Telling a customer no? That’s no way to stay in business; the customer is always right, right?
“The customer is always right!” You hear it on your first day at McDonald’s, the first class when starting that business degree and the first time you set foot on a sales room floor. What is often neglected is the idea that sometimes you need to say “no”. The reality is that often, “no” is just what is best for the customer and quite possibly your business.
Depending on the type of business you have, a customer is paying you not just for that widget, but for your company’s expertise, experience and know how. This means it falls to you to say no sometimes.
Most of the time the rule still applies that if you listen to your customer, apply your business expertise; the end result will work out great for everyone.
Sometimes though, a customer comes in with pre-conceived notions. They have an idea of how a project should be done and what it should cost. This may come from working with another vendor or a friend who is in the business. This is where all your knowledge of your business comes into play and is applied to the needs of your new client. You want to speak up; educate/explain to the customer how you can take their idea in a direction that is better suited to their goals.
Since most of us get paid by our customers, disagreeing with them is not something that just rolls off the tongue. However, at the end of the day, doing what is best for the client is what they are truly asking of us. Explain the logic behind your approach; show the client how it will better reach their goals in the long run. You’ll not only end up with a better result for the customer but you’ll likely end up with a customer for life once they see the lengths you are willing to go to protect their best interests.
A second “no” opportunity comes before you even sign a contract for the project. One of the best business acumen you can develop is learning what type of business is good for your business. Just because a customer is willing to pay you for something does not automatically equal being a good opportunity for your business.
You need to learn what your business is good at producing and what types of projects are best suited to your expertise and look for business opportunities that compliment those strengths.
Businesses often get into a mode where getting anyone to sign a contract can seem like a good move for their business and depending on the balance sheet, I can’t disagree. However, if you are in a position to turn down some opportunities that you know are not a good fit, your employees and your bottom line will truly thank you.