Just Turned Down a Consulting Job and I’m Glad

I just answered a social media consulting inquiry with this…

No, I’m sorry, that’s not what we really do well. We’re a business, so we’d have to charge you; and we wouldn’t be giving you your money’s worth.

… and I went on to recommend somebody else. The person I recommended as a consultant does do what my inquirer wanted.

square peg round hole rosipaw flickr cc

I won’t bore you with details, but to me this transaction is a great example of the right attitude about sales. I don’t believe in selling as tricking somebody into buying something other than what they want. Selling is matching wants and needs, figuring out whether what you do is what that person needs or wants, and making a good match.

Jumping on this kind of inquiry with a yes, making a pitch, while hoping to beef up your capabilities midstream, is tempting. But leads to a lot of problems.

Ending up with “we don’t do that” is great for credibility, gives you a chance of future business, avoids the danger of a bad consulting engagement with unhappy clients, and keeps your self and your spirit whole.

(photo credit: rosipaw via photopin cc)


  • Karen Swim says:

    I counseled a new entrepreneur about this recently. A podiatrist will not agree to do your brain surgery just because you ask. Having a successful business is not about saying “yes” but knowing when to say “no.” This is a great post with an important reminder to learn the importance of saying no to things that really are not in your area of expertise.

  • Tim Berry says:

    Steve, Clint, Daria, thanks for good additions.

  • Daria Steigman says:

    Hi Tim.

    This is hard for a lot of budding entrepreneurs and consultants to understand, but it is critical. When you’re trying to be all things to all people, you usually fail. If it’s the wrong fit, I’ve always preferred to say so and preserve my reputation (and let the prospect come back later with the right project).

  • Clint Wilson says:

    Good read Tim and always pays in the end to be honest about skills for sure:)


  • Stephen Lahey says:

    Wise, wise advice, Tim. I say that having been a self-employed consultant in a sales intensive industry since 2000. It’s all about a great fit between what we do best and what the client actually needs.

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