The Power of “No”

“We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’”
Tom Friel, former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles

Never before has time and attention been more important in business. Your new client base has expanded from local to global and digital has created 24/7 opportunities and expectations. There’s a lot going on all at once, and it seems like everyone is suffering from a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out).

It’s challenging to remain focused on the big picture. You can let these crazy times and constant distractions continue to snowball out of control or, change how you handle things by learning and using the little trick I share below.

From 2011 to 2014, my law firm tracked all of our incoming calls and online inquiries from potential new clients. Out of every 20 potential clients that wanted to hire my firm, my partner, team, and I said “no” to about 19 of these prospects. Up to that point in time, I knew we were selective about the types of cases we accepted, but even this high number of rejects surprised me.

Having said that, here’s what’s important to know: Once I learned how to say “no” to anything other than an ideal client, the quality of my personal and professional life got better. I started this process about 20 years ago but only recently quantified it with the tracking mentioned above.

I’m very particular about the types of legal cases I agree to handle. Just because I said “no” to almost all of the incoming inquiries, didn’t mean they didn’t have cases I could help them with. In fact, it would have been easy for me to step in and help.

The reality is that by accepting these cases, my time and attention would have been taken away from existing clients who had cases that required 100% of my attention. Adding these 19 out of every 20 cases to my existing caseload would have made it very difficult for me to have time to take on the cases I wanted to accept. It would have required me to work late and on weekends just to stay on top of these legal files.

Does that make sense?

Because of your limited time and attention, can you afford to allow yourself to be distracted with clients who dilute your abilities to focus on your ideal clients? Are you spending more and more time away from your family and friends because of an increased volume of clients that have become an increasing source of stress and aggravation?

Learning how to say “no” is one of the most important things you can learn how to do. It will improve the quality of all aspects of your life. Saying “no” is not always easy to do this, but it is always necessary.

The key to excelling in business and providing exemplary client service is to learn how to say “no” to potential clients who don’t fit your business model. Doing so will free up more time to market and brand yourself to bring in your ideal client. It will also give you the time you need to give your existing ideal clients the attention their needs require.

The key to excelling in your personal life and relationships is to learn how to say “no” to business opportunities, small and large, that take up your time and attention and do not compliment your ideal client development and core goals. Doing so will give you the time to give your loved ones the attention they deserve and need.

The key to excelling in your health is to learn how to say “no” to life choices like alcohol, drugs, and bad food, that will harm your physical and emotional well-being. Doing so will allow you to be a more healthy, happy, and productive human being and this will make your life, and the lives of those around you, better.

Learn how to say “no” and watch the quality of your personal and professional life dramatically improve.

Learn how to say “no” and watch your reputation and brand improve in your industry.

Learn how to say “no” and watch more opportunities to say “yes” come your way.

Learn how to say “no” with respect, compassion, and in a professional fashion, and you’ll earn the respect of others.

Saying “no” allows you to stay focused on what you need to be focused on. After all, Steve Jobs once said, “Focusing is about saying no.”

Related: The Power of “Yes” by Mitch Jackson

Author: Mitch Jackson

I'm a California trial lawyer trying to fix the world one client, cause, and digital interaction at a time.

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