In my last article, ‘The Answer You Need: Part One,” I explained how we at Astound Commerce build trust with our clients through honest communication and always delivering on what we promise. In Part Two, I’ll look at why we sometimes need to communicate “No” to help our clients get to an ultimate yes, and we’ll explore the benefits of our approach.
The key to “The Astound Way” is to help clients understand why the answer is no and what needs to be altered to make it into a yes. When we do this effectively, our clients end up appreciating the honesty and understanding the reality of the circumstances, and they invariably take the journey with us happy that we were direct and clear, and that we took the time to communicate.
As it happens, we are all very busy and we work in an industry that moves very quickly—and given the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands on that industry, and on all of us as individuals, have never been more intense. Still, whenever a new or ongoing client approaches us to help implement their initiatives, we always have the best intentions of saying yes. But we also have to be careful, thoughtful and smart, and to that end, sometimes saying no is better than agreeing to something we are unlikely to deliver on successfully.
The timing of when to say no is very important. No is never the first thing we say, but we’re committed to not saying yes and later coming back with a no, since that damages the trust that we’ve built with the client.
Instead, when we receive a challenging request, we usually take a timeout, tell the customer that we’ll review the request and get back to them (within a specified timeline) with a considered opinion on what can be done. Each request is evaluated individually or with a team based on timing and scope of the request, workload, priorities, and ability to renegotiate those priorities.
If we believe that we cannot accommodate a client’s request as it was originally stated, we do say no. Here is how we do that without damaging the relationship or compromising our values.
Whenever we need to tell a client that we can’t accommodate their request, we always provide information to them about what could be altered in the request, so that we can accommodate it. It may be timing, scope of work, or budget. At the very least, we express our willingness to work on understanding the request better and helping the client adjust it, so that we can still achieve their goals while working within realistic limitations.
Very often we may not fully know the background of the request, so we may ask questions like:
- What business need is driving this request?
- Why is the timeline important?
- Would it be acceptable to fulfill only part of the request within the specified timeline and the rest at a later point?
These questions are important to get answers to and will likely further build the relationship, enhancing understanding on both sides. And when we can change the dynamic like this, time and time again, what may have been a no often becomes a resounding yes.