How to be a better partner for clients and customers by learning to say “no”

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Very few areas of life have not been touched by Covid-19, especially in the business world. At the start of the crisis, for example, we saw customers abandon brand loyalty as items flew off the shelves and shoppers switched to online channels. This is a fairly common cycle – as circumstances change, people explore other options because that process helps them determine if their current option is indeed suitable.

Unfortunately, this experimentation has real consequences for companies. A survey of small business owners found 82% lost their most profitable customer after Covid-19 engulfed the nation. And while Paycheck Protection Program loans have injected cash into hundreds of thousands of small businesses to keep their paychecks, many still haven’t been able to keep their doors open. By July 2020, just five months after the initial freeze, an analysis estimated that over $ 1 billion in PPP loans had gone to defunct businesses.

These kinds of statistics aren’t exactly comforting for small business owners and entrepreneurs, and as a result, many have decided to go out of their way for their clients in hopes of keeping them long-term. But while I understand the feeling, becoming a yes-man won’t have the effect you want.

Related: I spoke my way to make $ 50,000. That’s why it was a good deal Decisio

The art of saying “no”

When increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits anywhere from 25% to a whopping 95%, it’s natural to want to fulfill every request with a confident “goodbye!” But customer requests cannot always be met exactly as intended, and it is dangerous to try to insert a square peg into a round hole.

As the leader of a software company, I’ve seen time and time again that customers generally know what kind of results they want, but sometimes their demands and desired results aren’t the same. In these cases, we have to be good partner and reject. Business leaders looking to improve their retention should adopt a similar mindset, focusing their effects on being a good partner, not a flatterer.

However, saying “no” can be tricky, so here are some strategies you can use to push back without pushing customers out the door.

Related: the 4 key principles of any successful partnership

1. Set the scene

In my business, I’ve found that the best way to ensure client projects don’t go astray is to set clear expectations upfront. At the start of each project, we take the time to ask investigative questions that go to the heart of what the client is trying to accomplish. Typically, this will prevent us from going the path of doing something just because the client has asked us to, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the project’s goals. That openness about why we can or can’t do something sets the tone for the whole relationship.

Also discuss any what-if: what if the project fails? What if you go over budget? And what will happen if things go wrong? As you progress through the project stages, be sure to check in regularly with your client or client. Sometimes, the scope and expectations of a project change, and that’s okay, but you need to make sure you update the contract along with these changes to protect your business.

2. Get radical

You are an expert in your field, but it is a mistake to behave as you know Everything. So when a customer makes an unrealizable request, resist the urge to be brutally honest about how bad the idea of ​​him is. That kind of hateful aggression will make you look arrogant and rude. Instead, he works to establish mutual trust by developing a relationship based on radical candor, a communication style popularized by author Kim Scott in 2017.

In short, practitioners of radical candor are able to challenge people at the same time while still showing that they care. Traditionally, this style of communication has been applied to supervisor-employee relationships, but it’s just as relevant to customers and clients. A customer request may be nearly impossible to fulfill, and you need to communicate it in a way that demonstrates it that you have their best interests at heart. It’s about emphasizing how a particular path could potentially sabotage their long-term success, and since you’re framing that “no” in a way that shows you care about their future, the point is more likely to come.

Related: 3 ways that putting relationships first will get you ahead in business

3. Offer alternatives

Apple is arguably one of the best examples of a company that knows how to develop a seamless customer experience, even in the complicated world of technology. Its Genius Bar employees, who assist customers with technology problems, use the three Fs – feel, perceive and find – to empathize with frustrated customers. Then, they use the APPLE mnemonic (which stands for approach, probe, present, listen and end) to guide customers to a conclusion they believe is theirs.

When you need to turn down a customer idea or request in your business, you should always have a workaround waiting in the wings. Being a true partner, after all, means acting as a resource. And when it comes to offering choices, research from the University of Minnesota shows that three is the magic number.

Businesses are rushing to foster better customer retention because happy customers are their biggest sellers and their biggest supporters. But saying “yes” to every request and idea won’t get you there. Instead, learn how to gently repel your customers or clients using the tips above and watch transactional relationships turn into lasting partnerships.

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