Saying “no” to your client can be very challenging, but it’s also very much needed sometimes. It helps establish your boundaries but also leaves room for better, bigger opportunities.
Here are a couple of tips to help you identify wrong opportunities and say no with confidence.
1. Know Your Boundaries
A good starting point is to have a clear understanding of your own boundaries, availability and non-negotiables. If a new potential project seems to be clashing with your own boundaries, then this is a sign that this may not be the first opportunity for you.
Make a list of those non-negotiables and red flags so you can easily identify them the next time a new enquiry lands in your inbox.
2. Thank the Client
Whether this project is a good fit or not, always thank the client for reaching out to you and considering working with you. This helps start the conversation on a light, polite note.
Write something along the lines of:
“Thank you for reaching out and sending some information about your and your business. I appreciate the opportunity and am grateful that you are considering working with me.”
3. Don’t Over Explain Yourself
If you’re ready to decline a project, the best rule is to be polite, direct and leave no room for misinterpretation. You can provide a reason for declining the project but don’t go into justifying yourself in too much detail.
Continue your response as follows:
“After reviewing your enquiry, unfortunately it doesn’t seem like I’m the right person for this project, as I’m [INSERT REASON]”
4. Offer Alternatives
Whilst this isn’t necessary, you may want to provide suggestions and alternatives to the client. Perhaps you know someone who may be a better fit? Or you can share some advice on where they could look next? Can you do a direct introduction with someone else in your industry?
Here’s an example:
“Nevertheless, I don’t want to leave you empty handed. I know a great expert in the industry who may be able to help you with this project. Her name is [NAME] and you can learn more about her right here [WEBSITE].”
5. Analyse Your Lead Acquisition Process
If you feel like you’re getting too many misfits in your inbox, maybe it’s worth analysing your lead acquisition process, What can you do to improve the quality of your leads? Are you vetting them with a questionnaire before they reach out to you? Do you make it obvious who you work with on your website and what is the price range for your services?
The more open and direct you are in your messaging, the more targeted your leads will become.
BONUS. Email Template
Here’s a simple email template to send to leads who aren’t a good fit, following the suggestions we shared above:
Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and enquiring about my services.
While this sounds like an amazing project, unfortunately I don’t think I’m the right fit for this opportunity as [REASON].
However, I highly recommend you getting in touch with [PERSON] as I think he/she would be a great partner to help you on this project. I’d be happy to do an introduction for you!
In any case, I wish you all the best with this project and much success in your business!”
Remember, saying NO isn’t a bad thing. Not only will you do yourself a favor by rejecting a project that isn’t a good fit, but you’ll also help the lead by matching them with their perfect partner.