If you’re a business owner, chances are you’ve had to turn down a potential client at some point. 

It can be tough to say no, especially if the client seems like a good fit for your business. 

But sometimes, it’s necessary in order to protect your time and resources. Here are some tips on how to say no to a potential client without burning bridges.

1. Know when you should say no

Before you start to consider how to say no to a client, you have to think about when you should be saying no.

You should always consider the client’s needs on a case-by-case basis. Ask yourself whether their needs are something you can take on or if you’re qualified enough to take on. 

Sometimes it’s as easy as asking yourself whether you actually want to take on the extra work. There’s no shame in it if you’re snowed under at the moment.

2. Approach the situation politely

This should be a fairly obvious one, but you should always politely decline the client’s proposal.

It’s important to remember that word of mouth travels fast, so if you end up being seen to be rude by potential or current clients, this will have an adverse effect on your reputation.

And, even though you may not have the capacity to work with the client right now, you may find yourself in a position further down the road where you can, so don’t burn that bridge.

3. Offer alternative solutions

To keep in the good graces of your clients, instead of just saying no to their requests, you should offer alternative solutions to their problems. By doing so, you’re essentially telling your clients you can do the work but not at that moment.

If your client needs something done in a short time frame, you can always suggest pushing back the deadline. This is essential if you already have a lot on your plate and genuinely don’t have the capacity to work on anything else at that moment.

4. Don’t rush into a decision

A lot of the time you’ll make decisions based on keeping your clients happy, but there’s a fine line between good customer service and becoming a ‘yes person’. 

Instead of jumping in straight away and taking on more work, take a minute to look at your workload and make the decision whether you really want more on your plate.

Keeping track of your priorities is key to your decision-making –  even though something may be your client’s priority, it might not necessarily be yours.

5. Feel free to explain

Helping a client understand why you’re saying no can be very important if they don’t take the initial ‘no’ easily.

If you have a lot on your plate, be honest and say so. Be careful not to over-explain though. Chances are your client doesn’t want a long list of reasons why you aren’t taking on the extra work.

Be sure to have some level of assertiveness when saying no so they understand you’ve made your final decision. 

6. Manage expectations

One of the best ways to tell a client ‘no’ is to manage their expectations of your services.

You need to make sure everyone is on the same page. There must be clear communication between you and your client so you both know what you can expect of each other.

Once you have set these expectations, be sure to reinforce them in writing. This could be just a simple email with a summary of what you have agreed upon.

You don’t want to constantly be saying ‘no’ to your clients, so by setting out their expectations you are helping them to realise when you are able to take on more work or not.

Keeping your clients happy is the overall goal of your business, so you want to make sure their needs are met but not to your detriment. 

Our experts at Smith Butler have years of experience when it comes to customer relations and can help you.

Get in touch today.