Not just a word. “NO” is an effective business strategy

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room
The humble “No” is not just a word, expression, exclamation or symbol of denial. “No” in itself is a very effective business strategy.Just like in life, in business too, we often fail to say “No”.

The failure on our part to say “No” could have a huge impact on the overall business outcome.

It is very important to have absolute clarity regarding:

  • The category of clients you should work for
  • The service boundaries for each client
  • Strict service level agreements for all stakeholders including the client

A few scenarios when we need to say “No”

  • No to a new business opportunity when the scope and brief does not fit the ideal client profile. For example, Preeti is the owner of a small website development firm. High quality design, well written original content and an easy to use user interface are the key promises they make and deliver. Low Price is not a promise they make. Her firm cannot compete on price. So when a new potential client emphasises on the tight budget they have for their new website, it is certain that they are not the right fit for Preeti’s firm. However, when leads are far and few and sales executives are under pressure to meet targets, they may consider to work on such a lead. In all probability, a cheaper competitor will out-bid them at a later stage. All the work done till the closing stage on calls, meetings, sample designs would be a colossal waste of money and resources to the firm. Even if they win the contract, the service delivery will not be of the same value. It will dilute the brand promise and have a detrimental effect on future opportunities.
  • No to an existing client for demanding services and features outside the scope of the original agreement. Businesses fall into the trap of “trying to please the clients”. Customer delight is certainly of utmost importance. However, having to agree to “out of scope” demands made at the eleventh hour should never be allowed. Be flexible for sure, but make sure you don’t fall prey to unprofessional tactics and strategies.
  • No to an influential internal resource who may try to ignore company guidelines and policies. This could be a partner, senior executive, CXO or the best sales executive. Irrespective of the seniority, performance and behaviour, no one should be given the liberty to not follow rules. Exceptions are always the case. However exceptions need to be evaluated in the right context. If allowed, it should be clear and transparent to all to avoid repetitions in the future.
  • No to unplanned budget or resource requests. Example: the sales manager may propose hiring an additional resource to help meet sales targets. Or, the HR manager may propose an out of turn increment to an employee as a retention strategy. When such requests are made, avoid knee jerk reactions. Take the time and effort to evaluate the proposal. Is it necessary? Have we exhausted all available options? What are the expected benefits? Will this decision violate any company policy? If the answer to any of the above is even a hesitant no, it is an indication for you to say a firm “No” and politely decline. More often than not, the team will surprise you with better solutions and counter offers.
As a business owner, leader and manager – embrace and make the humble “No” a key ingredient of your management practices.

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