Saying No In Business Pt. 2 – How to Say No

Welcome to part two of Saying No in Business!

Turning down a project is the last thing most small business owners want to do, however, knowing when to say no and more importantly, how to say no professionally is an important skill for anyone, no matter their industry. Last time, we discussed some of the reasons why one may have to say no to taking on a project such as a lack of time, a mismatch between your talents and their needs, a conflict of interest, and so on.

Once you have established that you are not the person for this particular project, you have to do the (really) hard part of actually telling someone no professionally, politely, and in a way that will be helpful to them.

1. Say Thank You

This part is key. No matter why you’re turning down a project or how much time you’ve spent in discussions, or how long you’ve known this client, they took the time to specifically reach out to you. They’ve invested time to search for the right person, reviewed your work, and relayed their needs to you. Even if you cannot take on this particular project, thank them first and foremost for their time and putting their trust in your abilities. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their consideration and confidence.

2. Explain in one or two sentences

In one to two sentences, take a moment to honestly explain why you have to turn down this particular project. You might not have the time at the moment to devote to the project, or you might feel that you’re not the right fit for the skillset needed. Whatever your reasons, it’s important to communicate them clearly and concisely. This way, the person who has asked you to take on the project will better understand your decision in context and can move on to someone who is better suited for the task at hand.

3. When possible, offer an alternative

You likely know and are friends with other people in your industry. If you have someone in mind who is better suited to this project, offer to make an introduction! It’s a great way to help the client feel like they have options while also ensuring that the project is in good hands. Depending on your relationship with the client’s project, you can offer to be a resource as needed to make sure it’s a success.

Saying no in business can be difficult, but it is important to do so in a way that maintains professional relationships. When you have to say no, be sure to thank the person for considering you, explain why the project would not be a good fit, and make an introduction to someone who might be able to help them more effectively. It can be tough to turn down work, but by following these tips, you can do so in a way that preserves your relationships with clients and potential clients. Have you had to say no lately? What steps did you take to make sure it was a positive experience for everyone involved?

Blog Written by Kelly Gleason

Kelly has worked as a web designer and business consultant for the past several years. She specializes in helping small to medium-sized business businesses use technology to succeed.

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