Why saying “yes” isn’t always the best plan for your business (or yourself)

You may be keen to please your first customers, but don’t end up in a subordinate position that could make the relationship difficult

When you win your first customers it can have a huge impact on cash flow, your state of mind and sense of achievement. You’ll naturally be keen to please them but don’t let that cloud your judgment or you may find yourself in a subordinate position which makes managing the relationship difficult.

Similar to taking a job without negotiating a salary that you’re happy with from day one, it’s very hard to then ask for a substantial raise once you’re in the job.

Here are some tips on times that saying yes can be harmful and saying no is the best thing to do…

Ad hoc requests

Your customer asks for a new feature or additional service unexpectedly.

Why you should say no: By saying yes, you may need to deprioritise other projects or put your team under strain to do both. The end result is that their work may not be their best and they lose evenings and weekends in order to deliver; which leads to an exhausted and unhappy team.

“We need this NOW!”

If you are put under pressure to rush something for a customer and don’t know why, it’s sometimes best to ask them for justification in the politest way possible.

Why you should say no: If it transpires that it’s not as urgent as it seems then say no and agree a reasonable time frame so you and your team can do your best whilst setting clear expectations.

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Veering off course

If a customer asks you to work on something that is not your core business focus you may be tempted to say yes to bring in extra revenue and strengthen the relationship.

Why you should say no: As it’s not your area of expertise you might take longer to deliver and feel unhappy with the outcome. Feel comfortable telling them no and suggesting an alternative supplier. They will appreciate your honesty and you can remain focused on what you’re good at.

Working on your day off

You agree to a meeting after telling a customer that it should be your day off.

Why you should say no: Here you are setting a precedent that you are available whenever they need you, to the detriment of your personal life. They may remember this and therefore expect you to always be online and available.

Choosing work over family and friends

Saying yes to a meeting that clashes with a family engagement or time with your other half due to work.

Why you should say no: This is a slippery slope; once you’ve done it once and got away with it, you may repeat it without realising the harm that you’re doing. Your new business is of course incredibly important, but so many of us in start-ups lose our work-life balance to the detriment of relationships.

“Can we have a discount?”

Your customer asks for a substantial discount early on in your relationship and there isn’t anything in it for you.

Why you should say no: You’re tempted to agree as you need the business and want to keep them happy but at the same time you are devaluing your service and yours and your team’s hard work. If you give in this early on, it will be hard to negotiate your way back up to your full fees. A negotiation should always work for both parties.

“We’d like you to submit an request for proposal”

Request for proposals (RFP) can be a time drain so don’t enter into the process unless you know that you’re a serious contender.

Why you should say no: Sometimes the potential customer may be using you to make up the numbers and other times they may even be competitors in a different guise trying to gain information about your business. Always qualify the opportunity and don’t be scared to say no – if they really want you to take part they’ll be happy to explain why.

Acquisition opportunities

These can be incredibly flattering and are often the reason why you’ve started the business.

Why you should say no: Unfortunately, there are a lot of time wasters out there so make you are given proof of funds before entering what is a very time consuming and draining process, which if disingenuous can take your eye off your main goals. If a buyer is serious they’ll respect your diligence.

It may seem hard to be this assertive at times but as long as you explain your reasoning to your customers they should understand as they are running a business themselves. By setting clear boundaries at the start of any relationship you’ll gain respect and you and your customer will have clear expectations which is better all round in the long-term.

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