In this “new economy,” many business owners are stressing about securing enough business to make a profit. In the extreme, this often leads to saying yes to any and all prospects, projects and types of work. Unfortunately, this may not be the best business strategy! Indeed, saying no to business is sometimes the smartest thing to do. Not convinced? Let me demonstrate.

Prospect is not a good “fit” – Let’s face it, not all clients are the right “fit” for you and your business. In some instances, there is even a such thing, dare I say, as a bad client. If your antenna goes up during the initial meeting, phone call or consultation alerting you to the fact that this client will not respect you, tests your boundaries, needs more assistance than you can provide, or in any other meaningful way is just not a good fit, listen to that instinct and say no! There are ways to turn away business that are polite, tactful, useful, and firm, and sometimes we just have to learn when it is right to say no to a prospect or client. Turning away business can be a painful process for those unfamiliar with the concept, but it can save you and your business in the long run.

Saying yes to every prospect may unfortunately mean saying no to your Ideal Client – Every business has a Target Market and within that market lies the Ideal Client. You know who they are — the people or organizations that really need your assistance, are fully ready for the transformative services or products that you provide, respect and value you and your business, and can afford to make the investment to work with you. They are the ones that you keep in mind when developing programs and products to ensure they fit your client base. We all know there is only so much time and energy to work with clients. Any time you take on a new client, there is a loss of potential opportunities elsewhere that could slip by because you are too busy. That is referred to as Opportunity Cost — the cost of opportunities that you will miss by taking on each client. Therefore, be very clear when you say yes that the prospect fits into your Ideal Client profile (or at least gets close to it!). If not, you may actually be saying no to your Ideal Client when he/she comes knocking.

Quantity of work may make quality suffer – If you say yes to every prospect, project and type of work, you may wind up spreading yourself too thin, causing the quality of your work to suffer. In an effort to overcome the economic downturn and make more money, many business owners are saying yes, yes, yes. This can lead to burn out, decrease in quality of work, and damage to your overall business reputation. Resist the urge to say yes to all work, unless you have the infrastructure in place to handle it.

Focus on Value and Results – The best business owners realize that what they are truly selling is value and results. When you view yourself in this light and not as merely providing products or services, you very quickly realize that you need to say yes only to the clients that you can bring your best value and results to. You also set yourself apart from the “competition” because value and results are not easily measurable, the way tangible products and services are. The value is in the client’s mind and will almost always far outweigh the price they paid.

Saying no to work may seem like an ill-advised business strategy, but in the long run, you will come to see that it is a meaningful and profitable way of doing business. You leave yourself open for the Ideal Clients that you should be serving, and you don’t drain yourself and the business by trying to serve everyone. Resist the urge to be all things to all people, and focus on what you do best for the target market that wants, needs and can afford it. Saying no will be difficult as you turn away the ill-matched prospect with money to burn and a desire to buy, but the flip side is saying yes and then resenting it for not being true to yourself and the business that you have created.

About Lisa Montanaro

Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and enjoy productive and profitable businesses. To receive her free Toolkit, Achieve Powerhouse Success with Purpose, Passion & Productivity, visit Lisa is the author of "The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life" published by Peter Pauper Press. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help you be purposeful, passionate and productive, contact Lisa at (530) 302-5306 or by e-mail at .

7 Responses to “Why Saying No to Business Is Sometimes the Smartest Thing to Do”

  1. Kimberly Englot

    I can identify with this post! I wrote one last spring about ‘Devil Wears Prada Clients’ and how they’re just not worth it 😉
    I know the temptation is always there to say ‘yes’ to each person, but it’s so important not to! It dilutes your worth, drives you crazy and (most importantly) usually denies space for your ideal clients.
    I love this post! Thanks for the kick in the pants, Lisa!

    xo Kim

    • Lisa


      You said it, sister! Saying yes to everyone denies space for your ideal clients. And it is all about creating that space for that right group. Always happy to give you a virtual kick in the pants. 🙂 Thanks for commenting! Much appreciated.

  2. Christine Marmoy

    Hi Lisa,

    You nailed it. Saying ‘no’ to something that does not really fit our values or business is a decision. Not always an easy one, but regardless it’s a decision that we, as entrepreneurs must learn to make when the situation demands it. Thanks for the reminder that saying yes to everything is a waste of time and energy, at the end of the day, it’s also a waste of money.

  3. Lisa

    Christine –

    Thanks for your comment. I am so glad the article/post resonated with you! And I love that you added in that saying yes to everything, in the long run, can be a waste of money. Such a good point! You wind up spinning your wheels trying to be everything to everybody and don’t get to your “right” work and best client, which can mean less income overall. Nice addition. Thanks!

  4. Jeanne Pi

    Lisa – I believe in pruning your client list every year or so. Get rid of your low-paying, high-headache clients who are sucking the life out of your business. You’ll enjoy work more, your productivity will increase, and it’s your more valuable/more appreciative clients who will ultimately benefit. ~ Jeanne

    • Lisa

      Jeanne – Thanks for your comment. Love the “pruning” idea! Resonates with me as someone that gardens. I always say that you need to declutter your home, office and life by acting as if you are weeding a garden. Now I will think of that when “weeding” or “pruning” my clients that don’t fit into my target market. Love it! 🙂

  5. Nadine Nicholson

    Great article, Lisa! What I love most about your topic is the idea of intention, that by being intentional about our decisions, we are in the driver’s seat of and calling the shots on our own success. That frees us up to attract more of what we really want rather than sabotaging our success by tying up our time. ~ Nadine


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