Saying “no” can be difficult. We put so much time and energy into finding ways to say yes that it feels scandalous to pass up on something. Even when we’re pressed to our limits, turning down an opportunity feels like admitting defeat. After all, winners never quit and quitters never win.
Obviously, balancing the needs of a bootstrapping startup requires more than pithy phrases and a black and white approach to making decisions. The successful entrepreneur must know not only when to say when, but how. Knowing when to pass on a project not only helps keep your business under control, but also has the potential to bring more opportunities down the road.
Make The Call
You’re fighting the good fight to grow your customer base and foster brand loyalty. With several important accounts already in play your staff is well-challenged and firing on all cylinders. Though business is good, it could always be better, and you feel the ever-present breathing of your competitors down your neck.
When that new contract walks in the door, you can tell that accepting it will tax your business beyond its capabilities. It could even force you to dilute the central focus of your company. You know you have to balk at the offer, but you’re naturally concerned about seeming vulnerable or inadequate to meet the needs of your customers.
Getting to “no” doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, saying yes to the wrong project can bring a great deal more discomfort in the long run than can be justified by whatever short term gain it may yield. If you can recognize something as being a bad fit from the start, you can expect the customer to reach the same conclusion down the road when they’re receiving unsatisfactory results.
Turning down a wide-eyed prospective client who’s eager for your company’s services may feel unnatural, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. By saying no for the right reasons you’re demonstrating your expertise and proving that you value the satisfaction of the customer more than the chance to add another notch to your belt.
Pass It On
Luckily, deciding to refuse a prospective client doesn’t mean that you’re slamming the door in their face. Instead of seeing this situation as a loss, make it a gain by using your connections. If you know of another company that would be a better fit for the customer’s needs, put them in contact.
Making a good referral not only better serves the customer, but also builds good karma for your business. The customer will be pleased that you’ve helped them find the best way to serve their needs, while the business receiving the referral will certainly appreciate being passed a lucrative new account.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Naturally, to reap the benefits of referring customers, you must have absolute confidence in the abilities of those receiving the referral. The idea is to find a solution that will yield the best results for the customer and not to merely hook up a friend who needs the business.
When you’ve been instrumental in creating a positive experience, both the customer and the company that received the referral will remember you fondly in the future. Today’s “no” becomes tomorrow’s “yes.”
As your startup cuts its teeth and grows, you’ll encounter plenty of situations in which saying “no” is the right move. Successfully wielding the power of “no” can save you a great deal of pain in the short term while building better relationships for the future.