Know When To Say “No” To Deals.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I believe this also applies to your professional life. To put it another way: “Your business is the average of the caliber of customers you choose to work with.”

When I was starting out as an entrepreneur around a decade ago, I came across a potential deal that, although it paid well, didn’t quite seem like it would be the right fit. I knew I could competently deliver what the client was asking, but I wasn’t sure I could deliver exceptional results. At the time, however, I was very new to the business and I needed the capital, so even though I knew in my gut it wasn’t the right fit, I said yes.

Looking back, while I was glad to have the money on hand at the time, that deal ended up netting my business approximately zero growth in the long run.

Since then, I’ve made it a habit to only say “yes” to deals that have the potential to add significant value to both my customer and my business.

Sound like I’m a bit picky? I am. Not sure how passing on cash in hand can actually grow your business in the long run? Let me explain:

Many entrepreneurs get into the habit of saying “yes” to every potential deal they come across. They do this for a variety of reasons, but primarily money is the main motivator. It’s hard to pass up on a bird in hand, believe me, I know.

But get into the habit of thinking of every deal you make as an investment in your brand and your business. Aside from the money, a good deal should have the potential to exponentially grow your business. How? A good deal will allow you to play to your strengths and deliver exceptional results. When you do this, people will take notice. When you provide exceptional value to the customer, you’ve created a customer who will refer you to their friends and who’ll keep coming back to you for the value you can offer in the future. After all, who wouldn’t want to share an incredibly valuable resource they’ve found with their business associates? Makes them look good in the long run as well.

The short term positive to taking on the wrong kind of deals is you get money in the bank. And yes, that’s important, because it allows you to pay bills, pay your mortgage, etc.

The long term consequences, however, often don’t warrant the effort. You don’t get a testimonial. You don’t get a customer that’s blown away. It doesn’t enhance your reputation. It’s a drain on your energy. I’ve met many inexperienced entrepreneurs who simply end up bouncing from one short term deal to another, because their previous deals simply aren’t paying dividends.

And remember: Your business is the average of the caliber of customers you choose to work with. If you surround yourself with underwhelming deals that you’re not excited about, you can only expect to end up with a business that reflects that average. You have a finite amount of time and resources, so you want to focus on winning the kind of deals that you feel good about and that will lead to more good deals in the future.

Use the following key strategies to win and succeed at the kind of deals that will grow your business in the long term:

Only Work with People Who are Busy:
Being busy is a good indicator that your potential customer offers a product or service that people are excited about. If you believe in the law of averages, you’ll want to engage in business deals with the movers and shakers in their industries. Don’t simply aim for low hanging fruit. As much as possible, look to align your business deals with people who share your values and offer something useful to their own customers.

Provide Exceptional Results:
Always aim to overdeliver on what you’ve promised. Merely completing the scope of work might get you paid, but it won’t deliver the type of value that leads to referrals down the line. When I personally refer business associates or write testimonials, I look for people I’ve worked with who have so over delivered on the work I paid them for that the money wasn’t even a concern. Create enough value, and any price will seem like a great deal to your customer.

Know When to Say “No” to the Wrong Kind of Deals:
So how do you know which deals to say “yes” to and which ones to pass on? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the deal play to your strengths?
  • Does the deal have the potential to offer a long term payoff for your business?
  • Is the client likely to refer you to her friends or business associates?
  • Can you overdeliver on what is asked and provide exceptional value to your customer?
  • Is there a compelling reason besides the money for you to get involved?
  • Are you excited about saying “yes?”

If the answer to any of the above questions is “no,” then I strongly urge you to carefully consider whether your time and energy might better be utilized working on a project that brings greater long term value to your business.


Chris Stock

Chris Stock is one of the world’s leading sales experts. He is founder of the Business Institute for Growth based in San Diego. BIG supports entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises grow their business, through growth expertise, know-how and strategic vision.

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