Sunday, January 27, 2008

Never Say No

Just say how much!

While emailing with another photographer recently, I was reminded of a simple but easily forgotten business practice of never saying no to a client's request. Heed warning, this does not mean you must say yes to everything, only provide alternate options. Here are a few examples of what I mean...

Very often a client requests a date that I'm unavailable. Rather than simply saying I'm sorry, I'm already booked. I often say, here are some other photographers who may be able to help you! This shows the client who was originally interested in me that I have a sincere interest in helping them find what they're looking for. I'm also paying it forward to another photographer, who may return the favor in the future. Everyone comes out on top and I didn't have to say no, only give another option.

One client had a family member that was interested in swapping some people in photos, yet I knew that I didn't have the time or skills for the amount of work that would come with the request. Rather than saying no, I investigated how much it would cost to hire a professional retouch artist for the job and provided the family with a quote. By providing an estimate of how much additional the retouching would cost, it gave the family an opportunity to evaluate if the project was worth it to them. This allows me to provide the service to my clients, and give them the quality that they deserve, while allowing me to focus on the aspects of my job that I do best.

I had a request from a client to take portraits of every family in attendance at the reception. Rather than saying I won't do that because it isn't my style, I instead offered to hire a dedicated portrait photographer who would be available to take family portraits while I focused on the candid work that I do best. I gave them a quote of how much the additional photographer would cost along with the benefits of having someone dedicated to just the portraits they were looking for, and they agreed that it was worth it for them. In the end we all win because I get to do the work I love, they get the family portraits they want to give to their guests, and another photographer gets to be paid for their time.

This last year my turn around times were much too slow and rather than telling my clients they simply had to wait and get nothing, I gave them several options: to simply have their unfinished images as is, or to get a few finished images to use in the paper or for a thank you note before the rest were finished. Most clients opted to have just a few finished images and wait for the quality of work that they had originally paid for rather than getting the unfinished work or nothing for quite sometime. However, if I had not been able to offer any alternate options, I wouldn't have provided the best service possible to my clients.

Hopefully the next time you encounter a difficult situation when you would normally find yourself saying no to a client, you'll instead find a way to offer other options that serve both you and your client better.


  1. This advice is spot-on. It takes a little practice to re-think the impulse to say "no" or "are you *$^%#@!* KIDDING me?"...but once you learn the skill, it's invaluable. It's a matter of re-framing the interaction from adversarial to conversational, and working in partnership with your clients to get them what they need and want. It's so easy to fall into the "superhero" trap of feeling like we need to be everything to everyone, and be able to do anything someone asks of us...but sometimes the best solution is outsourcing. Some of what our clients pay for is our networking skills! :)

    I've saved lots of interactions (mostly, I saved them from myself!), just with adjusting the way I approached the situation. Incidentally, this approach also works well for getting kids to do what you want them to!

  2. Thank you for sharing your past experiences Anne, I so appreciate all that you do here. This is something that will help me down the road without a doubt.

  3. Wonderful advice! This is one of the best things you can do to provide great customer service. We must always find ways that we can say yes!

  4. very smart! I try to keep this in mind with all of my client interactions... and I think it does pay off in how they see us.

  5. Thanks Anne,

    A great resource along these lines is a book by Jeff Gitomer called Yes!Attitude

    Thanks for these real world options to says yes even when you want to say no.

  6. This advice was amazing. Anne you are so great at this stuff...and yes! I need to do this more often!
    THANK YOU!!!
    -Melissa E Earle

  7. By the way, I found this article on Seth Godin's blog that relates well to this topic. Thought I'd share with the masses! :)

    Seth Godin: After the Lawyers

  8. Great insights here, Anne! This is what truly excellent customer service is all about! I am printing these out for reference and to use as a lauching pad for contemplating 'win-win' solutions to our own unique situations!

    For your time, your insights and your willingness to share--THANKS!!!!


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