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5 Tips on how to say no to clients

by Yellow 448 Days

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Saying "no” to a client is a tough decision. After all, you don't want to lose their business. But you don't want to feel like a submissive idiot either, do you? It's hard to say "no" to clients, especially if you think you should refuse something because it's against your principles. There comes a time in any line of business where you have to learn how to reject, and even oppose an idea, suggestion or demand. So, here are five tips on how to go about it.

Stand your ground and reach for the STAR

Stop right there. Something's wrong. You can feel it, and you should try and resolve things before something irreparable happens. First of all, try to use a STAR approach: stop, think, act and reactConsequently, you can take your time and manage the situation delicately without compromising your business relationship. It's not easy, however, but you must always try to fight back if there's something that should be different.

Say "no" when…

  • Your client's decision will jeopardise your relationship with other clients and/or target audience
  • A client is asking you to perform beneath (or against) your standards
  • Your client is demanding too much or something that's beyond your business
  • A client isn't thinking straight or is acting subjectively
  • Your client isn't respecting your expertise and/or advice

Don't hate, educate!

Explain your decision for saying "no”. Try and explain why you're making your decision (even if it's obvious) as if you were talking to a child. There's no point in just rejecting something if you don't have a valid reason. Therefore, come up with a better alternative, and inform your client. Educate, convince and sell your idea (instead of accepting your client's bad one). As a result, sometimes the best ideas come from being under pressure and having limitations.

Stick to your values

Remember what your business stands for. Most of all, don't break the code! If your business has a clear set of values on paper or on your website, then this is the perfect time to share them with your client. Your business exists because of who you've set out to be. Be proud of that, and don't change that for anything or anyone. Also, talk about the issues openly with your team or your other co-workers. See what they think, and make sure this is a principle-based situation.

Mind your manners

Stay respectful and keep your decorum. How you deal with these kind of tense business situations says a lot about your business. Hence, always listen and respond courteously. Learning how to say "no" to clients also means learning how to be professionally delicate. Therefore, even if it's hard, your business should always behave appropriately without seeming judgemental, critical or rude. Furthermore, treat your clients the way you want to be treated — with respect.

Meet your client halfway

Finally, try and come to an agreement. Despite your disagreements, you don't want to lose business. One way to say no to clients, keep their business and change things for the better is to come to a new agreement, proposal or alternative. You can do this together, and your client will appreciate being involved in the process. Set a meeting to discuss things, make a phone call or prepare an email with new suggestions. In conclusion, saying "no” doesn't have to be the end of your business relationship — just improve things together with your client.

Now. Take a deep breath. Prepare yourself. And get ready say it…


Say what?


Can't hear you.


How did that feel?


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