They say that as you get older, you become wiser.
I’d like to think there’s a truth to that.
We increasingly become a better judge of ourselves and of others. We individually know — more than anyone else — which types of people we naturally get on well with, and which ones we don’t.
So why do we (still) make ourselves work with people we don’t want to?.
Don’t be so hard on yourself
Part of adulthood is the acceptance that in order to make a living, we have to earn money, and the only way to do so is to work. At least, that’s the case for the overwhelming majority of the human population.
But you’ve also experienced those “I don’t want to go to work today” days, haven’t you?
That demotivation and possible dread is, sadly, normalised. Somehow there’s a universal acceptance around what professionalism entails. One of which is working with people we do not like because that is just “part of life”. While there is truth to that, that conditioned belief does more harm than good; the toll this takes on your mental health and overall work productivity can be immense.
Be “(more) picky” when courting clients
By being selective about which clients you work with, you can increase client retention, profitability and value of your business, as well as staff satisfaction — all of which are essential for success.
Who you accept, and which clients you choose to continue with, should not be a random process. Have a formal process with a recognised criteria list in place of what you will not accept. To help you with this, here are some red flags to watch out for when courting clients:
- Repeatedly missing appointments or showing up late
- Responds late to your messages or emails more than not. Sometimes, not even responding at all
- Forgetting/’forgetting’ to return your phone calls
- Too vague about project details such as timeline
- Too demanding
- They don’t have the budget or are not honestly disclosing their budget
You may have experienced some of these. You may even be able to add more to that list. But thinking of those experiences, did you have a knowing that things would not work before it did not?
Let those scenarios serve as reasons why you should trust your gut instinct (more).
The instinct is alway ahead of the logical brain, so saying “no” is not about “being picky”, but being attuned.
Trust yourself and tune in to your alignment
Your instinct is intertwined with your values.
We, as humans, are all complex social beings. What makes us individual is our set of values and beliefs. They dictate our behaviours and our perceptions — from what we communicate to what we consciously choose to not communicate to what the unconscious plays out in our daily interactions.
So it’s important to look at yourself.
Look at your current business relationships? What are the common qualities and behavioural patterns that show up from the clients’ side? What do they say about you? Why do you need these, especially if it is not in a healthy alignment with you?
How to know when to take the risk and when to not — and with whom — is a tricky personal judgement if you do not trust yourself. If you do not trust that by letting go you can redirect your energy and resources in more productive directions, then you will remain stagnant.
Trust yourself to become more than what you are now.
The art of saying ‘no’ to clients who are not a right fit for you
- Be courteous: Start the business conversation by sincerely thanking the client for choosing to do business with you: This sets a positive tone. Keep it that way as you have a reputation to protect.
- Ask to better understand their needs: What is their ideal outcome? Is it attainable with you onboard? This can bring up relevant issues and opportunities for you to advise better.
- Expectations must be clear to both parties: Be specific about what you can deliver, and when. Plus, what do you also need from them to make the collaboration work? Include the wider team on both sides by sending an informative email.
- Be honest about why you’re saying “no”: What project factors are shaping your decision?
- Have empathy as you set boundaries with demanding clients: Be understanding and firm in your decision. This is more testing in hard “no’s” scenarios, but you can only give what you can.
- When you know you cannot entirely fulfil their demands, offer alternatives: Offer other solutions that your business delivers. If this doesn’t satisfy them, then recommend other businesses that would be more fitting. This will reduce any sour feelings present.
- After some time, check in with the soft “no ‘’ clients about their progress: Be mindful that just because something did not work out before, doesn’t mean to say it won’t in the future. It can be a temporary separation. You may even reach out to them when you’re the one ready to fulfil their requests.
You have more control than you think
If you feel saying “no” is uncomfortable, then know that it is because of society’s conditioning. However, this will reverse as your positive experiences proves those expectations wrong. But in order for that to happen you must put work into practice.
The transition will not be swift. Isn’t that always the case with important life lessons? How else do you master them? Don’t be concerned about the pace of your growth. Be confident that you will experience improvements in your work performance and productivity as you become more mindful of how you treat others, and yourself, of course.
As much as business relationships are about co-creation, it is you who determines how you reach and how you work in your alignment. That is where you will find your optimum best as a professional.