Often, the resources available for a project are not enough to do justice to the client.  Lack of time, resources and other commitments may make it impossible for you to do the job, no matter how much you may want to. Ethically, in such situations, it is in the client’s and well as your best interest to say ‘no’ and not accept the work.

Given the focus of businesses on building a bigger client base, usually they shy away from saying ‘no’ to the client. Often, they don’t even realize that they are overburdened. It is tempting for businesses to take on the client’s project and hope that it somehow gets done in time. They are blinded by money or the fear of losing valuable customers.

When it is essential to say ‘no’ to client, businesses need to do so in a diplomatic way to avoid jeopardizing long term business relations with the client. Here are some practical ways to do so:

  1. Do not respond immediately to a client’s request. Give it some thought, check your work schedule and then come up with a realistic work completion plan, before you take on the project.
  2. Respond clearly and politely, so that the client understands that you won’t be able to work on the project. Explain the reasons because of which you will not be able to work on the project. This will help the clients to better understand why you are refusing the project. For example, sayingI wish I could say yes. Unfortunately, because of the current work load, I can’t complete the project effectively and on time. So, I am forced to say no to your project.” sounds better than simply saying “I cannot take this project.” Avoid using negative or offensive expressions, such as ‘It is unreasonable …” or “It is impossible to …”. Use positive language when responding to a client. Saying We’d love to do this project, however …” is a gentle way of declining the client’s project.
  3. Always give alternatives to the clientKeep a waiting list, and let your clients know when you will be free to work on their project. Give them a clear waiting time, such as one week or one month, and an approximate date on which you can begin work on their project.
  4. Provide recommendations – In case you do not have the expertise or resources to do the project, let the clients know that they have the wrong person. If possible, recommend other professionals who can do it. Sometimes, a client might be in a hurry or under pressure, and need the services immediately. A recommendation of alternative service providers will not only help the clients but in the long run, it will also strengthen your business relations with them.
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