3 Must-Have Scripts for Saying “No” to Clients Nicely

Have you ever noticed how many times a week you say “yes” to a person or project– only to end up regretting your decision?  Of those commitments, how many were actually in line with your business priorities?

If you lack standards or fear rejection, it can come at a high cost: missed milestones, losing clients, physical exhaustion, irritability, and stress.

When your default setting is to reply “yes” to each and every request that comes across your plate, it’s the same as relinquishing your focus, which only pushes you further away from your goals. As an entrepreneur, you simply can’t afford that.

Ready to learn how to protect your time and energy? Here are three typical business scenarios with tips on how you can respond:

Scenario #1: The Freeloader

When you’re confronted by a pushy prospect who tries to wheedle free information or work from you, it’s your job to instruct the client on how they can pay to work with you. The next time someone tries to solicit your expert advice, insist on setting up a formal consultation to lay out a work plan and to determine whether it would be a good fit to work together.

If you don’t think it’s going to work out, say so and end the meeting on a friendly note. If you’d like to stay connected, share a few high-quality resources to help them, such as books, blogs, or courses. The prospect will respect you for your honesty and assistance. There’s nothing to lose other than a “tire kicker” who never intended to become your client in the first place.

Scenario #2: The Scope Creeper

This is a client who wants to slip in a few extra tweaks to the project – after he’s signed-off on the proposal. This person tends to make repeated, onerous requests that threaten to derail the project’s schedule (and your sanity).

In those cases, it’s better to be firm and upfront in the preliminary meeting and set boundaries for “ad-hoc” requests even before the requests come in. Let the client know your policy on any post-project sign-off change requests (rejection, subject to cost and time penalties, etc.). So when the requests come in, you can refer to the earlier meeting when you both set clear expectations.

Scenario #3: The Dead-End Meeting

Saying “yes” to extraneous meetings not only leads to calendar clutter, but it can be huge time sucks that will leave you feeling mentally wiped and annoyed. Before committing to anything, ask yourself: In what measurable ways will this meeting move the project forward? When a meeting request hits your inbox, try replying with:

Thank you so much for thinking of me. Let me check my schedule and get back to you!

This script gives you a chance to take a pause and consult your schedule. Weigh the cost and benefits of the meeting and then get back to the requestor with a confident answer. If you find that saying “no” is too difficult or if you’re curious about the meeting, ask for more information before you commit. This will help you gauge whether the meeting is necessary or relevant to your project. And if you agree to meet, set a firm time limit for the session.

Saying “No” is a Gift You Give Yourself

Saying “no” is a gift you give yourself. Not only does it help reduce calendar chaos and anxiety, it will make you available – both physically and mentally – for the things that are really vital to your business. This action serves almost like a business armor, protecting your bottom line and your most important resource: time.

The ability to say “no” isn’t something they teach in any MBA program, but over time, you’ll find that it can be your most valuable asset as an entrepreneur.

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Hi, I'm Melody

I help smart, sensitive high-achievers break free from imposter syndrome and overthinking so they can find the confidence to lead effectively.


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