9 Clear Signs on Knowing When to Say “NO” to Clients

Ouch. This is a tough one. We know. As a business owner, you may feel like you can help everyone with your products and services but the hard truth is, you can’t. You’ll get the opportunity and may have already experienced what it’s like to work with amazing clientele. But on the other side of that coin, you’ve learned or will soon enough, how to endure through the rudest of rude, unreasonable, unsatisfiable and every other “un” word used to describe difficult individuals and situations. This is inevitable to some degree but one way to take some of your power back in these instances is to say “NO” from the beginning, before going down the rabbit hole. Regardless of the money, you’re receiving for your services, all business is not good business. Here are 9 clear signs of knowing when to say NO to clients.

1. When their attitude and energy is questionable before working with you…

Say “no”. If you have an initial meeting with someone and they seem too skeptical, annoyed, bothered, doubtful or are certain they can find someone better (or believe they can do it themselves) than you (the expert) to do the job, politely decline, briefly state your reasonings ( ex: based on our conversation today, it sounds like you’re uncomfortable starting the project at this time and may have some other options in mind and that’s okay…) and move on with your business life.

2. When money is an issue upfront…

Say “no”. If your new or potential client immediately goes into a story of money woes, goes above and beyond to dig out nonexistent discounts or has an outstanding invoice with you already, you may want to reconsider working with them; especially after you’ve already given your financing options and resources to assist with their project. If you feel you’ll be chasing this particular client for payments, just say “no” from the beginning or offer/refer them to a more cost friendly alternative that fits their needs.

3. When you were warned…

This may sound a little rudimentary to some but listening to forewarning about a potential client could end up being your saving grace. To the customer, the customer is always right but after they get what they want and leave, the real judgments weigh in. While technical glitches do occur, many times it’s not an online shop owners fault when a customer purchases more than one or the wrong item. The said customer just wasn’t paying attention?. But at the end of the day, most would refund or exchange the order to resolve the problem and satisfy the customer, all for the sake of keeping the business’s good reputation going. A perfectly good strategy in most cases. However, if you’ve been given a heads-up on an unruly potential client that ultimately has a problem with everyone they work with and makes it their business to leave a trail of destruction behind, calm the storm before it starts be saying “no” up front.

4. When they refuse to listen…

We all know those “know-it-all” individuals that have absorbed all the knowledge there is to know on the planet and couldn’t possibly learn something new from another person ?. So ask yourself if working with this type of individual will be worth your time and if you don’t mind them being hellbent on having their way. If not, say “no”.

5. When they contact you after hours…frequently

Boundaries are important. Now say it out loud: BOUNDARIES ARE IMPORTANT. But at the end of the day, you’re the one that has to determine them (stay tuned for a future post on this). If you’ve developed a culture where your clients can contact you or your team any time of day or night then skip to #6. But if you’re trying to work your way out of this habit or doing your best not to enter it, then establish your contact hours and methods early on and follow-through with them. If your potential client feels entitled to sole availability, you may want to consider saying “no”.

6. When they show up announced or uninvited…

This behavior is very unprofessional and could even be seen as threatening to some. If you’re not okay with clients or potential clients showing up out of the blue (outside of your normal business operations, i.e. appointments and meetings) please address it with them immediately.

7. When they’re the expert…

You’ve had the training. You powered through the failures. You have the experience and expertise in your field. It’s why your clients sought you out right? Of course, it is! So if you’re working with someone that critiques and complains about your area of expertise more than they’re willing to let you guide, say “no”.

8. When they’re never available…

You may only need a little of their input for the duration of the project but if the client or a representative is never available, at any time, to meet virtually or in person on any platform EVER about THEIR project then it may be in your best interest to say “no”. After all, you’re not a mind reader.

9. When they don’t know what they want…

If your business doesn’t center around helping people find clarity in their lives, business or brand, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to work with clients that don’t know what they want to do in their own business. It’s not uncommon for people to take time in finding their groove or niche. But if you’re not willing to make the investment into helping them find it, then again, just politely decline their offer and or refer them to someone else that can help.

Remember, these are just some of our red flags to help you identify potential problem areas with clients. Every case is different, so do your best to discern your situation and do what’s right for your business. For more help with clients or business administration, check out the SHS Services page here.

At Your Service,


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