Learn how to say no to clients and customers (without them even realizing it) by first understanding 3 tips to set better boundaries.
Because you need healthy boundaries if you want a healthy business. I even provide examples of scripts to help you say “no” to difficult people and stick with it.
3 tips to set boundaries + 8 ways to say no to clients
It can be difficult to say “no” to your customers and clients. In the video, I’ll share:
- Why it’s hard to say “no”
- 3 tips to set better boundaries
- 8 ways to say “no” gracefully to clients and customers
- Example scripts to put it all into practice
- Where to find more help
Click below to read through the transcript or use to follow along with the video.
We all know that it’s okay to say no, but that doesn’t make it easy. Especially when we’re talking about saying no to clients or customers, if they’re making demands or they have crazy requests. And when our livelihood depends on their happiness.
So, before you accidentally turn yourself into a doormat and then wonder why people are walking all over you, let’s talk about the steps to set your boundaries and how to say no with such finesse that people won’t even realize you did.
I’m Tara Wagner, breakthrough coach and lifelong entrepreneur. I help other entrepreneurs use a holistic approach to business so they can create profits they can depend on without burning themselves out. If that sounds like your jam be sure to check out my free training on how you can do the same.
#1. Make Decisions in Advance
The first step to saying no to clients or customers starts long before the actual opportunity to do so. You need to make some decisions in advance.
What are your boundaries? What are your work hours? How is it that you want to surprise and delight and overdeliver? But where do you want to draw the line?
It’s important to decide these things in advance so that you’re not trying to make decisions on the fly in a situation where you feel pressure to make somebody else happy.
If you don’t make the decisions in advance, you’re going find yourself just reverting to whatever’s going to be the easiest in that moment, which might be into something that you shouldn’t be giving into or having a knee jerk reaction, and maybe coming across in a really negative or unhealthy way.
So I literally want you to sit down and write out for yourself on a single sheet of paper that you can hang somewhere if you want to, what your boundaries are.
When it comes to a certain client or client packages, when it comes to customer requests. Look at some of the common things that come up and write down where it is that you’re going to over deliver? And what are you not going to do? What are you going to actually say no to make those decisions in advance so it becomes easier to say no in the moment.
#2. Convey Those Boundaries to Your Clients and Customers
Step number two is to convey those boundaries to your clients and customers before it’s needed. This could be policy documents, written signage, verbiage in your contracts. This could be auto-responders on your emails or quick reminders in conversations.
But here’s what’s important to note: it is not enough to show them or tell them one time or to hang it up somewhere and assume they’ll read it and understand it. These are things that warrant conversations and they warrant repetition. People need to see and hear things over and over before they start to remember it.
In fact, think about some companies, some person that you hired and try to remember all of their policies. Chances are you can’t. You may love that person. You may love that company. You may want to respect their boundaries, but if you don’t know them, how can you? The same applies for your clients, if they don’t know where your boundaries are and they don’t remember them because they’re inundated with information, just like we all are, then how can you expect them to honor those boundaries?
The more you can make these things front and center in just little ways, the better. This step is going to do a lot of the work for you. And the more you create this, and the more you put these things out there and build them into your systems, your processes, your automations, your conversations, making it a natural part of what you’re doing, the less you’re going to have to actually say no to clients.
#3. Formulate Your Responses to FAQs
Number three, this also happens before you actually say no. And that is formulating the way you want to say no. Now I like to think of this like improv.
When my son was younger, he took an improv class with his homeschool group. And one of the things they learned is that you can’t say no, you have to find a way to say yes. And the illustration that they were given was to think about it like a ball being tossed to you, instead of just stepping aside or letting that ball drop, which is what happens when we say no, you want to find a way to receive that ball and give it back to them. You’re going to be doing the same thing in your answers to your clients or customers. You’re going to receive what they’re asking or saying, or maybe demanding. And you’re going to find a way to offer it back to them in a new way without actually having to say no.
So what I’ve done is written out some different examples so that you can get an idea of what this can look like. I really encourage you to play around with this for yourself. The more you formulate these in advance, just like we were saying before, the easier it is to use them in the moment. The more you practice them, the easier it gets to come up with them on the fly as well.
