Saying “No” is More Valuable than Saying “Yes” – 4 Reasons Why

Exclusivity is More Valuable than Inclusivity

Nobody wants to be left out of the “cool kids” club. When your prospects understand that you don’t take everyone’s business, there is an immediate, subconscious desire to overcome whatever obstacles you’ve prepared for them. If you started your next sales pitch with something like, “Before I tell you what we do, I want you to know that we don’t work with everyone,” you immediately transform your business into one of those clubs that have bouncers with clipboards and very, very long lines of people eager to get in. Why are those people eager to get in? It has nothing to do with the quality of what’s inside. In fact, I’d venture to guess that there is very little real difference between a club with a bouncer and a club without one, except for the bouncer and the long lines.

This concept is not new by any means. It’s just really hard to bring yourself to say those words at the very beginning of your sales pitch. You’re thinking, “I’m trying to attract as much business as possible, not scare it away.” That is the great irony – exclusivity attracts more business than it turns away, and the business that it attracts tends to be better clientele anyway. You want more, better business? Say “no” more often (or at least make people believe that you could say no).

Personality is More Valuable than Universal Charm

You won’t make it big without ruffling a few feathers. You don’t become king without making a few enemies. You and your message will not please everyone; in fact it will upset a few people. The key is to be ok with that.

Many business owners are so petrified of offending their prospects that it holds them back from being themselves in their marketing, messaging, and delivery. And yet those business owners that are truly successful are those that don’t really care who they upset, because they have a vision and they are hell-bent on making it come to life. What would Apple be today if Steve Jobs cared so much about pleasing everyone that he was always trying not to offend anyone? It probably bankrupt, if we’re being real. Steve Jobs knew what he was going to do, and he went for it. If people didn’t like him, they could go buy a PC for all he cared. He had a vision, and he saw it through.

Don’t let the irrational fear of losing future business keep you from being who you are.

Sometimes Scaling Down is More Valuable than Scaling up

37 Signals, the company that brought you such productivity platforms as Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire, recently made some changes that seemed to go against all conventional wisdom. They scaled their products down. They have some of the best minds in programing and productivity, and instead of using that to add features to their product, they used it to take many of those features away. They scaled Basecamp back to its barest state, and have been slowly rebuilding it (emphasis on slowly). Most people (myself included) thought they were crazy to pull that much functionality out of their product. What happened, though, was pretty amazing.

Not only did the process of getting at the deepest core of the product make the product infinitely better, it allowed 37 Signals as a company to become a trusted authority on productivity in general. Just as Steve Jobs’ obsession with design not only improved his product, but made him a benchmark of design, 37 Signals solidified themselves as a company that not only makes amazing productivity software, but one that deeply understands productivity itself.

Sometimes getting the product right is better than making the product bigger. And getting the product right almost always requires scaling it way down.

Confidence in Self is Infinitely More Valuable than Respect (read fear) of Prospect and Customer

Have you ever been to a trade show, talking to a prospective customer, and found yourself fearfully defending your prices, afraid that you might have to give a discount in order to win that business? If you provide an excellent product or service, you should never be apologizing to your prospects or customers about pricing, delivery, methods, any of that. You need to be confident in yourself, and by extension your business. Don’t give discounts as a means to win business. Don’t throw in pointless bonuses because you are afraid of your own prices. There is nothing wrong with discounting or value added bonuses, but you can’t hide behind them as a justification for your pricing.

Part of this comes because you are afraid that you need your customers more than they need you. Therefore, you bend over backwards to satisfy them, and you end up getting taken advantage of. But neither you nor your prospects actually need for you to do that. As soon as your prospects realize that they need you more than you need them, they will flock to you. Your job should be to help them realize that, but you have to be confident in that fact first.

Steve Jobs knew that the world needed his genius way more than he needed any of us. And he was right.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” to potential business.


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Bret MartineauComment