​The Art of Saying No

16 March 2021 Giles Keay

No Resized

It sounds simple doesn’t it? But it isn’t! I think this must be one of the most difficult actions to take in business and I truly believe with salespeople the hardest….

  1. How many times have you spoken to a client and they have tried to give you business and even though you know you are at absolute capacity you still said yes?

  2. How many times have you been asked by a client to undertake work outside of your normal area expertise and still said yes?

Now, there is clearly no issues with trying to expand your business, grow and diversify however, when taking on that work means that you can no longer service your existing clients or you are become so distracted with too much or too wide a scope, then it can absolutely be a problem.

I believe that taking on work from clients outside of your normal expertise, can more than often take far more time, focus and effort than when focusing on your normal day to day.

One of the business owners I coach has this exact issue, and is continually taking on random assignments… for various different clients. She specialises in a very niche engineering space, but if a client ever asks her to help she finds it impossible to say No. Including work on caravans, trucks and even dental nurses! (I obviously did ask her permission to disclose, and she kindly provided it)

I personally am facing very similar issues most weeks. We are being asked by many clients across multiple sectors to assist in what is a very buoyant market and I must admit I have also fallen guilty of doing exactly what I advise not to do in the recent past. However, I have taken my own advice seriously and in the past couple of weeks, I have passed on 9 assignments with clients and given them to other recruiters who are better placed to assist the client.

I cannot explain how doing that has provided so much more clarity to my work.

So my advice is to always think about the “opportunity cost” when you review your workload and qualify whether it is something that should or should not have your focus. Remember, you always have to give something up to do something else… Ask yourself what is going to give you the greatest return on your time?

Ask yourself, should you be doing it at all? What are the pros and cons? If you take on the work and cannot deliver then what will the negativity be of not delivering... what will that cost you in the future in respect to lost opportunities?

You will gain far more respect from a client by letting them know that in this instance someone else is better placed to assist, they will most likely come back to you ten-fold in the future. Also imagine the goodwill created with those you refer to for the future.

Another strategy might be, if you feel you could help if your workload was lower then be stronger with your control over timelines. I gave this advice recently and the result was by setting those expectations at the start, the clients almost wanted to use you more, and were happy to wait. It can be a very powerful tool to take this into your own hands and work to your timeframes and then deliver a better result for the client.

I hope that this insight provides some help and clarity for the future when you are desperately trying to work out how you can deliver to your clients and that you may take a moment to stop and really think about your workload and decide what is ultimately the best result for both you and the client.