Companies are in business to serve their customers, of that there can be no doubt. But serving your customers doesn’t always mean acquiescing to their demands or even doing business with them at all for that matter.
The fact is if you’re a home-based or other small business owner―and especially if you’re running only a one- or two-person shop―saying “yes” you’ll work for just any customer that comes along or to the prospect of doing even more work for the ones you’ve already got can be a really bad idea.
Now, it almost goes without saying that when you’re trying to make a living the quantity of customers you have may seem of utmost importance. And depending on the exact nature of the business you’re in, that may be true. But oftentimes it’s not. In fact, if what you produce or offer hinges on the time and resources you need to ensure the output of a fairly unique and high-quality product or service, then taking on too much can be a really bad business move in the long run.
Additionally, customers have a right to expect a certain level of effort from you to “make it happen.” After all, that’s what they’re paying for, right? However, there comes a time in the lifespan of some business-customer relationships where what the customer expects in the way of product, service, turnaround time, etc. becomes out of line or even downright unreasonable.
It’s in instances like these―where quality might be jeopardized by quantity or an out-of-control client needs to be reined in―that saying “no” is not only acceptable, it’s just plain smart. And we’re not talking smart from just a professional standpoint, but from a personal one as well. After all, your sense of pride, self- worth and self-respect is every bit as important to your overall success in business as the number of customers you have.
Okay, so saying “no” is acceptable and sometimes even necessary. The next critical piece of this whole thing is how to let customers down easy so that you don’t jeopardize your reputation or even their willingness to work with you in the future.
Thankfully, the conventional wisdom on this is pretty clear and can be summarized in three key steps:
By offering a careful and measured three-part “no” response to your customers when it is called for, you and your business may very well be better off. Any good psychologist would tell you that the “disease to please” when taken to its extreme isn’t good for you or anyone around you―and that goes for your professional life every bit as much as it does for your personal one.