When saying NO can enhance your brand

Your reputation whether personal or professional has to be protected – often from yourself; as the failure or inability to say NO at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner can cause lasting damage to your brand reputation.

Some people and companies just don’t seem capable of saying NO and the alternatives of a yes or silence can result in even greater damage.

Today’s apparent obsession with celebrity culture makes sound bites unchallengeable truths for many – even in business the most innocuous comments can become gospel when uttered by business guru’s such as the “say yes then learn how to do it later” (accredited to Richard Branson) with many aspiring entrepreneurs failing to appreciate the hard work, resource, commercial know how and good fortune required to deliver the yes – which often materialises into a belated NO or an eerie silence.

Too many people over promise and under deliver, when all they need to do, is what they say they will do even if it’s a simple “I’m not sure but let me think about it and come back to you on Friday”.

Saying NO requires a good deal of self-awareness in regard to your own or company competencies.

If it’s something you cannot do or you don’t do, simply say NO thank you, rather than damage your reputation – you could even enhance it by referring someone who might be able to do it.

A decade or so ago, I became very concerned during a meeting with a far eastern supplier when every question I asked was met with what I later came to understand as a cultural yes. Yes I do have a factory, yes I can produce that product, yes I can meet your price, yes you can have exclusivity, yes I can deliver on that date – cutting a very long and frustrating story short the sample was delivered late, not to specification and was already being shipped into my market – needless to say we developed a successful and lasting relationship with another supplier.

More recently a start-up business had received a serious enquiry from a leading Department store about their only product – the problem was the price quoted to the store was below cost. I couldn’t stress enough to the owner that they had to go back and renegotiate a price that made them a profit or simply say NO to the opportunity. When asked why they had quoted a price that made a loss, the owner said “it was too good an opportunity to miss I just had to say yes, and hope to make a profit on future listings”.

Silence is not always golden especially when your Manager has suggested you arrange to meet with a company who is known to them in relation to a potential mutually beneficial opportunity. In the world of remote offices and cyber communications these requests are usually communicated in a cover copied email. The external company duly contacted the Manager’s colleague and received a prompt and polite reply saying they were busy for the next few weeks but to call to arrange a meeting date for the following month. A call which along with several other calls went to voice mail, eventually they did speak but only for a few seconds as they were “very busy” and the company was asked to call back the following day at 9am. Needless to say the call went to voice mail – the opportunity was missed, the Manager was “not-very-happy” and their reputation for not being able to say “NO Thank You” – remains legendary in their Industry.

Here’s one example of how saying NO can enhance your reputation

Hi William
I’ve had a chat with my business partner and we don’t feel we really have xxx.
I just wanted to be honest with you about how full our xxx is and realistically, we just can’t fit any more xxx in
Please keep me posted and next time you’re in xxx, hopefully we can get together

Honesty always appreciated, saves both parties time, manages expectations, establishes mutual respect, and enhances your brand!


For more on the word NO  click  What NO really means

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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Posted in Brand Management, communication, Engagement, Values
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