Five reasons to say no to a customer

Marc Gordon
May 25, 2018
By Marc Gordon
Here are five tips from marketing expert Marc Gordon on how to say no to a demanding customer.

Customers have come to expect a level of service that may be beyond the capacity of the companies they buy from. Does that mean the seller is providing poor service? Or perhaps the customer has unrealistic expectations? If you think your industry is getting overrun by over demanding customers, take heed. This article will provide some guidance – and comfort.

Annoyed with customers who you believe are asking for too much? Remember this: customers have a right to ask for whatever they want, such as discounts, free delivery, or no-charge extended warranties. On the other hand, you as a business owner have that equal right to say no. But with a constant desire to win more business and make your customers happy, how do you know when to say no? Let these five tips be your guide.

  1. It may be expected every time. Giving a loyal customer a deal just because they ask is a great way to show your appreciation. However it will be difficult to explain why they can't get that deal the next time. Instead, set terms for the deal such as volume, time of year, or let them know about specific conditions that allow for it. 
  2. It is based on false promises. A new customer, who has yet to actually buy anything, may ask for a discount with the promise of either purchasing more in the future, or bringing you lots of referrals. My experience has been that not only won't this promise be kept but also you'll never being able to charge this customer full price again. When faced with this kind of request, offer a rebate program based on future purchases. 
  3. Will it be a cost or an investment? Every request you grant a customer should come with a perceived return. Will they buy more? Can they refer others? In some cases the answer may be yes, so giving them what they ask for could be viewed as an investment. But in other cases it may be a one-time purchase. So at that point it becomes simply a cost. And while in either case you may choose to give them what they ask for, it's important to recognize the difference.
  4. You don't want them as a customer. Let's face it, some customers are a pain in the butt. They may be slow to pay, complain a lot, and demand an unreasonable amount of time and resources. So why would you want to continue to earn their business by meeting their every demand? Say no. Potentially followed by a polite goodbye. 
  5. The favour won't be returned. A healthy supplier-customer relationship means both parties getting what they want. For you, that means getting referrals, loyalty, and being paid on time. If you find yourself regularly offering discounts and free stuff (like your time), and getting nothing back but stress, then maybe this is a relationship you need to re-assess.
Marc Gordon is a recognized marketing expert, speaker and strategist. His articles appear in over 200 publications worldwide. Visit or his online show at for more business tips.

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