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How often do you say “NO”?

Let me ask it a different way.  When was the last time you turned down a new business opportunity or a potential new client?

A good “test’ of a great strategy is how often you say NO.  A really solid and well-thought out business strategy means that you’re saying NO more than you’re saying YES.  In point of fact, much more – some would say up to 20X.

And it’s not just to a prospective new piece of business.  It could be a new employee or even a strategic “growth” alliance.  Especially difficult to do when a seemingly “lucrative” opportunity shows up…

With Annual Planning season upon us, however, saying “NO” could be one of the most important business lessons that you’ll learn (or be reminded of…).

But if you’ve never tried OR have tried before and failed, how do you get started?

Here’s six tips to put you on the straight and narrow and strengthen your resolve:  


1)    Know Thyself 

Be very clear about your strengths and weaknesses as a company, what your core competencies and capabilities are, and what your value proposition is.  If you struggle to say more than “People, Quality, Service” (everyone says that BTW), start by spending some time asking your best clients what they value about what you do (see our blog for 3 questions to get the ball rolling) AND what’s one thing that they would change about your offering or service.  Bonus question: Find out why people buy from your competition and why they don’t buy at all.

2)   Describe your “perfect fit” 

Ask yourself and your team, what does the perfect client/ customer/ opportunity/ new hire look like? Sound like?  Have issues and struggles with?  Develop a written checklist for “success” to increase your chances of differentiating a “great” prospect from “so-so” one and use it with rigor.  Written checklists used in a team setting will keep you honest.  I use a “best fit” profile that I’ve created to help me evaluate realistically, so that I don’t fool myself into believing that it will all “work out”.

3) Use the “Core Value/ Core Purpose” test

When a new person is being considered as a strategic alliance partner or employee, use your Core Values to determine if there’s really alignment and culture fit.  If a new “opportunity” for growth presents itself, re-visit your Core Purpose and ask yourself how this possible path will get you closer – or further – from your longer term goals.

4) Be willing to Experiment – but not indefinitely

Use “trial” periods if your business model allows one…I like to “audition” my clients for three to six months before we commit to a longer term relationship.  I know that our advisory services are extremely valuable and effective and provide a proven ROI to small and small mid-market businesses. But what we do isn’t for everyone and there are certainly other approaches out there, including choosing to do nothing and go it alone.  It’s far easier to part ways earlier in a relationship then let issues fester and have to struggle through a break up.

5) Have a “NO” Goal

If you’re a die-hard case who’s addicted to saying yes, set a NO goal for yourself as well as a YES sales goal. Rocky Lagrone of the Training Group is a big fan of setting NO goals for sales.  “You can’t get to yes,” Rocky counsels, “Without going through a few No’s.”  And let others know that you’re being choiceful. Telling other people (your colleagues, your prospects, your clients) know you’re working on being selective about who you work with – voicing that goal to others in your world – can be a powerful stimulant for keeping yourself accountable.

6) Just say “No” – respectfully.

Sometimes you just have to draw a line because you know in your gut that an opportunity isn’t right.  But you don’t want to burn the bridge.  Just let them know.  Try something like: “You know, I don’t think that we’re a good fit for you.  Thanks for taking the time to talk but sounds like you’re looking for something else.  I’d still love to stay in contact, though. Would that be okay?”

There’s no reason you can’t keep the relationship…circumstances might change or they could lead you to someone who is the perfect prospect.

Who knows what might happen?  And they’ll still respect you for being honest…

And if you still haven’t scheduled your own planning session for 2019, take advantage of our ½ day Strategic Execution workshop on November 8th with Shannon Susko.

You and your team will get business tools to help strengthen your Execution AND get a jump start on your Plan for 2019 too!  Here’s the link for more information and to register.

Hope to see you there!



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