Just Say No

Just Say No

I’ve said before.  I’m saying it again.

Saying “No” in business is no big thing.

In fact, it is the “steady state” of business to be told “no” a few dozen times in the course of a day.

And yet.

Many decision makers just can’t bring themselves to say the “N” word to vendors to whom they have funneled estimate, quote, and pricing requests.

Why is that?

There is nothing more frustrating than to be told a decision will be made by a date certain, only to have the decision maker “go dark.”

Maybe other quotes are outstanding.  Maybe the pricing is out of line with expectations.  Maybe it is decided that the work may be done internally better, faster, cheaper.

Maybe the customer simply doesn’t like a vendor (why they asked for a quote in the first place may be a different, juicier story – another post, perhaps).

Whatever the case may be, it is several orders of magnitude easier to simply say “no, thank you” to vendors who you know you won’t be engaging at the earliest possible time, so that:

  • they won’t be hounding you for an answer
  • you won’t have to screen your calls for these inbound hounding barrages
  • you may focus on your chosen solution with 100% of your bandwidth

A corollary to this is to be as transparent and honest in communicating your decision making conclusion to losing vendors, if they ask.


Because you asked them for a quote in the first place – and if they didn’t win the business THIS time, they need to know why, so that if you ask them again for a quote in the future on a different project, they can avoid making the same mistake again.

A few months ago I was asked for a quote for pricing and timelines for delivery for a specialized piece of software.  I was told an answer would be forthcoming in a week.

The week dragged on to several weeks, then a month, then a couple of months.

Finally, the customer said that the project was on hold indefinitely.

This morning, I saw where the customer is publicizing the release of this new feature, to be available soon.

Did we over price?  Had we simply been led along?

Why not “just say no” rather than do the months long dance of “I’m still trying to get an answer” that we went through?

I wish I had the answer.

I do know that human nature often leads us to avoid conflict and unpleasant situations, and some would view the act of saying no as both of these things.

But in order to be an effective decision maker, the ability to say no (and articulate why you said it) should be like Mother’s Milk.

Otherwise, you’re in the wrong job.

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