How to say ‘no’ to a customer

Sometimes there’s no choice. A salesperson comes to you with a customer’s unreasonable request, and you have to turn it down.

The customer may interpret the refusal as a sign that your company is unreasonable or that you no longer want to do business with him or her.

Because saying no is so unpleasant, some managers try to get it over with quickly and move on. There are times when a quick, blunt refusal is the only way to go. Example: The customer demands an impossible price break.

But when time and circumstances permit, there are steps you can take to remove some of the sting out of saying no.

Here are four tips to share with your salespeople:

  • Show the customer that his or her needs are important and that you’d like to be able to meet them if you could. If possible, offer an alternative course of action.
  • Consider taking a day or two to answer. That will send the message that you’re giving the request a fair hearing.
  • Give the customer an explanation. The customer may or may not buy it, but in the end the reason should be the one you feel is right.
  • Try taking the negative out of the answer while adding a positive element. You can do that even when the request seems unreasonable and the response is automatic. Example: Instead of “I can’t make that delivery date because the order deadline for that date has passed,” try “We won’t have any delays in your next delivery if you place the order now.”

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