Yes? No? You’d better know what choice is right for you.


Whether you use a clarity-through-contrast exercise or some other method to identify and acknowledge your strengths, presumably you now know just what you have to offer clients. But that’s not enough; you also need to clearly convey that message to the right people. In other words, if you’re serious about creating a thriving business, you must:

  1. Unapologetically claim your strengths and expertise.
  2. Say “no” to less-than-ideal clients.

As with so many business-building strategies, this is sometimes easier said than done.

Is YES the right choice?

Is NO the right choice?







You may be one of the many entrepreneurs who still get sucked into the trap of thinking that, if you honestly and confidently claim your strengths, you’re bragging.

Not. Not! Not!

If you don’t say what you’re good at, you’re denying your ideal clients the chance to realize you’re the solution they’ve been desperately searching for. On top of that, you’re being a self-sabotaging hypocrite. After all, if you weren’t pretty darn sure you’ve got skills people are willing to pay for, it never would have occurred to you to to into business in the first place, right? Let’s not get all falsely modest now.


Sometimes ‘good’ is NOT good enough.


But, at the same time, don’t get carried away in thinking that you “should” or “have to” agree to work with just anyone who comes along. Working with your less-than-ideal client does both of you a disservice.

The client loses out because:

You lose out because:

So…How do you exercise your right and responsibility to say “no” to prospects who are not right for you so that you’ve got the space to say “yes” to those who are? Here are several tactics that will make it easier.


Identify and respect your deal breakers.

You know what those are: the characteristics that drive you nuts. If you go ahead and sign a prospect who sports one or more of these traits, you’ve just invited a Client From Hell into your life. And you would do this…why?

For example, I’m clear that my deal breakers include clients who whine, already know it all, and are the masters of “Yes, but…”. If I detect any of these traits in our get-acquainted call, I save myself a lot of heartache by stepping away. (Or maybe I should be honest and say that I run away.)


Prepare ways to gracefully decline to work with them.

I strongly encourage my clients to prepare and practice, well in advance, specific words they’ll use in potentially awkward situations. (I think it’s fair to say that breaking the news to a prospect that you choose not to work with her qualifies as “potentially awkward”. )

The key here is “specific words prepared and practiced well in advance.” This is NOT a situation where you want to wing it! Write out, then practice out loud, how you’ll gracefully yet firmly say “no” when it’s in everyone’s best interests for you to do so. Here are some phrases to get you thinking about how you’d convey your message:


Hang tough.

A problematic prospect may try to get you to change your mind and say that you will, indeed, work with her. Don’t do it! Trust your gut, resist the flattery of hearing someone thinks you’re fabulous, and don’t be seduced by the money. Chances are excellent you’d look back and regret taking her on.


Remind yourself that it’s less stressful to simply not accept a client now than to fire one later.

This simple tactic reminds me of a commercial that was on years ago (I think it was for car maintenance): The tag line was, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” In the case of rejecting a less-than-ideal client, you can pay the price in discomfort now, or pay a higher price (in increased stress and wasted time) later. The choice is up to you.


What’s been your experience choosing your ideal clients? Have you learned any tough lessons you’d share with us?

Or is it hard for you to think of turning down any prospect because you’re still huffing and puffing to get your business off the ground? If that’s the case, maybe a phone conversation is in order.

I don’t know if my type of consulting would be appropriate for you. I do know that, as an objective observer who’s worked with a lot of stuck entrepreneurs, I can see the forest for the trees, cut through extraneous crap, and come up with a plan of manageable baby steps that gets my ideal clients moving in the right direction.

If you’re wondering whether that would work for you, how ‘bout we set up a first date? In just 30 or 40 minutes, we can ask each other some questions to figure out if we’d work well together. By the end of that time, we’ll both be confident that our decision – go, no go, or go later – is best for both of us.

If your gut is telling you to explore this possibility, it’s easy to set up. Just call me with some times you’re available to talk, or email me with “Are we ideal for each other?” in the subject line. It’ll be interesting to see what shakes out.

(BTW, thanks to SBoneham for the “no” image and Ninian Reid for “yes”. I found both in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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