The Subtle Art of Saying No (By Saying Yes)

Monday June 7, 2021 comments Tags: Management


The first rule of Business is to Provide a Service and see a Return.

We call this an exchange, and it's the same process across the board. Pointing this out should come as an education for nobody, yet it's alarming with how common exchange is in our lives that it gets so messy.

If you start your business to help people but work at such a steep discount, how long will your business sustain itself? How available will you be?

Truth is: in Business as in life, you just can't say yes to everything. Entrepreneurship will teach you this lesson and it will teach you quick. Business is a negotiation and running a business is really no different.

The Risk of always saying Yes

Answer: What is Scope Creep?


Let me explain: Scope Creep is the problem in corporate, creative or project-based work where a business begins a project and then agrees to add features once the project is started. The business or the client continues to propose more features, and the business agrees to keep adding them, until the scope of the project is so large it is no longer producible by means of labor or budget and becomes insolvent.


In business, scope creep is generally a bad thing. But it's surprisingly common, and it's a problem ubiquitous to anyone in contract work, from Construction companies to Artists and Game Developers.


Thank you Mr Trebek, you will be missed.

"But Dave" I hear you say. "Clients needs have to come first, the customer is always right! If I don't bend on my end to provide the service my clients want, how am I supposed to keep my customers?"

It's a prickly issue. Here's my best advice:

Say No (By Saying Yes)pexels-samson-katt-5256145 

Okay, what do I mean by this? It's possibly better if I demonstrate than try to explain.

Let's say your business needs to provide robust customer support with multiple channels. You have a client and they want to speak to someone directly but they have a problem that has been addressed multiple times. You get on the call and speak to them, explaining the solution to their problem. The next week they call you about the exact same issue.

We've covered before how dealing with a common concern in your business could be an opportunity to change or even provide new services in your business, but let's just say the service is fine, the customer is just doing the same thing and causing the same problem over and over again. How do you tell them the problem is "Their Fault" without causing a larger issue?

1. Make a Video Tutorial

If a problem is pervasive enough, make a simple, concise video explaining how to solve it. When a person calls with the issue you can direct them to a video they can reference anytime.

2. Provide Multiple Channels

Do you have a forum? Let the client know they can pose the question there and be given a response in writing they can refer back to. Tell them "That's an interesting issue, let me look into that and touch back, is there anything else I can help you with?", redirecting the conversation and closing it (saying no) while addressing that the issue will be addressed (saying yes).

3. Have an answer other than no, even if the answer is no.

"I have a partner who specializes in this, allow me to refer you to them", "We are available to order the part you need, it will take 7-10 business days". Often time, the client will either except the parameters (if they are clearly defined and put in front of them) or decide to find an alternative solution. It might not make a win, but it will help avoid escalation.

If an ask is too Expensive, counter with an offer to level the Field. 

This is another form of the same thing. Let's say an employee is asking for extra time off. You could be in a position to say no, but instead you can simply counter the ask with another ask.

To an employee asking for extra time off, say 'Sure, we can do that. Could you possibly deliver me that project you were working on by the end of the day?', or even 'Can you make the hours up next week?'. They can accept the trade or work their schedule.

In this way the art of saying no (by saying yes) is as much a management strategy as it is a negotiation strategy.

Know in the end your time is as consequential as your staff, your customers or anybody else and set your boundaries accordingly. You might not be able to avoid a flat no every once in a while, but with this advice you can teach others the value of a reasonable ask!


From our #youtube channel, I show in greater detail how learning to say no can be an asset to your business:


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