Better to say no than to say sorry

Better to say no than to say sorry

Yes people, another of my father's sage-like gems of wisdom. When I was a sales trainer we used to talk to trainees about how important it was that if they had to say no to a buyer, that they should always follow it with a yes. In other words "I'm sorry but I can't give it to you for that price, but what I can do is this...". This is great sales/negotiating advice, and you wouldn't have to visit too many stores to find God-awful salespeople who just say "Nup" when you ask for something, often something very reasonable and not that difficult to provide. There are few things more frustrating.

Yet today's blog isn't about sales. It's about integrity and how many in business will refuse to utter the word No to a client, even if there's zero chance of them delivering what the client has asked for. As per my father's advice, it's a lot better to say No if you're unable to give someone what they want, than to have to say sorry when the inevitable you know what hits the fan.

I see this type of behaviour everyday. Not just in business but in personal life as well. It's the people who respond to your party invitation with "I'll see how we go, we're very busy" or "I'll get back to you" and they never do (or the people who don't even respond to RSVPs - they're particularly grating - someone has been good enough to invite you to something and you can't even hit send on a keyboard). Anyway, my pet hates aside, today we're talking about business. So the commercial equivalent is "I want it by Friday morning" when it's already 4pm Thursday, or the more subtle "I want it in hot pink" when there's nothing whatsoever in the brief, or in the realm of commonsense, that suggests that the design should be done in that colour.

What do we do in these moments? I know it can be tough. You could risk losing the client just by telling them the truth. But here's the thing, is there any future in the relationship if you can't tell the client the truth? My argument is that there's nothing but pain and financial brain damage ahead of you if you jump into bed with someone who hires you for your expertise but then ignores everything you tell them.

So my advice is to say no, or more often than not, NO! As per my comment at the top of the article, always follow the no with a yes, or in some instances a detailed explanation of why it's critical the client avoids the course of action they're advocating. But you still need to say no. If you do, several things will happen:
1 You'll sleep better at night.
2 You won't end up with a business plagued by clients who give you and your staff brain damage.
3 Weirdly, the client will typically respect you more.
4 The client may not take your advice, but at least you'll have put it on the record, so if the client comes back complaining that things aren't working in 6 months, you'll be able to say "How about we revisit some of the stuff we talked about 6 months ago".

There's other benefits too numerous to mention so I'll stop here, and add the following disclaimer - the no can be soft, it can be hard, depends on the type of relationship you have with the client. But without fail I recommend that you stand by what you know to be true. After all that's what you're employed to do. To help the client find the profitable opportunities and avoid the painful pitfalls. It's easy to stop doing this sometimes simply because it's easier to just do what the client asks. But as per my Father's advice, it's a lot easier to say no than sorry. It may not feel like it at the time, but believe me, a bit of pain up-front is better than a world of pain down the line.

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