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How to say “no, thanks”

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Last week’s Quick Tip from Marketing Mentor generated lots of comments and questions. In the tip, I revealed three reasons to say "no" to certain work that will cause you more misery than anything else (read that here.)

Here’s a comment I got from David Bresler, Vice President of Breakfast Network:

I would add this: An offer of a lucrative project that is different from anything you have done in the past or a mismatch for your skill set.  Even if you believe that you can do it, you are bound to make mistakes this first time around and thus both damage your reputation and not make the kind of return you are used to (or even lose money). It is tempting to go to school on somebody else’s nickel, but, in the end it is usually a bad policy.

Andrea Robinson, of AT Design and Illustration (and a Marketing Mentor client) agreed that it’s important to say no and has struggled with the issue of how to say no. In fact, she wonders about the best way to graciously and tactfully decline a request from a non-profit agency who also happens to be a client. They want her to serve on their board of directors.

My answer is this: Let them know you have too many existing commitments to do them justice right now, but ask if there’s a way you can participate more peripherally. I don’t know all the details but it sounds like too good an opportunity to pass up, especially if you’re interested in nurturing this relationship.

Andrea is also involved in CreateAthon, a 24-hour, work-around the clock creative blitz during which local advertising agencies generate advertising services for local nonprofits that have little or no marketing budget. So now, when someone asks her to do pro bono work, her first response is to ask these non profit prospects to submit an application for CreateAthon, which, she says, "helps tremendously take care of the requests, efficiency of the process of doing "pro bono" and giving back to the community."

Andrea also passed along these ideas from marketing coach, Susan DePue:

7 Ways to say NO!

  1. Just “NO” – “Thanks, but Ill have to pass on that”. – then say no more.
  2. The Gracious “NO” – “I really appreciate you asking me, but my time is already committed.”
  3. The “I’m Sorry” NO – “I wish I could, but it’s just not convenient.”
  4. The “It’s Someone Else’s Decision” NO – “I promised my coach, I wouldn’t take on any more projects without discussing them with her first.” – or the board, or your partner, etc..
  5. The “My Family is the Reason “ NO – “Thank you very much for the invitation. That’s the day of my son’s soccer game, and I never miss those.” Other great reasons: birthdays, anniversaries, high school graduations – just make sure it’s the TRUTH!
  6. The “I Know Someone Else” NO – “I just don’t have the time to help you, but let me recommend someone else I know.”
  7. The “I am Already Booked” NO – “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid  I’m already booked that day.” – Use this one even if this is the time you booked for yourself. Remember that you will have nothing to offer unless you take the time to replenish your spirit.

Any others you can think of?

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