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Marketing / Communication skills

Client communication skills: The Power of saying ‘No’

One of the most important client communication skills soloists need to master is the ability of saying ‘no’ to certain requests.

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Most soloists are fortunate, in that they are surrounded by clients and suppliers who respect their boundaries. However there’s always one or two of them are likely to try and push their luck.

Rather than just agreeing to put yourself out for your client when they ask you to “go the extra mile” for them, take a minute to decide the impact of taking it on.

When doing this, put yourself first and ask ‘how will agreeing to this short-notice job affect me/my business/my other clients?’ This is as opposed to automatically being empathetic with your client’s predicament.

The problem is you may decide the job’s not right but still find it hard to say ‘no’. This is a really common issue, especially for soloists, many of whom acquiesce to unreasonable requests because they worry their clients will think badly of them if they turn them down.

In reality, their client’s reaction is more likely to be “that soloist’s really got her act together” than “it’s unprofessional of her to turn down work”. With any luck they will take on board a fact your saying no has taught them, e.g. “Next time I need her to do a job I ought to bear in mind she needs more notice.”

"It’s liberating when you realise that saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re a negative person."

Want more articles like this? Check out the  communication skills section.

‘Yes’ often means you want to be amenable and to please, whereas ‘no’ shows you’ve taken control of your business. Bending over backwards to please not only sends signals that you’re a pushover, it ultimately saps your energy which is obviously counterproductive for all concerned.

If the thought of saying harsh-sounding ‘no’ distresses you, surround it with a comforting phrase, like ‘”I’m going to have to say no to that, but thank you for asking me” or “I’ll have to say no on this occasion as I’m double booked already, but please ask me again.” This way you’ll find that you can still sound positive or open to an idea, even when declining someone’s suggestion or request.

It’s liberating when you realise that saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re a negative person. Having effective client communication skills and the confidence to say ‘no’ is a real asset, so take control, be clear-headed about your policies, know your limits and when you need to… just say no!

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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