It’s really hard to say no to a client request, particularly when it involves an invitation for more paid work. Perhaps your schedule is full or they don’t align with your values and your firm’s objectives; maybe they are just a difficult client and the hassle is more than it is worth. Whatever your reason for wanting to reject their request, there’s a right way to say “no” and a wrong way. This article outlines the right way.
How do you politely refuse something?
Whether it’s a new client or a long-term client requesting additional work, it’s in you and your firm’s best interests to let them down gently. Not only will this allow you to keep your dignity and reputation intact, but it will also keep that door open for any potential opportunities in the future.
Here are 6 ways that you can politely refuse your client requests
Answer the client ASAP
Take the necessary time to think through the request and to respond gracefully but do it as soon as possible; it’s not polite to make a client wait, especially if it is for refusal. You are far more likely to salvage the business relationship if you don’t drag your feet on delivering the bad news.
Communicate with the client via their preferred method
If a client emails you, phones you or wants to meet face-to-face to request what they want from you, then always return the message in the same format. They are obviously more comfortable with this way of communicating so it is polite to interact with them in their preferred way.
Always thank the client
How do you politely refuse something? You make the person feel good first before you deliver the bad news. By thanking the client for their consideration and interest in your business, you will immediately make them feel valued which will soften the blow when this is followed up with a polite refusal.
Give a clear and concise explanation
You want to leave the client with as much of a positive impression of you as possible, so be honest and tell them why you can’t fulfil their request at this time. If you leave room for interpretation, it just leads to hope followed by them feeling let down when you finally say no.
Suggest an alternative
If possible, try to be as helpful to the client as you can by suggesting an alternative solution for them. Perhaps someone else within your company is a better fit for the project or you can refer them to someone else in your industry. As crazy as that might sound, being polite and helpful when you are refusing work can actually build a stronger client relationship and it keeps the door wide open for future communication and opportunities.
Refine the process for the future
Reassessing how you obtain new leads will help you to make sure that you are only turning away the wrong types of clients. Once you know you are doing this you can then refine the refusal process and let down clients as politely as possible. (Are you struggling to win bigger and better clients?)
It’s hard but saying “no” is worth it
Saying “no” to client requests could be one of the major factors preventing your accounting firm from achieving its growth goals. If it is, then you need to learn how do you politely refuse something and start implementing these 6 steps.
Just for a second, imagine working only with big clients that you love to work with and who offer the work that you want. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
"This article was originally published on the Accountants Millionaires' Club Website"
About Heather Townsend
Heather Townsend is Founder and Author of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 5 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).
Heather is always up for a challenge. Perhaps that is why she has built a track record of helping accountants grow the size of their practice by 50-200%, often in under two years. Often helping them make partner or equity partner in the process.
Heather is a high profile member of the accountancy profession in the UK. She has worked with over 300 partners, coached, trained and mentored over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. Heather's clients have included: 7 out of the Top 10 UK practices, including all the Big 4 firms.