How to Say “No” #1
So the first way that you can say no without actually saying no is to not tell them what you can’t do, but instead tell them what you can. So let’s say for an example, a client wanted you to rush a project and that was just not doable. Instead of saying, no, I can’t do that or getting frustrated, look at it like a ball being passed to you and play the game with them trying to pass it back.
So an example of that could be, “I would love to help you with this. I can do these dates instead, which one is better for you?” Right?
You didn’t say no, you offered back a couple options for them to choose from, which feels collaborative to them and more like a yes.
How to Say “No” #2
Another way you can toss the ball back is to ask more questions. This gets them talking a little bit more and gives you more time to think. So an example of this could be, “Hmm, let me think that through. Can you tell me a little bit more about it so I can understand what you’re needing.”
This also helps you gain more insight into why they’re asking for what they’re asking, which can allow you to come up with better alternatives that they’ll say yes to.
Another way to do this is to compliment them, instead of getting frustrated over their request, compliment the fact that they came up with this great idea. So for example, if you had a client who just has an unrealistic idea of what to do in their house, for example, you want to say something like, “That’s a really great idea. Here are some possibilities that could get us close to that outcome.” Right?
So if their outcome is unrealistic, don’t say, no, we can’t do that. Find clever ways to get them as close as possible.
How to Say “No” #3
Another way to say no, without actually saying no. And this is specifically around things that you don’t want to do, or people you might not want to work with, is to actually send them somewhere else. You’re passing the ball back by saying, here’s the next step for you to take. So an example of this would be, “I know the perfect person or company for you. It’s not me, but I’d feel totally confident putting you in their hands.”
And this allows you to kind of pass it forward and step out of that conversation if this is not a good fit for you at all. And then here’s another example that you could use if, for instance, the timing just isn’t right? So you might say, I would love to take a look at this at such and such time. Can we circle back around then and chat more about it again, you’re passing the ball back instead of stopping it with a no, I can’t do that.
If you notice in most of these cases, you’re not saying no. You’re asking them to say yes to an alternative. And in about 90% of cases, it works perfectly. It’s gonna be so smooth. And they’ll never even realize that you just set a boundary or said no to them.
In about 10% of cases though, you will need to say an actual no, and do so gracefully.
How to Say “No” #4
Number one, don’t say something like, “Oh, I would love to do that. But I can’t.” This leaves the door open, especially if they have a stronger personality to push back against your no, because they are hearing that you would love to actually do it. If you don’t wanna do it, don’t say you wanna do it.
How to Say “No” #5
Don’t justify your response or over-explain why you’re saying no. This again can make you look really unconfident and it can give room for some of those more confident, sometimes pushy people to push back on your answer. This is something that a lot of people do unconsciously. They don’t mean to be pushy, but if you are not solid and firm, they sense that there’s still room for negotiation. And they’re going to continue trying to talk about it. This is where you’re going to feel frustrated and it’s going to create some bad vibes. So you wanna be clear, concise and confident in your no.
Here are some more examples of ways that you can do that:
• “I’m sorry, I can’t. I’d recommend you try ____.” Again, this is a no, but you are offering something to them in return.
• “I’m honored, but I need to say no for private reasons.” This is when you do have a reason, but you do not want to get into it. And if you know that this person can maybe be a little demanding, this is a really clear way of shutting the conversation down when you need to.
• And then lastly, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. Would something else work instead?” This is where you are allowing them to tell you what it is they might like. Now, again, if this is something that you struggle with, it takes practice.
You’re not going to get this overnight, but the more you do this work in advance of when you actually need to say no. And the more you practice your statements, having one to two key statements that you go to again and again and again, sometimes with some people you have to repeat the same exact words 3, 4, 5 times for them to really hear it. The more you practice those words, the more confidently you will be able to say them when it comes up.
ARE YOU READY TO SET BOUNDARIES IN YOUR BIZ?
If you’d like more support in helping you to streamline and organize your business, be sure to check out my Healthy Hustle Roadmap.
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WHAT ABOUT YOU, BOSS?
Have you been in a situation where you didn’t know how to say no?
Let me know in the comments below.