How To Turn Down A Non-Ideal Prospect Graciously

Contrary to popular belief you don't have to take on every prospect/lead that comes your way; you're time is valuable so it's best to spend that time handling the interesting projects with the ‘perfect' clients who respect your work. So what do you do with non-ideal prospects? One thing you can do is graciously turn them away. Here's how.

how to turn away a non-ideal prospect

When faced with a non-ideal client there are only a few things you can do, though one of the best things you can do (for yourself and for them) is to turn them away or another great things is to turn them away while referring them to someone who fits their needs better.

How do you actually go about turning someone away without sounding like a pompous snob? Well, that takes a little bit of tack, grace and word-smithing.

The first thing you need to know is what your ideal client is (or at a minimum know more or less who you want as a client and who you don't). Then it's all about how you think about the situation. If you approach it as “oh dear, these people are just time wasters. I hate them!” then this isn't going to go well for you.

The proper way to think about a situation like this is: “They aren't a good fit for me, so how can I still provide them an amazing experience?

You'll mostly encounter only two situations here: you can refer them to someone or you can't. Let's start with not being able to refer them. Remember, our goal here is to be:

  • Professional
  • Kind / cordial
  • An awesome expert even though we can't work with them

This response comes from Maria Bayer‘s newsletter:

What I've found is that my best clients are the ones who immediately get excited about working together, and I don't sense that same level of excitement in your voice. It may just be that you need to talk with a few photographers to determine what's important to you. Either way, my suggestion is that you meet first with the photographer(s) who really excite you, and see if you connect with them. If at that point you still want to meet with me, I'd love to invite you to my studio.

We've used a response like this before (we're a bit more direct):

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, though from everything we've talked about this doesn't seem like the type of project that we're looking for nor one that we'd be best able to help you with. We look for a certain level of commitment (time, energy, resources) and we don't see that from you. That's ok though. Maybe it's just not the right time for your type of business. It'll be good if you first look around to different type of service providers to see if they match your needs better. Though if you're still interested in our type of work our door is always open.

You should style the response to your industry and to your personality, as you can see both of those responses have the same effect though totally different personalities.

So how to refer somebody instead of flat out turning them away? Try this:

From what we've talked about I believe that we're not a good fit. I look for certain project and client traits for my ideal client, though I do have someone who I think will be a good match for you. Do you know Bob from ABC Corp Inc? He has the style and skill set which I think matches your needs rather well. Here's his information, and I'll also give him a call right after this to give him a heads up.

And that's how you graciously turn a non-ideal client away. What methods have worked for you?

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