In business and especially in any IT related business it’s all too easy to become a free consultant, people will come to you with all of their problems and ask you for solutions. I’ve been there myself and sat there with a prospect and laid out a perfect solution to their problem and then walked away with nothing, I’ve basically been used as a free consultant. This happens to people because “No” is a very powerful word and it can be difficult to tell people “No”, especially if you are worried about closing sales and burning bridges. Most of us fall into the category of people pleasers. The truth is, saying no rarely hurts, rarely burns bridges and can actually help if you know how to do it.

Evaluate the Circumstances

We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason so that we can listen, so listen carefully to the other person and let them finish speaking before blurting out “no”. Try not to interrupt the person speaking with a no even if you are thinking it. By listening carefully to the other person, you’ll have plenty of time to evaluate the circumstances, including your own feelings. Make sure you play special attention if someone is pulling your emotional strings. This is always a good time to step back and instead of saying no, tell the person you need to give it some thought.

Avoid Detailed Excuses

In sales 101 you are taught to ask for an order and to shut up as the first one that speaks generally loses. This also applies when saying no, there is no need to give a very detailed excuse about why you cannot do something, so restraint yourself and don’t because you might just end up talking yourself into it. There is absolutely no reason to be upset or worried if you need to say no. A simple “This is not the right time for me, but please ask me again in the future” (assuming you want to be asked again) will suffice.

Never Lie

Another reason not to go into too much detail about your “no” answer is that people often tell lies to try and soften a no. If you lie, chances are you’ll end up caught in the lie and of course, that’s the best way to burn bridges and end up with someone that doesn’t trust you anymore. “No I can’t do that project because I have too many projects right now” won’t look so great you then announce the next day on social media that you are having a sale, and want more projects. It’s best to just be upfront and honest and tell the person no politely… another good way is to simply say “I don’t think this is just right for me and I’m sure someone else could help you better”.

Stick to Your Guns

Some people have a hard time taking no for an answer. They know it’s hard for you to say no and they will play on that, especially if they know you’re a people

pleaser. If you’ve taken the time to think about your answer before giving it and did not just blurt out no, then there is no reason to change your mind. Just stick to the no and explain the initial reasons once more, and state that this is unlikely to change so please not to ask you again.

Redirect and Recommend

A really great way to say no is to deflect the problem to someone else. If you can redirect the questioner to someone else and recommend a person who might be able to say yes, so much the better. Then you become a valuable resource to the person/business rather than someone who has said no. You said no, but you gave them a lead on someone who may be able to do it even better.

Finally, try not to make “no” your first answer. It’s okay to say that you need to think about something and to ask questions before giving an answer one way or another. It’s also okay to say no to something after having given it considerable thought. No is not a bad thing to say, if you can learn to say it respectfully and with thoughtful consideration of the other parties involved.

It’s also possible to turn a no into a yes, simply by charging the person asking… try it, the next time you are tempted to say no to giving free advice, say yes I can help you, it’ll cost you xxx for my professional advice.

How to Say “No” without Burning Bridges
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