Learn to Say NO Before You Say YES!

Ever wanted to fire a client? It’s usually very difficult to do. And because we tend to invest so much time and energy in building relationships with new clients, years can often go by before we are even able to muster up the courage to fire them. By then, though, a lot of damage is done. We lose a lot of sleep, energy and money, as well as the opportunity to bring on new, amazing clients, because our time is sucked up by these “vamps”.

So how do we know if we need to fire a client? Well, instead of answering that question, because I suspect you already know the answer, I’d like you to think about never having to hire that client in the first place.

Here’s the deal: most of the time when we have “one of these clients” the signs are present very early on, but it takes a heck of a lot of awareness and acknowledgment of what we’re both sensing and ignoring. Now, I’m not only talking about the red flags we get from the client, but those we give to ourselves as well, and don’t want to validate.

The client will do things like low ball us over and over and over, require an over-abundance of “proof” of our quality of services, call us or e-mail us at all hours of the day and night, talk more than listen, or make us jump through an extraordinary number of hoops before an agreement is even reached. Generally, if we feel drained, deflated and taken advantage of before the work has even started, imagine what we’ll feel like during the engagement.

We also give ourselves red flags, like not valuing what we’re worth and reducing our fees; accepting work that we don’t enjoy, because of a “lack” mentality (i.e., If I don’t accept this work I won’t get any new projects this month); or saying yes to projects or people that (or will) compromise our integrity and values.

This year I experienced just such a situation. One that I call the “double whammy”. Not only was I asked to reduce my fees beyond a reasonable and industry standard (because it was “the right thing to do”), but it was work I had already acknowledged to myself that I would not do because it did not fulfill me or excite me. What on earth was I thinking?

If you’re reading this, chances are you have already had a client experience that lasted way too long and just wasn’t worth it in the end. And, like me, and many, many others, perhaps you’re ready to just say no, instead of hiring that client in the first place. You see, you won’t be gaining at all, you’ll be losing.

In the world of negotiation, we are taught to understand our BATNABest Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. In other words, if you don’t accept this “deal” what will you gain instead? Some people may argue that you’ll never lose when you take any client, because you’re earning an income, gaining experience, etc. As a coach, I do understand this perspective, because we always want to teach ourselves to see the silver lining in everything. However, I’ve learned to value (even more than money and a good experience) my time, energy and joy, for we know that we can maximize all of these resources when we are not only doing what we love, but doing so with people who value our work and experience, and give us the opportunity to grow in our craft.

How might you begin to say NO before you say YES, so you never need to fire a client?

Try asking yourself these questions:

·      Am I excited about the idea of this project and working with this person?

·      Are my conversations with the potential client positive and easy? Am I feeling heard and valued?

·      Will my talents be utilized and maximized by working with this client?

·      Does price seem to be the top (or only) concern?

·      What’s my BATNA and does my BATNA excite me more/provide me with greater opportunities?

·      Even if I don’t have a better alternative, do I really want to do this?

·      What is my gut urging me to do?

Finally, my last tip is to create some space for yourself before making the decision to either fire your current client, or “fire them before you hire them”. If we can get “quiet and real” with ourselves, even if we don’t want to acknowledge the truth, we can connect to, and thus act upon, what we know is the right and best next step for us.

Listen closely, and say YES to you.