6 Ways Event Planners Can Say No and Still Get the Client

What do you want your event planning business to be known for?

That’s a question I ask myself frequently – and no matter where I am or what I’m doing:

Adele is playing in the background…’what do I want my business to be known for?’

I’m traveling back from Australia to Canada…’what do I want my business to be known for?’

I’m trying to watch The Good Wife…’what do I want my business to be known for?’

You might be afraid that you’ll scare away a potential client or miss out on opportunities unless you say yes to everyone. And, it’s not only new event planners that have this problem, if you’re already established you probably have a full agenda, and it can be hard to prioritize your to-do list let alone the ‘right fit’ client.

If you struggle to balance your time with your clients’ requests or if the client just isn’t the right fit, then these 6 ways event planners can say no are just what you need.

And, they’ll help you and your clients know who you are and what you’re known for.

Why is it Important for Event Planners to Learn to Say No?

If you can prioritize clients and their requests, and not say yes to everyone that comes your way, you’ll find that you have more time for your business, and you can say yes to the people you really want to work with.

When I was first starting out, I was so worried about saying no that I said yes to any work that came my way – even if it didn’t fit with my niche or skill level, and I spent too much time trying to figure out what my business stood for. What I stood for.

This wasn’t a winning strategy and didn’t last long!

So, if you’re struggling to find the right client(s) or you’re spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to say no and work with the right event clients, follow these tips:

How to Say No in Event Planning

  • Consider every request. Although you shouldn’t be saying yes to everyone, you should think it through and ask yourself if the job and the client fit with your event planning business. I’d recommend creating a ‘client anatomy’ so you have a clear understanding of what your client looks like and whom you want to work with. Your client anatomy can include age, income, location, personality type, but also consider what characteristics and values you want your business to have and what you want to be known for.
  • Don’t say no in an email. If at all possible you should do it in person or on the phone. You may think it’s easier not to have to speak to the person directly, but having a conversation is the best way to maintain relationships. Even though this client may not be the right fit, it doesn’t mean they won’t recommend you to someone else who could be your perfect client.
  • Be honest. If you have too many other things on your plate, then say so. If you don’t want to work with the client, let your prospective client know that you have a full plate and are unable to devote the necessary energy to them at this time – it’s likely to make them admire your loyalty to clients and your work ethic.
  • Offer alternatives. If your schedule is full, there are ways event planners can say no but still get the business in the long run. If you can give a prospective client a time frame as to when you’ll be free, you may find that they’re able to wait. If your client’s request just isn’t possible or you don’t want to work with them, you should offer an alternative solution. Strategic partnerships work well in this situation. Build a relationship with another event planner that you can recommend (and vice versa) when you’re unable to commit to more work or to the client. People appreciate this, and it offers you the opportunity to stay connected throughout the process, if it’s appropriate.
  • You don’t need to explain yourself in exhaustive detail. Simply saying that it doesn’t fit your schedule right now, or you can’t offer them the time required to plan their event, is perfectly acceptable.
  • Plan for all eventualities. Have you ever had a client who wants to keep adding extras onto the scope of what’s already been agreed, and you struggle to say no? That’s scope creep folks, and you can avoid it by having everything laid out in your contract, including exactly what’s included in the cost of your services and any charges for out-of-scope work. It’s easier to say no when your client has already signed and agreed to the terms, so I suggest structuring your contract and fees clearly. Being transparent from start to end will pay off for you and the relationship you’re building with your event clients.

I’d like to hear from you… have you ever had to say no to a client? In the comments below, share (in as much detail as you’d like) how you handle situations like this?

We love hearing from our global community of event planners but, remember, links to outside posts and videos are seen as SPAM and are deleted. 🙂

If you know any other great ways event planners can say no and still get the client, share them in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Curtis April 14, 2014 at 10:58 am

    It is very hard to say no when you are starting a new business and I can see that you would get overwhelmed by all the work because of it. I get walked on by people and taken advantage of because I don’t say no to people so learning this for me is very important and I have to say very timely. Thank you for the advice you have given here.

    Reply
  2. Avatar John April 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I got a chuckle when I first started reading this article because I like to follow quite a few TV shows and movies (on demand programming because I wouldn’t want to let my leisure habits dictate my schedule). I could also relate to thinking about my business endeavors throughout the day, even while I am watching my favorite shows. When you run your own business, it consumes your thoughts, as it should.

    Reply

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