Saying “no” will improve your business

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Saying no will make you more relevant.

Saying no sounds like the opposite of what you want. You want a world full of yeses, right? It sounds good in theory, but the power of saying no is just as important to you and your business.

Most of the biggest names in business and productivity talk about saying no and how important it is in helping you to get mountains of work done. It doesn’t get discussed enough in sales, but it is just as important.

There are plenty of salespeople out there who will tell a prospect, “we are not a good fit for everyone,” but then they still try to get the sale in any way possible. Most of them have never actually told a prospect that because they are not a good fit for them, they should go talk with someone else.

Telling a potential client that they should take their business elsewhere for their own good is a vulnerable and scary thing to do.

However, if you are using a line like that and have never told a prospect that you aren’t the best person to help them, you’re just using a gimmick. A tactic that you are using to try and build trust to get the sale. Over time, when multiple salespeople are using these kinds of lines but not actually acting on them, trust is diminished. People start to see through it.

There is a well-known stigma in large companies about salespeople who will overpromise things that aren’t necessarily in their power to do, and then the back office has to deliver because it stops being the salesperson’s problem once they get paid.

Every salesperson has done this at some point.

You have made the mistake of accepting a deal that you should have turned down. You might have been the entrepreneur who is new and took on a client that you ended up resenting because you weren’t a good fit. Or one of your salespeople sold a deal to a client that your company would have to scramble to uphold.

And although it happens to everybody, it is 100% our fault when it does because it is 100% avoidable.

The first or second time, it is pretty easy to explain away. But when it keeps happening over and over again, this habit has been built due to two probable reasons.

Trust and empowerment

Most people in sales are not running a process that is repeatable. Because of that, each and every interaction has so much pressure to end in a yes. If you are not sure where the next lead is going to come from, you have to make the most of every single one. There is no qualification process because you need every prospect to say yes and pay the invoice, no matter how that needs to happen.

The problems with this mindset are numerous, for both your business and the client:

  • Discounts that hurt your company
  • Being taken advantage by clients who don’t even realize they’re doing it
  • Doing more work for less money
  • Missing better opportunities because you’re bogged down by clients you shouldn’t have
  • Not being able to make good on promises and hurting the reputation of your business

Creating a sales process that takes into account the ideas that not every person is going to be qualified or that you won’t be a good fit for every client is imperative to fix this core issue. Trust the process enough to know that you can wait for the best clients for your business, and empower your salespeople to feel comfortable in qualifying clients and saying no to those that are a bad fit.

Who is your target market?

This point goes along with the one above. Wanting to appeal to everyone sounds good on paper, but it makes finding the best clients that much more difficult. You have to have a laser focus on who your target market is, at least at first. This is a major part of your documented sales process, even though many sales teams skip this part.

You need to document the traits and values that your target market has when it comes to working with someone in your industry. For some, this process is easier if you start thinking about what the expectations or processes that you don’t fulfill as part of your business practice.

If you know that a prospect is expecting to have a meeting each week but your team has monthly check-ins with clients, that is going to be a bad fit. You owe it to yourself, your team, and the client to disqualify them. There are situations in which you can make some sort of compromise that works in your favor or agree to the terms that are outside of how you normally work, but be sure to set these new expectations with your team beforehand.

And don’t make it a habit.

Normally, making an exception to your processes and systems for one client is a recipe for disaster and will end up being a learning lesson in the long run.

Be open to updating your target market regularly, and document and review this with your team. These things evolve as you meet new clients and build your team. You will learn as you go. And, unfortunately, sometimes you have to get burned from a client before a new trait or niche makes the list.

P.I.T.A. Tax

Many entrepreneurs and salespeople will pad their pricing to make room for a PITA client (Pain in the Ass), but the majority of them still regret taking on the client in the first place. Usually,  they’ll just wish that they had said no in the first place because the additional margin doesn’t end up compensating for the client who was not a good fit.

Saying yes to bad deals almost never ends up being a good decision in the long run. If you are a solopreneur, the impact on your time and sanity is not worth the pain, even if you do charge a premium for hard to deal with clients.  

If you are part of a company that is fortunate enough to have a solid team working for you, you owe it to them to bring in clients that are good fits based on the standards you set with them when you bring them on. Good teams are hard to build and hard to keep. Don’t make it easy for them to leave by forcing them to work with bad clients.

Imagine a world where every client who comes in understands and accepts exactly what you do and how you deliver. Not just accepts it, they are eager to work with you without compromises. That, sadly, is not the real world. But if you have a great system in place, a team with trust going both ways, and confidence in what you do, you don’t have to settle. You can say no to every client who isn’t a good fit with the understanding that there is enough business out there that will be both qualified and eager to work with you.

This is the dream and the goal, now go get it.

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