One of the more difficult decisions you’ll face when running your small business is having to say no to a potential customer.

While taking on every client is tempting, some clients or requests simply aren’t a good fit for your business. Saying yes could be detrimental in the long run. Saying no doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, rather it’s a sign that your business is growing up.

Here are 4 ways to determine if a project or customer might not be well-suited for your business.

The Job is Outside Your Niche

When a new client walks through your door, it’s exciting. As a small business, saying no to new work seems counterproductive; however, if you find that the project requirements or skills needed are out of your league, it’s best to walk away.

Don’t agree to take on a project that you can’t fulfill because you don’t want to say no. Whether the client is asking for work that is outside of your scope of knowledge, or in an impossible timeframe, saying no will benefit you both down the road.

The last thing you want is to provide sub-par work to a client or leave them frustrated with a job that didn’t meet their expectations.

Pro Tip:

Just because you can’t fulfill the client’s request yourself, doesn’t mean you should say no and shut the door. Rather, offer a referral to a fellow small business that can accommodate their requests.

Building a referral system or network of small businesses within your niche is a win for the client, your network and yourself. The client will be thankful to find a qualified professional to complete their request and your network will be thankful for the referral.

It reflects well on your business to provide solutions even when you won’t be the one completing the work. Plus, you can then expect referrals from your network of new customers whose requests fit your company to a tee.

What to Say:

“Thank you for reaching out about this project. I wish that we were able to take on your request but unfortunately, this is out of our scope. I’ve worked with [another company] before and I think they would be a perfect fit for this request. Here is their contact information.”

You’re Completely Booked Up

Your small business is booming, and that is great news. But that might mean that you’re a little too busy and starting to get stretched a little thin.

While you may feel that you can try to squeeze a new client in, it is important to not bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to turn down a client than rush through a project and end up doing a clumsy job that will leave a poor impression with the client.

Pro Tip:

Don’t ghost your client. If you are too busy to handle their request, let them know. In some cases, the customer may even be OK with a longer-than-usual wait time to work with you. If not, turn to that referral network we mentioned earlier and provide your customer another option.

What to Say:

“Thanks for contacting me. While I wish I could take on your project, we are completely booked right now. We will have time in our schedule within a few weeks if you are able to wait. If not, I’d be more than happy to refer you to an associate of mine who would do a wonderful job.”

They Won’t Pay What You’re Worth

Setting the price of your products or services is a difficult task. You have to ensure that you’re making a profit while not alienating your target market with a price that is too steep.

After all of that time and effort, it can be disheartening having a client ask for a discount or special price. The best thing to do in this situation is to politely turn them down. You set your price for a reason. It’s what your skill, product or service is worth.

In some instances, a client will ask for a special request that isn’t within your typical menu of offerings. If the customer isn’t willing to offer appropriate compensation for the one-off request, don’t go above and beyond to accommodate them.

Pro Tip:

Stick to your guns on this one. Justify your pricing to your customers. Particularly if you’ve recently had to increase your prices, customers may push back. In this case, being proactive when it comes to raising prices will be your best option in avoiding conflict.

What to Say:

“Unfortunately, it seems that we are unable to complete your request within your proposed budget. Our costs are largely due to the quality of material/training/experience we provide.”

The Client is Just Plain Difficult

Some clients are just hard to deal with. Period. They constantly change the scope of the project, are rude to you and your staff or don’t value your time. Whatever the reason may be, if this customer is bogging down your workday and keeping you from providing your other customers the service they deserve, it’s best to cut ties.

At the end of the day, it is just as important to put your business needs (and personal well-being) first. Sometimes a particular customer is more trouble than they are worth and saying no is the best option.

Pro Tip:

While you might have been as nice as possible, sometimes it feels like you just can’t win. Be polite while letting them down gently, but be prepared, as a problematic customer may decide to leave you a bad review. If that happens, don’t freak out. Negative reviews give you the opportunity to make it right and show other customers that you care.

What to Say:

“Thank you for contacting us for this request. Unfortunately, at this point, we can’t help you.” If you know of someone in your network who handles difficult clients well, you can offer a referral. “But, I can refer you to another company that may be better suited for your request.”

Saying No Can Be Good for Business

While you never want to turn an opportunity away, sometimes it makes sense to do so. Keep the well-being of you, your business and your staff in mind when evaluating potential jobs. You want to ensure you are setting yourself up for success and providing each and every customer the best service possible.