Do you know when and how to say no politely in business?
New accounting firms will often take on every single client that walks through their doors.
That makes sense in the beginning. If you’re working on building a name for you and your firm taking on everyone is the smart thing to do.
However, that won’t always be the case. There’s going to come a time when you’ve improved your services to the point where quality, high-paying clients are what you want to start bringing in.
But that doesn’t mean that the unqualified accounting clients are just going to disappear. NO way! You’ll still get those unqualified individuals. Now it’s just a matter of knowing when to say no politely in business so you can gracefully turn these clients away without burning any bridges.
For me, there was an accountant that I was working with, who I thought would be a perfect fit for my 8-week accountant sales course. From the beginning, she started saying she couldn’t afford the monthly fees.
Two or three months later, everything changed. She realized that it was going to cost her more to NOT take the course because she wasn’t changing the way she operates her business. She came back and joined my course and is now changing the way she approaches prospects.
It is just SO important to not burn those bridges because timing is crucial for everyone. They may not be interested today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Now that you understand why I believe that you need to know when and how to say no politely in business, let’s get into it!
Step 1: Know When to Say NO Politely in Business
There are four indicators to become familiar with so you know when to say no politely in business.
The very first thing you want to be on the lookout for is if your prospect is hesitant. If they seem uninterested or unmotivated to achieve the results you’re discussing, they’re going to turn into a P.I.T.A. client.
It’s possible that they want to experience the results that you’re suggesting, but are just not willing to do the work necessary to get those results. They may even start ignoring your phone calls, emails, and text messages.
Sure, having the additional income from the client would be nice, but by taking on the less than ideal client you’re taking up space that would be better suited for someone willing to put in the work and pay your prices.
Luke, one of the CPA’s who I’ve been working with, has created very strict boundaries for himself and his firm.
Luke’s number one rule is that the prospective client MUST use QuickBooks online for all of their monthly services. Number two, he will only work with clients who are comfortable with him on video. He doesn’t do face to face meetings. And number three, he will only work with clients who are looking for monthly services.
He doesn’t want to work with someone who only needs a one-time service, like filing a tax return or some other sort of compliance work.
These boundaries that Luke created are non-negotiable and because of that, he is filling his accounting firm FULL of his dream clients.
For those that come to him for help that don’t meet his requirements, Luke gracefully refers them to others who would better fit their needs. There are NO hard feelings and everyone remains happy since they’re receiving the services they desire.
The next thing you want to look out for is when a client is asking for discounts. If a prospect begins to talk about ways in which they could pay less or is asking how they can get a deal, it’s time to gracefully turn them away.
Don’t allow these individuals to waste your time. We don’t get our time back, so don’t waste it on someone who isn’t willing to pay your current rates. They’re stuck in a certain mindset, and it isn’t your job to convince them otherwise. Know and believe in your value and accept nothing less.
The third indicator to know when it’s time to say NO politely in business is when you believe that the two of you aren’t a good fit.
We all want happy clients, but there are other things that we hope for in our clients. Maybe some of you really enjoy working with families. You love to hear about their personal life and share yours, but not every client is going to want to do that.
Some individuals are private people and would prefer to keep everything business focused. If that doesn’t fit your ideal client avatar, it’s best that you let them go right away instead of wasting your time.
The final reason you’d want to turn away a client is if you’ve already overcommitted yourself. You’re too busy and have already taken on too much work.
You want to be sure you can always fully engage with each of your clients, so by taking on too many clients, you may remove that personalized piece that your accounting clients crave.
Another one of my clients, Iris, was working with an individual who owned a trucking company. The client would frequently be in his truck going from east coast to west coast and back. Since he had been a long-term client of hers, Iris had tried her best to work with him.
He had the desire to create a better accounting system for his business. He wanted to create a way to reduce the amount of taxes he was paying. AND he really wanted to create some efficiencies within his business.
