Why the Word ‘NO’ Must Be in Your Business Vocabulary

When we first get into business, we say yes to everything.

Am I going to work on the weekend? Yes.

Will I do a speech for a reduced fee? Yes.

Might I try every idea that comes my way? Probably yes.

However, once you have circled the block a time or two, you start to gain confidence. With that confidence comes the realization that there are certain things that you just don’t want to do anymore. This is when the word ‘NO’ must come into play in your business, and you will soon see that it has the power to build your business, not stunt its growth.

The Power of ‘NO’ and When to Use It

When I first started out in business, I followed the lead of other coaches who offered a free sample coaching session. I did this for about a year and then realized that all this was accomplishing was filling up my calendar with tire kickers, or people who were never going to invest in my services. So, I said ‘NO’ to offering free coaching and moved to a paid introductory session. Now when someone pays $247 for a Focus 40 session, the odds are much higher they are a solid prospect for me.

Say ‘NO’ to Low or No Fee Speaking Gigs

The first “NO” in your business should go to low or no fee speaking gigs. Saying no to these types of speaking gigs is like a muscle, it takes some time to build, but once you have done the work, it is worth it. Once you begin to say no, you are teaching your clients how to treat you. To help you move into the space of saying no and negotiating fees, create a list of your top 5 reasons you would negotiate your fees and post it on your bulletin board. If a prospect you are speaking with does not meet the five reasons on the list, then you simply say no.

A meeting planner in the University market said to me recently, “I could not believe how little a fee the speaker accepted.” The worst posture in a negotiation is one that says “I will take that gig at any fee.” You would be surprised how often the client will find the money if they really want you, so be prepared to negotiate and give some push back until your terms are met. If they are not, then just say ‘NO.’

If you run into a situation where you are stuck in negotiations, try using professional speaker Mark Sanborn’s technique for moving past negotiating fees. Here’s what Mark suggests:

“When I say no, I try to say “but here’s what I can do instead…” I use that if the relationship is important but the request unworkable. If we cannot come up with something, I say, “Will you do me a favor and allow me to say no?” Technically, it is my decision, but it is a nod towards civility and good will.”

Say ‘NO’ to Others Being in Charge of Your Calendar

When you start to pick up momentum, it is easy to lose control of your calendar. Just remember that clients, the bureaus, or whomever you are working with don’t own you. Set blackout periods on your calendar and stick to them or else you will find yourself always on the edge of burnout.

Here’s professional speaker Shep Hyken’s advice on when to say no to engagements:

“I am willing to say “NO” to events that interfere with personal plans. For example, at the beginning of my career, I would take bookings that forced me to leave a vacation early or miss it completely. There were other family and personal events I missed. Over time, as my business developed, confidence and financial ability gave me the option of saying NO to those engagements that interfered with those plans.”

Say ‘NO’ to Being All Things to Your Clients

If you have serviced your clients well, you will likely have some who ask you back again and again. With this, you may be tempted to wade into topic areas that are not your lane to appease them. In these situations, you will serve the client more by saying ‘NO’ and letting them know they will be better off bringing in someone else with more expertise on the topic.

There is some freedom that comes in partnering with others, so find individuals who complement your area of expertise and whom you have comfort in referring and develop a mutual relationship with them. I realize that there is a bit of fear involved in doing this, but once you move past that fear, it can be liberating.

Professional speaker, Lisa Ford, offers this advice on when to say ‘NO’ to repeat clients:

“When a repeat client wants me too many years in a row, I know they need more new stuff and a new perspective. My best content has most likely been delivered to them, and I do not want to disappoint. It would be nice to have the date but not worth it in the long run.”

Whether it is saying no to freebies, to selling products in the back of the room, or leaving vacation early for a gig, over time, you will settle in and develop your ‘NO’ muscle. Trust me when I say this,  you will be happier because of it.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!

Jane Atkinson

  • LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this article Jane….thank you for sharing!
    NO is indeed a powerful word and on that makes us all the stronger. Thanks again!

    • speakerlauncher

      Thanks Jen, I think it’s a muscle that you have to get used to using. Especially if you say YES to everything.