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“The YES man” vs saying “NO”

09/03/2011 Leave a comment

There is no designer on earth that can tell me he / she automatically does not become a “YES” person. At the very basic level within business, whatever you do is about pleasing the client and for the most part it’s ok because your client tends to relax around you knowing that they can share their ideas without too much of a challenge from you the designer.

But there will arise an occasion where you have to move away from being the client pleaser to being the person that says NO. At this point the client is no longer your friend and what you have to do is almost be weary of every step you take. It is never as simple as just saying NO.

It sometimes proves to be a real headache as in most cases, Designers are almost always in a subordinate role and whether you are the biggest corporate or the little man on the side-walk – the general rule in business is that the client is always right. It’s clear to me from working in different industries that being able to gently tell a client NO, is almost an art form. You don’t want to lose your client!

The other important note is that not all clients are deaf to advice, but if that one instance of “NO” is not handled well it could lead to your client having this negative perception about you and we all know perception becomes reality with people. It should also be made clear that sometimes your “NO” is actually an attempt at understanding the “WHY” from a client. What I sometimes forget as a designer is that clients are paying and imagine if it were myself paying for a service and the company tells me NO! That would not be a great feeling!

We should also consider such things as project status, what I mean to say is that it’s a very different situation if you are telling the client “No” when they are still briefing you in or at the early stages of the project to if the project was half way through and a problem arose. If you really think about it at the early stages, you could actually dish out the bullshit to tell the client no and they would buy it. If however you have started the project it would make more sense to be honest and ensure you deliver all the facts to the client.

With all of this “NO” talk there are simple guides that we could follow to help the client absorb what you are saying:

1. Say NO, but always offer an alternative – it makes you look useless as a designer if you say NO and then just leave your client hanging.
2. Say NO, but say it nicely – remember perception could kill your relationship with the client, so listen to the conversation and ensure that what you are saying cannot be perceived as you have disregard for the client.
3. Say NO, but still assure the client of your skill – This will help if you are going to work with this client in the future. It’s almost an assurance that you as a designer are good at what you do, however on this project the circumstances were against you.
4. Say NO, but show the client you are thinking about the end result – You want your client to know that you have their best interest in mind with the choices you make as a designer. I’m hoping clients would be more accepting of  a “NO” if they are aware that you are looking out for their best interest.
5. Say NO, directly and clearly –  Don’t beat around the bush, you want to ensure that everyone is on the same page, thus allowing to customer to do what they need to and still have time to do so.

Personally, saying “NO” is never easy and it’s even more difficult to remove the stigma of – you are just a designer that says “NO” for everything –  from your client’s mind. Whatever you do just be tactful.

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