“Can you do this?” The client was giving me that squinty-eyed look, full of doubt.
“Yes!” I replied, with conviction.
We rose, shook hands, nodded our heads and as he gathered his briefcase and laptop, I held the door.
The conference room was suddenly steamy and dark. As I closed the door, I turned to my colleagues at the table and, with wide eyes, I blurted out what they were all thinking, “How the heck are we gonna do that?”
Early on in my consulting career I learned a very important lesson when I was at a seminar on book marketing. The goal was to learn how to create and support a marketing program for my authors. We were adamant at my publishing company that we were actually going to help our authors market their work, and not just send them a PDF with suggestions on it. As a published author myself, I was well aware of the kind of help most publishers offered – PDFs of “what to do,” or kind words of encouragement and short lists of local media to contact, all of which was overwhelming to most new authors.
The speaker at the conference told a great story. A story of connecting with a large corporation that had seen some of his work, and admired the books he published. This big corporation wanted him to publish 100,000 books … written by a new, upcoming author, for which they would pay him a percentage and he could then pay the author, in royalties whatever deal he’d made with the author.
In case you’re a novice, let me explain. Most books don’t make it to 10,000 let alone 100,000. Print runs, especially for first time authors, can end at 5,000 copies. Or fewer. To be asked to produce 100,000 books… on deadline…gave the speaker heartburn! So he said. “How,” he thought, “am I going to pull this off?”
The corporation’s representative was waiting for an answer. Patiently waiting. The speaker told us how he broke out in a sweat. How his brain began to calculate the time, energy, staff and equipment he would need to produce that amount of print books in the short time allotted. It was impossible! It was unthinkable! It was crazy beyond belief! He gulped. He took a breath… wondered how to ask for more time or more money or more something… and finally, straightening up to his full height, he put his hand out and said, “Deal. I’ll do it.”
“Never,” he said to those of us at the conference, “say no. When a client asks you to deliver, you say YES. The answer to every question – if you are going to make a profit – is YES.”
I never forgot that. Many times since then Tom and I have been in situations that would test us to our limits, but we knew… when the yes doable though a lot of work, and when it was… insane. We also knew when yes had to come with a caveat.
Yes, I am advising you to answer requests with “yes” each and every time; yes, you can write that post tomorrow. Yes, you can make that video. Yes, you can work with that other blogger to make a series of marketing posts. Yes, you are excited for the opportunity . Because in each of those instances, the right answer is yes. Will it be hard, time consuming, even full of trials and tribulations, sure. But, you can and should do it.
The only time not to say yes is when you are POSITIVE you cannot deliver. When the task is too monumental or too close or too whatever.
What do you do then?
You refer the job to someone who can complete it. You do not say no. You say, “I’m certain this can be done. I know just the person to do it.” And then you find that person – making sure it’s someone who will complete the task, who will do an outstanding job and who will thank you afterwards.
There is a fine line between “yes I will do it” and “yes I can get it done”… your goal is to be honest, but approachable. You need to tackle tasks with vigor and determination, even when you are referring them to someone else. No matter what, you want your client or would-be client to trust you. Whatever it takes to build and keep that trust, is what you must do.
The answer to every question is always yes.
“I don’t know how we’re going to pull this off,” I said, that long ago day I faced my team in our claustrophobic board room, standing around that worn wooden table, wiping sweat from my brow, “but we’re going to do it. So, let’s get started. Are you with me?”
To which they replied, in unison, loud enough to rattle the windows, “Yes!”