When “NO” is Perfectly Acceptable
Article Written by Darlene Kelly-Stewart, STONEHOUSE Sales & Marketing Services, MPI Ottawa Chapter Member
MPIOttawaChapter, #Meetingindustry, #NOisOK
Let’s discuss something that seems to be sliding off the end of the iPad - Etiquette, in this case business etiquette; as a refresher, “Conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.”
How does this impact us on a daily basis? It is basic manners. Sometimes beyond being polite to each other by using please and thank you but also to common occurrences or requests.
Great examples in our industry would be THE INVITATION, THE MESSAGE, THE QUESTION all equally important to suppliers and planners alike.
When an INVITATION has been sent to you, what you do vs. what should you do?
· Action 1 à Do you Skip it? Open it? Read it? Trash it? Ignore it? Forget it? Move on….
· Action 2 à Or do you open it, read it, consider it, see the RSVP and reply, yes or no? and then move on
Why should you pick Action 2? Certainly you realize that there is a cost associated with the event, the time effort and thought put into organizing it, the care and consideration in selecting the people to invite to the event and they actually invited you. The host is waiting to hear if you will or will not come to the event. They really do need to know. General etiquette would require that you reply: Yes or No.
If you cannot attend, say No, or even No Thank You. This gives the organizer the opportunity to ask someone else, change their plans, adjust their guarantee or whatever, but at the very least there is no speculation; you will not be attending.
If you are positive that you can attend or would like to attend, say Yes or Yes, Thank you. Secure the event in your calendar and be respectful enough to show up. IF for some reason your plans must change whether that is minutes after you have replied yes, or minutes before the event starts, be courteous and send a note by email or text or call, provide a brief explanation: work plans have changed, illness, double booked in error – whatever it is, at least there is no speculation, you will not be attending.
Recently I had said yes to an industry event, because I have always been reliable, when I was a little late showing up the host was genuinely concerned that I was OK because I had never no-showed without reason or notice. I had sent a colleague a text that I was running late and to let the host know, but was quite surprised that the host noticed enough to ask and was touched by her concern.
Be it a phone message or email message, a quick call or reply can make all the difference. I recently was tasked to help arrange sales missions. I had a long list of semi-qualified prospects to reach out to and diligently started my approach to fulfill the in-person call quota and the social invitation quota. There was substantial investment made by the group in agreeing to participate in the missions. I felt the pressure to perform and make the trips fantastic for them. After advance notification of the visits, weeks of calls, direct follow-up messages and reminders not being returned, I was so discouraged. My message was clear, the dates and times provided specific, the call to action was simplified. Click here for yes, click there for no. So why were close to 90% of these not answered? In my opinion, decidedly poor business etiquette and bad manners. Although the missions were fine, they were not fantastic – it still bothers me.
The other side of that is when a supplier asks a planner for a decision on a proposal, order or arrangement. Be as forthcoming as you can about your decision, YES or NO, otherwise advise on when a decision can be made, what might be holding your approval back or what circumstances you may be facing that is slowing the YES or NO decision down. Suppliers need to know if they will be moving forward or not. It is important for them to know for a number of reasons and your decision has an impact.
Saying YES or NO makes a difference. Neither is good or bad, it is an answer that people need to move their own plans forward and can release you from further frustration. During site inspections I ask a lot of questions, I usually set the framework in advance by letting the supplier know that I will be asking questions and that NO is an acceptable answer. Suppliers don’t like to say NO, they think it puts them in a bad light or that they are not being flexible. To the contrary, I need to know the parameters of the facility or service, if you know that the answer is NO – just own it. It will save us all time and energy and the focus can move to the next item on the list.
When you are in this industry, I feel there is a certain obligation to each other to be honest and fair and polite. It is a two-way mirror. This is how relationships are established. This is how trust is earned and kept. This is how we thrive.
Is there room for MAYBE as an answer? Absolutely, but you cannot hover at MAYBE for long; you will need eventually to answer YES or NO.
To summarize, if you are sent an invitation, that “RSVP” means to reply YES OR NO. If you say YES - show up or if after the fact of saying yes you cannot attend, reach out and cancel. Equally if you have said NO, and your plans change and you have an interest in attending, perhaps you still can, contact the host and find out.
If you are sent a message and a reply is requested, take a minute and do it. If you are asked a question and you know the answer to be YES or NO – share it. IF you must reply maybe, why leave someone on the edge of an uncertainty, where that limbo can start causing a ripple effect on future business or relationships, eventually a decision will be needed, so make it.
Let’s try it out…. Did you enjoy this article?
YES – by clicking YES your reply will be added to our poll response, you will be happier knowing you have good manners.
NO – by clicking NO your reply will be added to our poll response, we can all move on knowing you have good manners.
MAYBE – by clicking MAYBE, you will be returned to the top of the article to read it again and reselect your reply, but at least you have good manners.