Saying “no” is tough for everyone, including entrepreneurs. You want to do right by your clients, but you can’t spend your whole day meeting with them.
Every moment you spend in a meeting is one you can’t spend working on your business. Don’t let meeting-happy clients pull you away from your other priorities.
Start by keeping a time log so you know exactly how you’re spending your time. If one or two accounts are responsible for a disproportionate amount of your meeting time:
1. Get to the root of the issue.
Clients know their time is limited, too. If they keep asking to meet with you, look for common themes. Show that you’re working to solve their needs, and you should see those requests fall off.
Try this: When the client reaches out, respond by asking for more details about the reason for the meeting. In many cases, a meeting simply isn’t necessary. If it’s something that you can address yourself, do it. Report back, and ask if the client still wants to meet.
If your client constantly asks to meet — especially if it’s for a legitimate reason — one solution might be to ask a team member to take the meetings. That way, the client feels supported, and your schedule stays open.
Be sure, though, that the client respects your employee’s time. Ask them to schedule meetings at least 48 hours in advance, and ensure meetings last no longer than an hour.
3. Be direct and quick.
What if, despite you solving the client’s issue, he or she still wants to meet? Say no, but don’t beat around the bush.
Being decisive and clear benefits everyone. Think of it like tearing off a Band-Aid: It’s better to get through the pain quickly than let it fester. In fact, a great client will appreciate your straightforward, timely response.
4. Provide additional resources.
Just because you say “no” to a meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be a good partner. If you can’t solve the client’s issue yourself, share content about it or make a referral to someone who can.
If multiple clients have come to you about this issue, consider developing a whitepaper or similar asset around it. A robust content strategy can be a great way to bring in new business.
5. Template your responses.
No matter how well you handle meeting-happy clients, there will always be more. Prepare yourself for the next one by setting up templates. Make each response is decisive and inoffensive.
Start with two: For those that you see no reason to meet with, “My calendar is booked for the foreseeable future” is a good response. For the rest, say something like, “I would love to discuss this with you further, but let’s wait for our next scheduled meeting.”
Practice makes perfect: The only way you’re going to get better at saying “no” to your clients is by doing it over and over again. Own your schedule, and don’t be ashamed of it.