The art of saying no

The art of saying no

When it comes to financial planning, if you don’t think clients are suitable, you should feel able to say no to further business.

Recently, highly-respected financial adviser Kate McCallum was quoted as saying that she and her business partner didn’t want any more clients – they were happy with the number that they had and had decided that was their optimal size. So for new clients, they were happy to say no when things weren’t perfectly aligned.

I thought it was a great sentiment and one, which when I shared it on the Stella LinkedIn page, seemed to resonate with a number of our members.

So I’d like to reiterate the sentiment here for dealing with saying no more widely in the workplace.

Women in the workplace as well as in life generally are often afraid of the consequences of saying no. People will like you less if you say no, you will stop others helping you, you won’t be regarded well in the workplace.

None of these are proven to be true.

Understanding the value of what you do and making sure you keep doing it to your best ability will sometimes make it easier to say no.

Sometimes, it’s about work-life balance; at other times, it’s just about doing the best job you can and managing the resources you have – of which time is usually the scarcest.

And it’s not about taking the no as a negative that may be offending someone. You need to reposition it and realise it’s just a statement of fact. Can you pick up this extra project to do? – and sometimes the answer is just no. Can you deal with the printer on this project? – no! Can you manage this extra member of staff? – no.

Often the person who is asking doesn’t realise the depth of imposition they are proposing to you and all you have to do is alert them to it. Best to not complicate your answer – a simple no usually suffices and then if you are questioned further, fill in the detail.

When it comes to financial planning, when you meet clients for the first time you are interviewing them as they are interviewing you for suitability. If you don’t think they are suitable you should feel able to say no to further business. It is better for both of you in the long run.

Award-winning financial planner Claire Mackay recently said there were three things she looked for in the first meeting with the client:

1. Can we provide the services they need/want?

2. Can we add more value than the fees we will charge them?

3. Will we enjoy working together?

“We encourage clients to make sure they feel comfortable with their own answers to the same questions,” she says. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into honing them to ensure we build a business with the right type of client.”

It’s a great exercise and can feel a bit scary when you’re asking clients to potentially say no to you, but ultimately, if you believe in what you’re selling, you need to trust that you’ll receive the right answers.


Julia Newbould, Stella Network Leader, BT Financial Group 

The art of saying no
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