Welcome to part 6 of a 10-part series, Nine Ways You’re Losing Business—and What to Do About It.
Reason No. 5 You’re Losing Business:
You don’t know how to say no.
If you don’t have firm guidelines that help you determine which opportunities to accept and which to decline, you’re losing business. That’s true on two levels.
1. Saying yes to one opportunity always means, as a matter of inarguable fact, saying no to something else. Accepting Client A means that you may not have bandwidth available when Client D comes along (or that, if you accept Client D, that time pressures may reduce the quality of your work product or client service). Taking on a leadership role with one organization means that, at least for the time being, you won’t be able to seek a leadership position with another. And choosing to write three articles that will appear before your ideal clients may mean that you’ll have to give up a few hours of sleep.
Choosing to grab one opportunity and let another go for now may be a wise decision or a foolish one. Only by being clear on your objectives can you know which is which. For instance, if you’re accepting a leadership position in a group that’s populated by your ideal clients or referral sources, even giving up a similar opportunity may make sense—unless activity with the second group would deliver an equivalent result with less of a time commitment.
That’s why it’s so important to create a business development plan and to track your activity against it on a regular basis. Your plan will let you weigh an opportunity against your objectives as well as against other opportunities, known and unknown. If you accept an opportunity without due consideration or just because it seems like a good idea and you don’t have anything else planned runs a high risk of getting you sidetracked.
2. Accepting a troublesome client or an issue that is not a good fit for your practice will get you business in the short term, but it likely will cost you business in the longer term. Agreeing to work with a client means that you’re accepting that client’s matter, that client’s foibles and habits, and all of the problems that accompany the client and the matter. When the fit is good between you and a client, that’s fine.
However, when the client is overly demanding or unresponsive or belligerent or when the matter is itself problematic, you can create a time-consuming and a frustrating bog for yourself. Many matters will include bumps and moments of frustration along the way. When you get wrapped up in a matter with more than its share of problems, your attention will be diverted from other matters and other clients.
Before you ask for the business, you must always consider whether you want the business. If you don’t want the business, you must be able to say no.
As difficult as it may be to take on an opportunity or client that isn’t a good fit for you, the real loss is in the work that you could have done instead. Let your business development plan be your guide.