Why saying “No” can help you “win” in the long run

One of the hardest lessons that I’ve learned in my life, from both a business and a professional standpoint, is that you can’t always say yes. Even though you want to be there for everyone, in the long run, taking on too much at once will do more harm than good to your relationships. My wife is actually one of my best coaches in this area, and has taught me that it is OK to say no. We only get so much time in life, and it is best to maximize every ounce of time we get in a positive way.

Saying yes is the easy thing to do though – right? Why would you want to say no to a customer who wants to give you business or a new opportunity?

Most sales professionals say yes to everyone. They hate to disappoint and are scrapping for every ounce of a deal. Well, I’m here to share an experience where saying “no” has helped me win in the long run.

After 17 years in my industry, I’ve learned that relationships are built over time. They are built organically through hard work. One of the best ways that has helped me build stronger relationships is by actually saying “no” to a customer. I’m guessing there are two different responses now that you’ve read this. Either you think I’m nuts and can’t believe I would actually walk away from a deal – or, I am hoping that there are a few of you out there who have also chosen this path with a customer. If that’s the case, you may have heard the surprise in their voice when they told you how much they actually appreciated you saying no, as their expectations were properly set. You will easily cement yourself as someone your client can trust. The next time you say you can help them; your customer will have confidence in you. They will know you are only willing to sign up for an opportunity to serve when you’re confident you can deliver.

Let me provide you with an example:

The company I work for has been in business for 50+ years. We provide technology and business consultants to our clients to help them solve their business needs/drivers, either on a one by one basis or in larger teams where it makes sense. A few years back, I was introduced to a new prospect within my largest customer. This customer was looking for a vendor to provide a full outsourced solution around a new website redesign. This was something I felt very confident in providing to them. However, as I learned more about the aggressive time to deliver, I felt the risk level rising based on our ability to produce a high caliber team that could hit the ground running.

Here was my chance to differentiate. I decided to choose transparency as my solution. I thanked this new prospect for their time and for the opportunity to discuss this with them. I explained to them that while we had the resources to help, the delivery time was not attainable. I went on to further explain to them why winning the relationship and establishing trust in the long run is much more important to us than closing a deal in the short term. In this case, the risk far outweighed the reward in my mind. Let me take a step back though, and let you all know that this was not as easy as I just explained. I went back and forth in mind and with my team, but in the end I trusted my gut and intuition. What happened next? This prospect is now a client. That story happened four years ago and more opportunities have been presented through that prospect to me, mainly based on how I handled myself. I’ve received referrals, and many new doors have been opened through that one experience.

In closing, I would like to challenge you to find that next opportunity to say “no” where it makes sense. This might be even in your personal life where you’re busy or overwhelmed with what you have on your plate, but are scared to let a friend down. I learned that it is OK to say no. You will be better for it. Your relationships will be stronger and I’m convinced that you will be more productive.

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