Sometimes we have to have hard conversations. Why we tell our clients their idea won’t work is always one of them.
We do this because our biggest service to clients is strategy. We’re committed to helping our clients be better by helping them plan toward significant improvement.
This in itself separates us from many other firms. We build peer-level relationships with our clients so we can be more than implementers for them. We believe this kind of relationship is vital for us to do our best work for our clients.
As peers, we make recommendations to our clients, and we occasionally recommend against them implementing one of their ideas. Here’s how we tell our clients ‘no’ in a way that leads them toward strategy that helps them become better:
We Build Trust from Day 1
Saying ‘no’ to clients only works well in the context of a peer-level relationship. When clients know how we work and see the value of the strategy we’re helping them develop, they’re willing to listen to our recommendations.
This means we never say no at first. We explore every idea our clients provide at the beginning, and test it against user study and the competitive landscape.
Putting Preferences Aside and Speaking Strategy
We never say no to clients because we don’t like something; We only say no after examining the strategic implications.
Often, this testing happens as we analyze a client’s users, market, and competitive situation. Using this data to make decisions leads to better strategy and makes it obvious when we need to tell a client an idea isn’t going to work as they hope.
We Listen Again
Whenever we’re thinking about telling a client no, we talk through the situation with the client one more time to make sure we’re not missing something. As we do this, we’re looking for things like industry-specific insight or a client’s internal processes that need to influence a decision.
This extra lap allows us to gather all the facts we need to make an informed recommendation.
Ultimately, the Clients Make the Decision
We make recommendations, but leave it to our clients to decide. We never force a client to launch something they’re not comfortable with. If we do our job well, the client will understand where our ‘no’ is coming from and they will be well positioned to make a better, smarter, healthier decision instead. We’ll all feel like we’ve committed to a smarter choice – which is the sign of strong strategy.
Why we tell clients their idea won’t work is never a fun conversation, but we’d rather have it than miss out on the best growth strategy possible.
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