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The Most Surprising Business Advice I Was Ever Given

Take it From A Woman Who Has Been in the Hot Seat More Times Than She Can Count

I won’t make you hold your breath for this piece of advice, I know, you’re busy. But this advice is worth it. I promise. And as I unpack what it meant for me and the business I was growing I think the ways in which it can HELP YOUR OWN BUSINESS might truly surprise you.

So here it is in short: Never Say ‘NO’ to Your Client

To my 22-year-old ears this advice was nothing short of mind blowing. I couldn’t believe what my client was suggesting. I had in fact, just told my client, ‘no, what you are requesting is not possible.’

And it wasn’t. I can’t even remember at this point what the client wanted me to do but I remember at the time that it was the equivalent of asking me to jump through flaming hula hoops…naked. His request was beyond the pale, it was something that required time and skill that I didn’t have.

Every project has a bank account in regard to the time and skill it takes to complete it and this project’s account was showing ZERO on all accounts and I could not see how to make what my client was requesting possible.

As I sweated out the moment, my client slowly turned in his chair (which caused the hair on my arms to prickle) and said, ‘Let me give you one piece of advice that’s really gonna help you along the way…’

His voice was condescending as all get out and he lowered his glasses just to get a good look at me.

So I, being the young novice that I was, swallowed the lump in my throat. I also tried not to cry.

I didn’t know much but I was pretty certain that in business was no proper place for my tears.

And then he spoke and his voice was as clear as a bell, “if you want to succeed in business, never EVER say no to your client.”

What This Advice Means

This advice was initially terrifying to me. I mean the idea of saying, ‘YES!’ to every scenario in my future business made zero sense to me. I mean, there are things that I can’t do right? Everyone has their limits, their skillset. Don’t they?

I knew that at my young age most of my potential clients would have a far more extensive level of experience in many areas related to business that I did not. I knew when I was out of my league and when I told my client ‘NO!’ to his request on the project I meant ‘NO,’ because in my mind, what he was asking was truly IMPOSSIBLE.

Why Saying ‘NO’ to Your Client Is a Bad Idea

Frustrated, I asked my client to explain. He gave me the following reasons why saying ‘NO,’ to your client is a bad idea. Here they are:

  • ‘NO’ tells your client they are wrong.
  • ‘NO’ causes disappointment and frustration.
  • ‘NO’ is a closed response that will dash your client’s hopes.
  • ‘NO’ sounds as though you either A) cannot solve the problem OR B) are too lazy to solve the problem. Either option A or B can result in the feeling of bad customer service.

While I didn’t like the advice my client was giving me, I also felt like it was hard to ignore. What he was saying actually made sense.

I sat with the advice (that I didn’t like) for awhile.

So if I can’t say ‘NO’ to requests that seem unreasonable, then what can I say?

Ironically, I did not know that I would be asking that question of myself for years to come when faced with difficult client questions as I adapted my business vocabulary to completely exclude the word ‘NO.’

What do I say when faced with an impossible, improbably or difficult request instead?

I find a way to say ‘YES!’

And if I cannot think of any way or any price point that makes my client’s request possible, I find a creative way to not say ‘NO.’

I just don’t say the word. Sometimes I say nothing when considering a challenge a client has thrown down, but I never blatantly say NO.

Why not?

Because I learned that MY CLIENT WAS RIGHT.

‘NO[ is a word that shuts another persons ideas down. It makes them feel as though they have run into a wall and they cannot see a solution beyond it. They perceive you or your business as the person or entity that can help them. When you say, ‘NO,’ it changes their perspective of what you have to offer. Suddenly, instead of appearing like a sharp, accommodating professional, you appear stubborn (even if its not actually true).

When a client hears ‘NO,’ it can seem to them that you are unwilling to support their success. They get stressed at ‘NO,’ and the conversation and relationship becomes strained.

‘NO,’ leaves your client with ‘NO’ options.

Learning to say ‘YES’ to the wishes, requests and daydreams of my clients helped me tremendously.

The Benefits of Saying ‘YES!’ to the Difficult Requests of Your Clients

  • You strengthen the bond with your client because they are asking something difficult of you because they believe in you. It is a compliment really.
  • You prove yourself an expert that is adaptable and relatable.
  • You establish that you are willing to go the extra mile to make your client or their project succeed, in return they will likely support your success.
  • When you say ‘YES’ you have an opportunity to increase the price of a project to cover the cost and inconvenience of the ‘special request’ that your client has made. Your client will understand this. In my experience a client is typically very happy to pay extra if their special requests/circumstances/demands are responded to.

Saying ‘YES!’ to your client when you want to say ‘NO!’ typically will require critical thinking and extra legwork to address and resolve the issue to the client’s satisfaction. That is your call of course, if you want to invest additional time and energy that a client may or may not deserve to meet their expectation or satisfy their request. However, saying ‘YES,’ is a positive commitment to moving forward. As long as you can deliver on the request this builds momentum and ultimately helps grow your business.

Two important side notes:

I understand that the idea of saying ‘YES,’ to everything can send your thoughts into a spiral. I am not suggesting that you should say ‘YES,’ to any favor or task unrelated to the project you were hired for…especially if it is personal in nature or in any way inappropriate.

The business that I operate is a consultancy that specializes in project management so individual client relationships are the backbone of my business.

Ladies, I hope you found this article helpful, I enjoyed telling the story as much as I did first experiencing it! Your business adventure will be full of surprises. I hope you enjoy the ride : )

What’s the most surprising business advice you have ever received? Million Dollar Mama Club and our readers would love to hear it. Please comment below!


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