliate in some form of passive aggressive action?

Or do you stand up and simply say that one word that everyone seems to be scared of…“NO!”

Saying “no” to a client can be an intimidating experience at first – we all want to create a great client service experience, but it’s sometimes necessary to sustain your business and your sanity.

Here are some ins and outs of saying no, while also leaving the relationship open for future opportunities and collaboration.

Client Service Means Sometimes Having to Say “No”

We can get more of practically everything, but time is our most precious asset, and is extremely limited.

Respecting your schedule is a guilt-free way of saying “no,” and makes complete sense to any business-minded individual.

While it’s impossible to schedule every moment, try to schedule out your work day as much as possible. Allow for breaks and time to answer emails, and then hone in on – and conquer – the chaos.

Remember – the schedule always wins. If a request doesn’t fit into your immediate schedule and the resources aren’t available, it isn’t bad client service to say “no.”

A response along the lines of, “I’d love to take that extra work on, but unfortunately my schedule is extremely full with prior obligations,” is very effective.

From here, offer the next opportunity you have to complete the task, and if it’s a great client, and it’s not a massive amount of work, maybe toss them a freebie.

That said, the next time they come to you with another “extra request,” be sure and let them know, gently, that X doesn’t fall under the current scope of work, but you’d be happy to renegotiate the current contract if they are open to the idea.

Use the Referral System When You Say “No”

If you find yourself getting a lot of requests that aren’t quite your speciality, see if you can partner with another agency, firm, or freelancer who specializes in the frequent requests you get.

Set up a referral system and work out a flat rate or percentage you will receive each time one of your clients works with your referral partner. You’ll be seen both as a partner and build a valuable client service relationship.

Likewise, if they get a request that’s more in line with what you do, you’ll be the first one to get a crack at the fresh lead.

Saying “no” has never been easier in this sort of a situation because you’ll offer an alternative solution to someone you hope to work with again in the future.

It may actually lead to more clients from the referrals; especially if you work with multiple companies.

The Honest, Straightforward No

Clients (and other humans) are stronger than you think. It may be harder on your end to say “no” than it is on their end to hear one. The key to an honest, straightforward “no” is, well, to be honest and to the point. It isn’t necessary to apologize or come up with excuses.

If you’re saying no because of a money issue, feel free to be open and honest. Let them know you typically have a higher price point for such services and would be willing to talk about that. Honesty is always the best policy when saying no!

Find the strength to say no when the moment calls for it. Listen to your gut and you’ll be able to tell when it’s time to reject a project, or if it’s time to buckle down and accommodate. Every situation is unique, but with a solid referral system in place, saying no might end up being fun!

Let us know, when was the most recent time you’ve said “NO”? How did it go?

About Jordyn Rickard

Jordyn Rickard is a young marketing professional with more than five years of experience in marketing and strategy for small- and medium-sized businesses. With an education in finance and a freelancing background, she’s had the privilege of developing solutions that work for small businesses. Currently, Rickard proudly works as a success coordinator for Synduit, a marketing and consulting firm for small businesses.

  • These are great. I’ve also seen plenty of situations in which people have a hard time saying “no” to a client when they want something that’s just a bad idea … which I’d say can be even worse than taking on extra work or jobs outside the scope of your experience.

  • The referral system is great. Here at Arment Dietrich we get the occasional request that is either not in an area of expertise for us, or falls below our minimum fee level, or some other “thing” that keeps us from being able to take on the work.

    We always try to give a referral in these cases and do not ask any fees.

  • I need to learn how to say no, without feeling like the world’s biggest heel. 🙂

  • I’m going to push back a little bit because, as an entrepreneur, it always amazes me when people tell me they don’t have time or capacity to take on the project we need help with. I know not everyone wants to grow their businesses, but it always surprises me to hear no in the way you’re recommending here. But more, when – as a client – I am told the partner we’re working with can’t do the work now or for the next six week, it’s extremely frustrating. You have to go out and find someone new, train them, and spend the time you’ve already spent with the other partner you’ve been working with.
    That said, there definitely are times you should say no. If the client doesn’t fit your culture, if the project is outside of scope and they don’t want to pay more, if the client is behaving badly. But to hear no because you’re at capacity is really hard to hear from a client’s perspective.

  • Hello Jordyn, Well this is a new word to me LOL yes I am so guilty of NOT being that person that has learned to say NO! I am getting better but I still feel guilty when I tell someone no.

    I have always been that go to person and when someone needs something done I guess the first person they think of is ME!

    It does make it hard for me to get work done here online at times when someone is calling me to help them paint or clean or garden Yeh I used to do it all..

    Like I said I am learning.. Thanks for the great reminder Chery :))

    P.S. I did end up on your blog here today VIA where I also left you a comment and kingged

  • Never say NO to a client because you never know how that NO is going to play with not yet prospects for your particular expertise! The word NO thunders mightily. How about, “You have an interesting idea but unfortunately we’re not equipped to handle it – let me check the field and find someone who can more relate to your needs.” Now you’ve left them on a positive note. Just be sure and follow through.

  • philipshaun

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    into your post. I don’t usually post in blogs but your blog forced me to.
    Awesome work! Thank you for sharing!