Sometimes No Is The Only Right Response

Full confession: No is almost never the first word out of my mouth (unless it involves say skydiving).

It’s the consultant/optimist in me I suppose—there must be a way to make almost anything happen, right?

But I’ve learned—occasionally the hard way—that sometimes no is the only right response.

We’re all smart enough to turn down the obvious.

The cheapskate. The vampire. The impossible-to-please.

It’s the insidious that can creep up on you.

The client with a hidden agenda. The sexy technology that requires you to completely upend how you run your business. A client you adore who’s hired a team from hell.

If you’ve been sideswiped by a surprise or two lately, ask yourself these questions before you go all in:

Are there compromises I’ll need to make in how I deliver and/or staff the work—and is that good for both the client and my business?

Case in point: I’ve said yes to helping a great, long-standing client out of a sticky situation that meant working with a crew I’d never have hired in a million years. It was not pretty, but it was short-term and we got her through it.

And I’ve said no to a difficult penny-pincher in the same circumstance. Who needs the aggravation PLUS guaranteed pushback on cost?

Sometimes you take on a new client or a new situation, knowing it will be a rough ride—but ideally only when it’s for the long-term health of your business and your client.

Fast forward to saying yes: what benefits will you get by doing this work?

Hint: if the only answer is “I get some revenue”, think long and hard before taking it on.

Maybe this is a project you’ve done a hundred times and the thrill is gone (referring it to an up-and-comer might be just the right move).

Or your client has hit their expiration date (just because you’ve worked with them for years doesn’t mean you have to say yes this time).

When you’re a true professional, you bring the best of you to the work and choose only those clients who need and value you.

Is this the right project AND the right client (or contractor, technology, etc.) for you?

In most contracting meetings, I’m trying to understand the client’s answer to three questions: Why this work? Why now? Why me?

So why not ask those same questions from your own perspective?

Why do I want to do this particular work—what’s in it for me?

Do I want to do this work now—how does it fit with everything else I have going on for the duration of this assignment?

And why should I allow the client to choose me vs. someone else?

Is there another resource that would be faster/cheaper/better than my own solution?

The same questions work when it’s not about a client decision, but about making a key change in your business. We’ve all been seduced by sexy technology or a talented alliance partner.

Instead, use these questions to get clear on the emotions behind your decisions and how they’ll impact you and your business.

Because they are every bit as real as your list of features and benefits.

Ignore them at your peril.

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