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The Acceptance – and Etiquette of No

I get lots of ‘no’s’ either in the form of story ideas, client proposals or meeting requests.

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Even when the answer is “no,” there’s no reason to be an asshole about it.  

Photo by me.

While I may not always agree with the decision on the other side, I always say “thank you,”  “let’s keep in touch,” “or should things change, let’s re-visit what was on the table, and what could be.”

No As A Trial Balloon.

When someone is pitching me on something, and it’s not quite a good fit, or just does not feel right –for or now, I’ll be the one to say no. 

It may be over budget (or lack thereof), the client to be having unrealistic expectations, or maybe there are demands on the other side that could wind up being a disaster.

Sometimes I will also say no, just to see what the other side will say, how they will respond, and engage, when I say no.   Saying no to someone is also a good way to see how a possible client or partner will deal with adversity, or not getting his or her way.

The Etiquette of “No”

Recently, I was involved in a pitch where a client-to-be approached me about working with them. 

They had a compelling technology platform, and possibly a very disruptive business model.  From the get-go, I was very clear that there had to be some type of budget in place, and funds allocated to help them.

I shared some pricing structures, expressed my sincere interest in working with them, and after several conference calls later, I was getting emails saying “welcome aboard.” 

While I was honored with this welcoming gesture, I still brought up the realities of the fact, that well… we needed to address a budget.

One of the company founders invited me to join the team for a BarBQue so I could meet the rest of the team on a day when I happened to be traveling.  Again, I was touched and honored, but alas – still no budget.

Yesterday, I had another conference call with one of the founders and we got around to addressing….uh …. the budget. 

As it turned out, they proposed that I do some work, but delay payment until what they were going to launch started to monetize.  They were not proposing that I work on spec, or for free — only that I wait until their soon to be launched business started to monetize.

Taken somewhat aback by their proposal, I politely declined.

I just had to say no, not only as a matter of principle, but also because from the start of the discussions, I was very clear that there had to be payment during the engagement —  not after, and not maybe sometime in the future.  I also can’t pay my other team members based on fees coming in sometime in the future.

I explained my position, and the response at the other end was somewhat disturbing.  Here’s what he said:  “well, OK… and thanks for your time…..”  and the line went dead.

I was not ruling out the possibility to work together in the future, meaning a temporary no, at least for now.

Had he not hung up, and the conversation continued, I was going to say that we should keep in touch, and even though we could not work together now because of the realities of not having a budget, we should re-visit the opportunity to work together in the near future.

The only problem is that I did not have the chance to do so. 

The other side basically hung up on me – and actually did me a favor.

I suspect that he was revealing who he really was, and how he dealt with issues when he did not get his way.

Being turned down, or having someone say no is not a bad thing.   Sometimes the stars are not mutually aligned.

It can often be a blessing. 

It’s how you deal with being told “no,” how you deal with humility, demonstrate your sense of business etiquette   – or in this case, the lack thereof.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. I have had to deal with this a lot lately. Every time I say no to someone who wants me to do something for free I always have a sinking feeling following me around, but then I remind myself that I am not the one being an asshole. Time is valuable, people should respect that.

    Reply
  2. I have had to deal with this a lot lately. Every time I say no to someone who wants me to do something for free I always have a sinking feeling following me around, but then I remind myself that I am not the one being an asshole. Time is valuable, people should respect that.

    Reply
  3. Agree, people love free things. It’s a shame they don’t respect rejection on a professional level.

    Reply
  4. Agree, people love free things. It’s a shame they don’t respect rejection on a professional level.

    Reply

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