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How to Say “NO” to a Less-than-Ideal Client

You’ve decided. You’ve driven your stake in the ground. You’re clear on what your ideal client wants from you, and you are ready to serve them.

Forget the less-than-ideal clients! Sure, you could help them, but that’s not the goal anymore—serving ideal clients is.

You’ve written your email sequence and built your funnels and begun nurturing those precious leads of yours.

And then you get that email. Or worse, the phone call.

A less-than-ideal client is on the other line, inquiring about your services.

See, they heard about you from one of your former clients. (Ugh—that former client was definitely NOT an ideal client. But they paid. . . ) And this potential less-than-ideal client has already heard so much about you. They’re a pretty hot lead. And they need you, like, yesterday. (Note: All less-than-ideal clients needed you yesterday.)

So, what do you do?

In short, you say no.

But it’s not that simple, I know. You need to save face. You don’t want to burn a bridge. You don’t want to act “too good” for them.

But you also need them to know you won’t be serving them.

And you need them to know what you do now so they’re better informed and don’t continue to spread your name around to other less-than-ideal clients.


With all that considered, here’s how I suggest you say “NO”:

1. Thank them for reaching out.

Tell them that you’re always happy to hear from new potential clients.


2. Make it clear that you won’t be serving them.

Don’t lie, though, and blame it on your “busy schedule”, or say that you’re “all booked up”. This sends the message that you’re not taking any inquiries, when what you need to do is tell them you’re not servicing their inquiry.


3. Say that you’re happy to refer them to a fellow trusted professional if you can.



4. Double-check that you fully understand what they’re looking for.

You must make sure you’re sending them to someone that can actually help. Be sure you get the full scope of work before referring them.


5. Recommend a trusted professional you know who can service this request.

Or, recommend a platform for them to look on to find someone that’s a good fit.


6. If you referred them to someone you know, ask if they’d like a personal introduction to get the conversation started.

You want to facilitate this discussion if you can, so the potential client can only ever remember you as extremely helpful and in-the-know, as opposed to “too good” for them or “too busy” to help. Plus, the person you referred them to will be more likely to refer people back to you in the future. Win-win!


Now that you have the outline of what a respectful response would be, draft one for yourself. Prepare it now, so when the less-than-ideal client does come knocking, you don’t have to think about it. You simply adjust the canned response, send it, and move on to finding more ideal clients.

If you’d like, you can snag my template for these emails here. It’ll help get you started writing and provide an example of what a stellar “no” email looks like.

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