When, Why and How to Turn Down Business

It happens to everybody. You take on a client you felt, deep in your gut, you should have turned away. Maybe it starts out well, but quickly, this client sucks the life out of you. He or she is demanding, nit picky, and clearly does not see your value. You find yourself lying awake at 3am having an argument in your head with this person because you don’t have the balls to say it to their face.

It’s happened to me – many times. It’s happened to every single travel agency owner I know, including the very seasoned and successful ones. It always happens when feeling desperate or fearful. Something about the client request promises some kind of upside. But the quieter, wiser voice in your head knows the downsides far outweigh the upside. For some reason, you ignore or silence this softer voice.

The When

So when is it OK to say “no” to a client inquiry? Here are my top 3 tips for being clear on when to say yes and when to say no:

1) Create a list of requirements for yourself.
For example, the requirements could be:

A) the request falls within my area of expertise and I feel very confident about this kind of travel;

B) if I don’t have experience with this kind of travel, it’s something I want to get experience handling and I know where to go to get guidance and support on it;

C) It’s lucrative (plain and simple). You can even give yourself some kind of commission threshold or sales threshold;

D) I have a good feeling about the client. He or she appears to be coming to me for the “right” reasons – help, guidance, direction.

2) Pay attention to your emotions and your point of focus when the inquiry fell in your lap.
Were you feeling anxiety, overwhelm, fearful of a shortage of cash flow? Or were you feeling solid, strong, confident, excited, valued and happy to be doing what you are doing? Bring some emotional awareness to your day.

3) Do a gut check and heed the signs.
You don’t have to say yes or no immediately. If you are unsure – ask for a sign within the next 24 hours that this is in your highest interest to take on this person as a client. You can be specific about the sign itself – like a penny or a butterfly.

The Why

Why is it so important to say “no” to business? Shouldn’t one take everything that comes his or her way?   NO!  There is a harm to saying yes when you should be saying no. That harm is YOU. Let’s look at some negative ramifications of saying “yes” to a new inquiry that doesn’t meet your requirements. Let’s pretend the inquiry is for a shoe-string budget honeymoon, but the honeymoon couple is good friends of one of your VIP clients.

If you say “yes”, you will be too busy to take the phone call that leads to a much better, much bigger booking, (which goes to another travel advisor before you have time to return the call). If you say “yes”, you will get frustrated and resentful of all the time they waste with you and then take your frustration out on your spouse. If you say “yes”, you will be so pre-occupied with this client that seems to be taking all your time, that you end up being on the computer in your home office when your 1-year old takes his first steps.

The list could go on and on, but probably the most important reason to say no is this:

“When you let go of something of a lower nature, you make room to receive something of a higher nature.”

The How

If you stumble over your words and having a difficult conversation is, well, difficult for you…  I have a script for you! Use this script when you don’t know how to say no and tweak it however you like:

“Thank you so much for coming to me. I really appreciate your business. But, in order to service my clients best, I have to stick to what I know best. It doesnt do my clients any good for me to work on business outside my expertise. Your inquiry falls outside my expertise, so I would like to refer you to a travel advisor (or resource if you think no other travel advisor would want the business either – you can refer to an online booking engine) that can better serve you. I wish you the best and please think of me when your travel plans include (insert your specialty here.)”