There are lots of books about the power of saying No. Books that proclaim that saying No is the key to success in any management role.
Which would be fine if it wasn’t so darn tough.
Our jobs are hard enough without trampling on the feelings of our colleagues. And to be so definitive; is that really ever possible?
So, I tell my team that No should be reserved for the absolute last resort. Clients come to us for a way forward, and we owe them an energetic and passionate commitment to making the best out of what can be done.
Now, this dictate should not be confused with a “the client is always right” approach but rather it’s a recognition that just as in improvisational comedy, “No” is a stopper, while “Yes, and…” is a launching pad.
But for those of us who still struggle with the two-letter negative, here’s five ways to navigate the No conversation:
Search for information: Before you close off any avenue of inquiry, are you sure you have gathered all the relevant data? There are two forms of data available to every marketer: facts and emotions. Just because the company has not done something before does not mean it will not try something new. And just because the last team failed does not mean you can’t organize the data to energize a new round of experimentation and creation.
Consider the alternatives: You can think of any marketing conversation as a kind of negotiation. And great negotiators caution us to avoid getting stuck on any point, but instead to constantly expand the conversation in search of variables that can be used to move participants past fixed points. What does next week mean? Monday or Friday? Do we really need a product name to develop an elevator speech? Can we make that decisions after we test the idea? Beware of rolling out a No before you have considered all the angles at play.
Ask (or don’t) your customers: Innovators, by their very nature, must learn to discount criticism and customer feedback. It’s said that when Henry Ford asked his customers what they wanted, they said a faster horse (he probably didn’t, but innovators still say this with depressing frequency). The first lesson of Moore’s famous Market Adoption (Chasm) theory is that members of the early market are few and far between and don’t conform to the patterns of the majority. Innovators lean hard on the experience of the early market to identify opportunities. But they also learn not to listen to most people.