Why Saying No to Business Is Sometimes the Smartest Thing to Do
Written by Lisa Montanaro | January 2, 2012

In this “new economy,” many business owners are stressing about securing enough business to make a profit. In the extreme, this often leads to saying yes to any and all prospects, projects and types of work. Unfortunately, this may not be the best business strategy! Indeed, saying no to business is sometimes the smartest thing to do. Not convinced? Let me demonstrate.

Prospect is not a good “fit” – Let’s face it, not all clients are the right “fit” for you and your business. In some instances, there is even a such thing, dare I say, as a bad client. If your antenna goes up during the initial meeting, phone call or consultation alerting you to the fact that this client will not respect you, tests your boundaries, needs more assistance than you can provide, or in any other meaningful way is just not a good fit, listen to that instinct and say no! There are ways to turn away business that are polite, tactful, useful, and firm, and sometimes we just have to learn when it is right to say no to a prospect or client. Turning away business can be a painful process for those unfamiliar with the concept, but it can save you and your business in the long run.

Saying yes to every prospect may unfortunately mean saying no to your Ideal Client – Every business has a Target Market and within that market lies the Ideal Client. You know who they are — the people or organizations that really need your assistance, are fully ready for the transformative services or products that you provide, respect and value you and your business, and can afford to make the investment to work with you. They are the ones that you keep in mind when developing programs and products to ensure they fit your client base. We all know there is only so much time and energy to work with clients. Any time you take on a new client, there is a loss of potential opportunities elsewhere that could slip by because you are too busy. That is referred to as Opportunity Cost — the cost of opportunities that you will miss by taking on each client. Therefore, be very clear when you say yes that the prospect fits into your Ideal Client profile (or at least gets close to it!). If not, you may actually be saying no to your Ideal Client when he/she comes knocking.

Quantity of work may make quality suffer – If you say yes to every prospect, project and type of work, you may wind up spreading yourself too thin, causing the quality of your work to suffer. In an effort to overcome the economic downturn and make more money, many business owners are saying yes, yes, yes. This can lead to burn out, decrease in quality of work, and damage to your overall business reputation. Resist the urge to say yes to all work, unless you have the infrastructure in place to handle it.

Focus on Value and Results – The best business owners realize that what they are truly selling is value and results. When you view yourself in this light and not as merely providing products or services, you very quickly realize that you need to say yes only to the clients that you can bring your best value and results to. You also set yourself apart from the “competition” because value and results are not easily measurable, the way tangible products and services are. The value is in the client’s mind and will almost always far outweigh the price they paid.

Saying no to work may seem like an ill-advised business strategy, but in the long run, you will come to see that it is a meaningful and profitable way of doing business. You leave yourself open for the Ideal Clients that you should be serving, and you don’t drain yourself and the business by trying to serve everyone. Resist the urge to be all things to all people, and focus on what you do best for the target market that wants, needs and can afford it. Saying no will be difficult as you turn away the ill-matched prospect with money to burn and a desire to buy, but the flip side is saying yes and then resenting it for not being true to yourself and the business that you have created.

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.