One of the hard lessons that Iris had to learn was that despite the client wanting to make changes in his business, she was constantly having to chase him. She’d send him emails and receive NO response. Essentially the client wasn’t really motivated to do the work that would achieve the results that he was saying he wanted.
Friends — remember, actions always speak louder than words! I fully understand how difficult it can be to let someone go, but you must understand that you can generate much more revenue and actually LOVE the clients that you’re working with, simply by letting the others go.
Iris sent an email to the owner of the trucking company, letting him know that they weren’t a good fit. She did offer him a few suggestions for other accountants, in hopes that he’d find someone that would be a better fit.
The key here is to not waste your time with prospects that aren’t a 100% YES.
Step 2: How to Say No Politely in Business
I think the most important thing to point out is that you should never drag out a client relationship too long.
I know so many of you want to truly help your clients, and give them the best possible service, but if you’ve done your very best to work with them and things still aren’t changing, it’s time to let them go.
It’s like that saying…
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the horse drink.”
It’s the same thing with your clients if they’re not willing to see the value in creating an efficient system and using QuickBooks online so that they can hopefully save money on taxes, it isn’t your job to convince them.
One thing I want to encourage each of you to do is to look at your client roster or even the outreach you’ve made to prospects. Who is dragging their feet, taking forever to get back to you?
Those are the ones you want to let go of ASAP. When you do end up letting a client go, be upfront and transparent with them. Let them know that they weren’t a good fit and why. Honesty will get you so much further than making up stories and has the potential to get you a lot of great referrals, too.
You can also say no politely in business with a referral out.
I know this is probably going to feel like a struggle for some of you because you’re so used to taking on every client, but when you realize someone isn’t your ideal accounting client, as was the case with Iris, referring them to someone else is the right thing to do.
Not only will it open up space for new clients for you, but it will also help your client receive the type of services they need and that they will benefit from.
And after you’ve told a client NO, you absolutely must stick to your word. You can’t change your mind. It won’t work for you and it won’t work for your clients. Don’t change your mind and bring them back on once you’ve made the decision to let them go.
Step 3: Know Why You’re Saying NO
You know you want to work with clients that see your true value, and who are willing to pay the prices you charge. So, if you have clients that don’t see your value, fight you on your prices and ask for discounts, it’s not worth keeping them around.
Explain that you aren’t a good fit for what they’re looking for, and then refer them to someone who is.
Don’t ever feel guilty about standing in your value. By letting those less than ideal clients go, you are opening up space for those dream clients who are just around the corner.
Bonus Tip: Start Using the Word “IF”
When you’re in your next new client consultation think about using the word “if” in your conversation.
When you’re talking to a new client, you’re thinking about IF they are a good fit or not. You’re asking yourself IF you want to keep them around, or IF you want to send them on their way.
So many times, accounting professionals allow the prospects to think with IF, not realizing that YOU have just as much say as they do. Stop acting as if you’re going to work with any accounting client that sits in front of your desk.
Part of everything that I teach my accounting students is creating a life of abundance and increasing your value. Using IF is one way to start doing that!
Bonus Tip: Decline with Gratitude
I 100% support you turning down clients that aren’t a good fit for your accounting firm, BUT I encourage you to decline with gratitude. Take the time to thank them for something special you see in them. Thank your client and then move on.
Bonus Tip: Position Yourself as the Expert
I know all of you are super smart. You have your education, experience, credentials, and certifications.
So when you are meeting with a prospect, position yourself as the expert! Remind yourself that you know a lot more about accounting and saving them money on their taxes, then they do.
It is your job to explain to them why you’re the expert, why you do what you do and why you’re the best.
Go into your client roster today and see which of them aren’t fitting into this new abundant life you’re working to lead.
Then compose a letter, transparently explaining why you are letting them go and decline with gratitude. By taking action right away, you are opening yourself up to the new opportunities that are now bound to come your way.
Have you ever had to say no politely in business (or maybe weren’t as polite as you could have been)? Share with me in the comments what happened!
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