The importance of saying “No”

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“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much” — Steve Jobs

To say “No” to a friend or relative is difficult, now imagine saying “No” to a colleague or client.  Indeed, a very awkward and difficult thing to do but it is essential if you want to have “laser-like” focused-growth in your business.  There are 2 scenarios where saying “No” is essential and important.  The 2 scenarios are the following:


  1. Clients asking for changes or new features that are not product fit– This one is a big one for me and most of the time we tell our clients we cannot change or add a new feature.  If it’s a bug, of course we will address it.  If it’s something minute, I get it.  If it will benefit everyone on the platform, I understand.  But if it’s a unique change for one client then we say “No”.  The problem with always saying “Yes” to your clients is that you will never be able move your product along the development road-map.  You will incur massive tech debt.   There is always a way to address your client gently; to not offend that person.  I am definitely not saying to scream: “Hell No” when a client asks for something that is not a fit, but rather, to tell him or her that it’s not a feature the company can work on at the moment.  There is always a discussion around this topic with respect to keeping customers happy.  When you say “No” to a customer it really has nothing to do with support.  In fact, I think that support is a 2 way street.  My definition of support is to address every question or issue my customer has within reasonable limits.  Remember, a business is in the “business” to make money and you have to make decisions to keep it around.  If you were to coddle every customer (which would be great) then you may not be around for long.  As a result,  that customer will not benefit from your product anymore.
  2. Bad prospective clients – Yes, I mean saying “No” to a new client.  There are some clients that are not worth pursuing.  You can generally sense if a potential client is problematic before you engage in business and it is better to terminate the relationship if its going to cause problems down the road.  Again, some clients ask for unreasonable amounts of support.  To me, this can drain a company’s resources.  This to me is losing or wasting time, which ultimately is losing the business money.  Also, there are some clients that are not effective communicators.  If a client does not respond to phone calls, emails or are just too busy I stay clear of them.

Another thing to note is that a “No” from a prospective client to You is beneficial as well.  I believe that a “No” is better than a “I don’t know”.  Think about it, if you are trying to understand status with a prospective client and the answer is always “I don’t know” you continue to waste time and energy following up by writing emails or calling them on the phone.  But a “No we are not interested” is final.  This eliminates following up and the company can move in another direction swiftly.

I hope this article helps someone who struggles with saying “No” to customers when it’s appropriate.  To be honest, I still fall into this trap from time to time and I have seen others fall into this scenario many times.  It is okay to say “No” when it’s justified.  And remember there is always a gentle way of saying it.

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