When you shouldn’t make a sale

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, “I Can Do That.” In the post, I argued that the willingness to stick your neck out and commit to do something you have never done before, or weren’t sure you could do, was a trait of a successful entrepreneur. Today, I am going to argue just the opposite. Sometimes your survival depends on your ability to say, ” I can’t do that.”

 I Can't Do That

Sounds crazy that a small business would turn away a prospect who walks in the door, cash in hand and ready to buy.  Here are a few reasons you might want to do just that:

  • The Project Is Too Big: As attractive as it is to do a really big project, it’s important to be realistic. If the project is going to tie up all of your resources and prevent you from working on other projects, that’s a danger sign. If you do take that really large project, you  must charge way more than you think it’s worth. Why? You may have no other business when the project is done.
  • The Customer Is Too Big:  The speed at which a large company moves is almost glacial compared to a small business and the layers of bureaucracy can seem almost crippling. The time it takes to complete the project, as well as the extended payment terms, make it really difficult for small business to navigate the corridors of corporate America and still turn a profit. If you are going to take on a project with a Fortune 500 company, be sure to price it high enough to cover the real costs.
  • The Customer Is Too Small: When I started Roundpeg, no customer was too small. But as we have grown, we have learned that there is a right way way to run a project and some customers are just not ready to work with us. Cutting corners to keep the project under budget results in something that I’m not happy with and ultimately, the customer won’t be  happy either.
  • It’s Not Our Skill Set: Sometimes a prospect is the right size and the right kind of company and we still have to say no because they are  asking us to do things we’re not good at. These are the hardest projects for me to turn down. I do so only after thinking long and hard about whether the project a stretch that will grow us in a  new direction or something  so  far outside our skill set it will completely bury us. There is no hard and fast rule.
  • I Don’t Want to Work With You: Sometimes I can tell in the very first  meeting with a prospect that something is wrong. It’s a nagging feeling that the customers going to be unreasonable, unrealistic or simply won’t listen to me. Maybe they’re really not ready for this next step. Whatever it is, there’s that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that this is not a good fit for us. Any time I have ignored that I have regretted it. Now I simply say no.

Fortunately, the better our marketing has gotten the more often I am sitting in front of a qualified prospect, someone I want to work with who has a project that fits what we do.We also have a wonderful network of companies with services that complement what we do who we can recommend when we have to say no.

It is hard to do, but saying no from time to time frees us up to say I Can Do That to the projects that let us do what we do best.

photo credit: tenioman via photopin cc