The upsides of saying “no”

“Yes” is a great, positive word. There’s nothing better than getting that “yes” from your prospects that miraculously turns them into clients. “Yes” puts food on the table and that’s why it’s really easy to assume that its counterpart – a small, underappreciated “no” will have exactly the opposite effect. You rarely hear about the upsides of saying “no”.

We get many inquiries thanks to all of our inbound marketing efforts and, even taking into account that I rarely use my email for saving children around the world by the sheer power of a “forward” button, quite a lot of emails are getting sent. My job revolves around handling all the leads, filtering them out to figure out which of these are prospects and then preparing quotes with the help of our senior developers, basically everything leading up to signing the agreements. Essentially, the whole lead to prospect to client process. After that, project managers take over.

So, you can imagine there’s much communication going on to determine their needs and to see if we’d be a good match for their projects. There are many hurdles along the way (budget vs. our rates being the most common one), but you all know that feeling when you finally land a deal. It’s great and exhilarating – your efforts were worthwhile. And that’s clearly the best case scenario.

But, let’s get back to when that dreaded “no” comes into play. More often than not, leads will be the ones saying this word, but there are times when you have to be the one to say it, even to those you know might turn into a very good client down the road. So, why would you do that? You might simply be swamped, which is a great thing, but what if a great opportunity comes along at a time when you simply don’t have a single developer to spare?

It’s simple – play it fair. Be honest, tell the prospect what’s your availability and clearly let them know when you’d be able to start working with them. Of course, this requires having a clear overview of all your projects and good planning skills, but not many things are worse than promising what you can’t deliver. Don’t stall the communication and just remember how WYSIWYG makes life much easier.

But make sure your “no” doesn’t feel like “never again”. Don’t leave your prospects hanging, offer them some alternatives – send them directly to some of your partners or companies you believe can help them out. If you don’t have anyone that springs to mind, let them know about some places where they can find more resources. A huge must – give them information on when you expect to become available again and, if possible, offer them ways to stay in touch (the option to subscribe to your newsletter is nice if you have one).

And, above all, don’t forget to follow up in a month or two to see what’s happening. The follow-up alone has brought us a couple of projects recently.

So, what are the good things that can come out of saying “no”?

  • you’ll put out a professional vibe – instead of getting your grip on a project and then overloading your developers only to see your overall quality of work go down the drain, just be honest and let them know you simply don’t have the resources to meet their deadlines – they will appreciate it as they can quickly move on
  • you’ll have more time – just make sure you invest it in something you feel useful, and if time=money, turns out that by saying “no” you’re actually in a position to earn more down the road… funny, isn’t it?
  • you’ll “spread the wealth” – you should always give your prospects some alternatives after saying “no” and help your fellow developers get a piece of the cake

And there you go. I dare you to say “no” the first time you get the chance, and truly mean it. Many good things can happen…

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  1. A busy company is also one that people will wonder about and come back to. Especially if there other developer company doesn’t come through as expected.

    Being realistic with your customers and managing their expectations is key.

  2. Great post Aron. Whenever I look at highrise, I admire your organization skills and ability to talk with a lot of prospects simultaneously.

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