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#237: Turning Down Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I am now at the point in my consulting life where I can't handle all the business coming at me. What is the best way to turn these assignments down?

Although most consultants want to secure as much business as possible, sometimes you can be offered more work than you can handle. If turning down work is a necessity, you must find a way to do so without alienating the client (and perhaps running the risk of losing out on future business opportunities with them). Here are some suggestions:
  1. Express regret for not being able to take on the additional assignment at this time. Let the prospect know how much, under normal circumstances, you would enjoy working with them and that you would really like to have another opportunity to work with them once your schedule frees up a bit. You might even provide a date when this might be (e.g., "I am currently on a heavy assignment, but work is expected to wrap on that in 3 weeks. If you have some flexibility, perhaps we can re-schedule this work for then.")
  2. Avoid taking the "full bucket" view (i.e., once the bucket is full, no additional water can be added.) What if you could drain some of the existing water out of the bottom of the bucket and replace it with some fresh, high quality H2O? In other words, consider carefully if this is truly an assignment that you want to turn down. Take a "whole system" approach, evaluating all of your current assignments. Perhaps this is the type of work you have been striving for! If so, look at some of your other, less significant (or no longer desirable) assignments and see if there is a potential to scale back on those (once your immediate responsibilities on each have been fulfilled).
  3. Offer the prospect an alternative (smaller scope, extended timeframe, off-hours work, limited deliverable.) They can always say "No", but at least you offered them an option.
  4. Refer them to other trusted and qualified consultants.
Tip: When turning down work, treat your client with the same level of care and respect as you do when you readily accept an assignment. Do your best to defer, re-prioritize, offer alternatives or refer your client's request rather than give an unqualified "No" to their proposal.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  engagement management  planning  referrals  sales  your consulting practice 

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