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Yes or No?

How many times have you been put on the spot for a request or a favor and said “yes” to someone even though your first instinct was to tell them no? We’ve all done it and especially when it comes to sales. Anyone trying to sell or maintain business or keep friends is constantly on a mission to please others. 

Even if the word “no” is rattling around our brain at breakneck speed, we are conditioned from childhood to be agreeable and the word “yes” comes flying out of our mouth.

Being in the restoration business, we are frequently asked to assist where someone was hit with an unforeseen problem. We can help almost every time but there are those situations where we have to say “no.”

If you’ve made promises you shouldn’t have, you know the following scenario. Someone calls you to help them out because they’re in a predicament. Even though you’re booked solid, already spread too thin, it’s last minute, it’s out of your territory, it’s not your core business, it’s not going to be profitable or one of fifty other business or personal possibilities, you agree and say “yes” anyway.

Two weeks later, you’re back on the phone with this person trying to explain how things went south. You’re watching fistfuls of dollars leap out the window, three of your great customers were inconvenienced by this last minute favor, your coworkers are mad at you and everyone is stressed out. Talk about a dollar chasing a dime.

The real misfortune here is you said “yes” when you should have said “no” because you wanted to be liked or have a chance of getting someone’s future business. Despite your good intentions, your name is now only spoken followed by a curse and any chance of future business has vanished.  

All because you didn’t say that little two-letter word “no.”

Telling someone no isn’t easy as we all want to please others and be the helpful hero. Nobody likes to reject people or appear rude, and we all want to be liked. So how do you tell someone no without being the bad guy?

First, it’s important to know whether you can legitimately satisfy someone’s request without creating more problems. If you’re only going to make matters worse by saying yes, you must identify that situation as soon as possible. Don’t expect the person making the request to see this lack of alignment as they likely wouldn’t have asked in the first place had they known. 

Think of it like the drowning man scenario: if the request is going to drown you both, it’s best you say “no” or better yet, help them find another lifeguard. Be direct, and don’t fabricate your reasons as that can cost you all credibility. Quickly explain how you’re not their best option without sounding apologetic. Saying “no” and being truthful about why you’re saying “no” has power. If you can help, great, dive in!

You may need to restate your reasons and say no a few more times, but be respectful and understanding to their request. Try to find a viable option for them even if you have to get back to them in a day or two. If you can’t find an option then so be it, but they will likely appreciate the honesty and effort. Which in the end lets you say “no” and remain in someone’s good graces.

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at mike@pbirestores.com.