When to Say ‘NO!’ to a New Client Prospect by @renegadeplanner

Photo Credit: boltron- via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: boltron- via Compfight cc

by Jessica Oman

As a new entrepreneur, it’s hard to say no to new business. But not all revenue is good revenue, and part of becoming a good business owner is to learn when taking on a new client will help you build a stronger business, and when a prospect is likely to drag you down. As a service professional, you must know how to recognize and handle signals that a prospect just isn’t that into you – and stop potential issues before they start.

How to Handle Red Flags

If the first question out of a prospect’s mouth is “what’s your price”, that’s a red flag. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re cheap – but it does mean that they have no other metric to compare you against their other options. So you have to educate them. If you’re willing to take the time to do that, you can masterfully handle this red flag.

Other red flags include endless questions about how you deliver your services, resistance against your payment policies, downward pressure on price, or unreasonably short expectations for deadlines. If a prospect asks you how old you are, requests personal details that don’t affect your ability to do the work, or asks any other questions that make you feel uncomfortable, it’s a good indication that the behaviour will continue into your business relationship. Nip these issues in the bud before you sign any contracts or accept any payment, and you might gain significant respect from this new client, which can lead to a successful project.

You don’t have to turn down a prospect just because they raise red flags, but you do need to deal with those signals before they become larger issues. If your attempts are unsuccessful, however, you’re probably better off to let this one slip away.

When to Say No

If you’ve made a fair attempt to handle your prospect’s concerns and they are still pressuring you with more questions, that’s a signal that you might not be a good fit to work together. As you become more experienced, you’ll start to get a sense of how long it typically takes you to convert a lead to a customer. If someone is dragging out that sales cycle abnormally long, you’re usually better off to let that prospect go and focus your energy towards finding clients who more easily see the benefits of working with you.

You don’t need to feel selfish about turning certain clients away. More often than not, saying ‘no’ to a prospect who isn’t a good fit means they will go off to find a better solution for their specific needs – and that’s a GOOD thing. If you want the best for the prospects that come your way, you should be able to recognize that sometimes you can’t provide that – whether it’s because your expertise isn’t what they need, or your prices don’t fit their budget, or it’s just not the right time for them to work with you.

What’s the strangest red flag you’ve ever received from a potential client – and how did you handle it?


Jessica OmanWhen Jessica isn’t busy helping her clients start and grow businesses that earn them a 6-figure income, she’s road-tripping in the USA with her hubby and pooch, or developing her appreciation for a good West Coast IPA. You can find out exactly how she turned $200 into a 6-figure business in two years, and how you can do the same thing, by clicking here.

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5 Replies to “When to Say ‘NO!’ to a New Client Prospect by @renegadeplanner”

  1. Kristin

    I love this post! I am currently dealing with turning prospects away and how to tell them that they are either too cheap or not desperate enough for my credit services. I received 5 emails, 10 texts and 6 calls this week with the only question of “what’s the cost/price of your services?”. I realized that those who search based off price are not interested in the long term results of what I do and are not right for my business. I’m now at a place where I can say “no” and turn someone away. Another thing you wrote brought to mind a prospect that initiated a chat session on my website and literally asked 47 questions (I counted them!). Too many questions, dude. I gave him the proof that was requested by directing him to the proof of services page. I gave him the proof that he wanted by directing him to my testimonials & reviews page which even has video testimonials by clients. It was not enough for him. I was so aggravated when he asked to speak with some of my current clients after I answered all of his questions! I finally told him that he is not a fit for my service and turned him away politely. Thanks for the post!

  2. Cendrine Marrouat

    Great and timely article! Thank you!

    I think, most of the time, it’s a lack of education on the part of the client. They don’t really know what to expect because they haven’t done much research…

    But, yes, saying NO can be very beneficial at times. I had rather have one big client who respects my work and terms, than 10 who just care about getting a cheap deal.

    1. Jessica

      Yes, I think you’re right – often the client needs a bit of education. But it doesn’t mean you have to provide it. Sometimes it can work out great, as in the comment from Kris above, but this type of ‘education’ can also come across as desperation – and that’s definitely a signal you don’t want to give off!

  3. KrisWithaK

    This is great! When I first started out, I was willing to do anything for anyone and the price issue was really really sticky.

    I remember one potential client being shocked by my (way way way too low) price for website copy. I offered her a coaching relationship instead, because of my background as a teacher (and because of my desperation to not lose a client), and she ended up learning through the process that writing website copy is pretty tough.

    She ended up valuing my services all the more because of it, and she called me within 6 months to do work for her – at whatever price I quoted.

    It was a pretty nice ending to the story. Even though all of it was a happy accident, I’ve learned a lot about how to teach clients through their resistance.

    Thanks for the great article!


    1. Jessica

      I love this – you educated your client AND you got paid for it. Nice work! That’s a great way to turn a non-ideal customer into an ideal one by helping her get over her sticker shock and learn to value your work.

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