When Is It OK to Say No to a Prospective Client?

When Is It OK to Say No to a Prospective Client?

Have you ever had this problem?

In your head you’re saying “No, No, No!!!” But then you say “Yes” anyway? Me too, me too…

I’ve been self-employed now for almost six full months.

I’ve found some “Golden Clients”, and I’ve dealt with some that have come close to making we want to go back to “Corporate America” (not really).

I’ve come to the conclusion that some clients are just not worth it. Sure, they may be paying you pretty good money to work for them. Sure, they may have respect for what you’re doing (sort of). But at the end of the day, due to their unrealistic expectations and/or their lack of understanding about what they purchased, they demand more and more for less and less, and they will probably not end up being one of those clients who refers you to all their contacts.

Why is this?

Is it because you didn’t do a quality job?

Is it because they don’t have a good business?

Is it because you lacked good communication skills from the beginning?

Or is it because they’re just down right bad people?

The answer is NO, it’s probably none of these reasons.

I worked with a client once who shared a great quote with me. In talking about sales, he said:

NO is the first two letters of NOT YET…

I think this statement is really applicable with the type of clients I’m talking about. Turning down a client does not mean you have to completely burn a bridge and avoid them like the plague.

Saying No may simply mean “Not yet…”

Here’s why:

  1. EDUCATION: The prospect needs a bit more education on what you’ll be offering and what expectations they should have. Unrealistic expectations are the most difficult thing to deal with. You I don’t want to tell the client “I can’t do that…” but in some cases, I just can’t.
  2. ORGANIZATION: The prospect needs to make sure they have all their “ducks in a row” before you dive into the complex world of SEO and Social Media. Do they have at least one dedicated employee who will be working closely with your team? If not, they need to get one. I’ve realized that my job is NOT to run their business or make their business decisions; instead, my job is to take what their doing and help get the word out there and optimize their efforts accordingly. Without a dedicated staff member who is teachable and preferably internet savvy, it’s going to be a long road and one I’m not sure I want to travel down.
  3. EXPECTATIONS: The prospect needs to determine what they what to achieve with your SEO efforts: increased brand awareness, more traffic, higher ROI, ORM, etc. If they don’t really know what they want to achieve, none of your efforts will completely satisfy. As I said before, unrealistic expectations are the most difficult thing to deal with and are a HUGE RED-FLAG. Using case studies of other clients you’ve worked with can help people understand what they should expect. If they don’t think what you’ve done is enough, then NOT YET is a perfect solution. Chances are, they’ll go with another firm and then possibly come back to you anyway.
  4. COMMITMENT: The prospect needs to fully commit to helping you help them. This is similar to organization. If a client expects you to learn their business or industry overnight, NOT YET is a good answer. If a client can’t give you any time to meet together, they just want you to run with it, NOT YET is a good answer. Clients have to be willing to dedicate at least some time and resources if your efforts are going to pay off.
  5. BELIEF: The prospect needs to believe that what you’re doing is truly of value. A lot of this goes right back to education: if they have no idea what SEO is or why they need it, but instead their buying from you because they know their competitors are using an SEO firm, they most likely don’t truly believe that what you can do is going to help them. I know, you may be asking the same thing I am – “Then WHY would they invest the money?” Good question! Just like the other points, though, if they don’t really believe they need this (and sometimes it’s hard to catch this right away), “Not Yet” is the best answer.

What have your experiences been with saying No (or Not Yet) to clients?

Have you passed the fear of turning down new business? or do you still say YES to everyone and then regret it over and over and over again?

Nate Moller, a self-employed entrepreneur, has been teaching clients how to start an online business for over five years. He’s worked with thousands of companies who are looking for answers in their online marketing journey. Follow Nate on Twitter and become a fan of Moller Marketing on Facebook!