NO is the Biggest Little Word in Business!

Something I have experienced over my life is that most people are either afraid to say no or feel they can’t do so, for whatever reason.  No is not a dirty word in business.  As difficult as it is to say no to someone, it might just be the right answer.  Here are three separate cases of when I feel NO is the perfect answer for the situation. There are times when it is important to say no to a potential customer.  I have seen many sales people and business owners refuse to say no to a potential customer for fear of losing them.  If you can’t help the customer, then they were never your customer to lose.  What are your options if you do not tell them no? You can tell them yes or be vague enough in order to keep them interested.  All you get at the end of the day is a ticked off person, not a customer, and definitely not a referral.  No is a perfectly acceptable answer to a potential customer when no is the correct answer.  I know and personally understand the pressure put on sales people to make the deal.  I could sell ice to Eskimos but that is not the right way to do business.  What if we listened to our potential customer’s needs first, and then determined if our product or service is suitable to their needs?  If it’s not, walk away from the deal.  Tell them that you don’t feel your product or service is right for them at this time then ask them if they know of any others that might need what you have to offer.  The potential customer is much more likely to help you out when you don’t try and force them into buying something they don’t want or need. Sometimes saying no to an existing customer/client is the perfect scenario for your business.  In this instance, your no is more like firing a customer than just saying no.  Take a client that requires more attention than others, offers difficult solutions, and is simply more costly than a producer of revenue.  Understand that I am not advocating that hard work or deserved attention is not worthy or necessary to a productive business relationship. Evaluate your business relationships and determine which ones are cost/effort productive and which ones are not.  If a client requires a great deal of attention, efforts by multiple people, but produces only a fraction of the business profit of others, it might be time to fire that client.  The unattained revenue from a business situation mentioned in this case can cripple a company.  While you are working with “bad business”, how much “good business” is passing you by? A third example regards a personal experience I had just today in recruiting.  I received a resume from a potential candidate for an open position.  After reviewing his Linkedin profile, I did not feel he would be a good fit. Knowing that people are not one dimensional, I decided to interview him to find out if there was more to him than just his resume portrayed. Within two minutes of speaking with him, he identified that he did not have the critical criteria required of the position. Not wanting to waste his or my time, we thanked one another and ended the phone call. He was not the right fit, and no was the right answer. Shortly thereafter, he emailed me the following, “Thanks for your time just now.  I genuinely appreciate you curtailing the call–like a skilled salesperson, you know when to say no.” I hope that my three very different examples will help you take pause and look more closely at when to say no to a customer/potential customer. We shouldn’t always be so eager to say yes to everyone about everything.


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.