How to Say No to Clients Without Losing Them

Adapted from an article by Manish Bhalla

Saying ‘NO’ is an art! Most of the times it denotes something negative but if said at the right time and in the right manner, a NO can contribute positively towards the growth of your company and you! The mind gets perplexed when it comes to saying NO to a customer whom you want to do business with. But sometimes a NO is required to save a possible future damage to your professional relationship.

Here are a few things to be kept in mind while saying ‘NO’ to a prospective client or an existing one asking for a discount yet keeping him happy and convinced about hiring your services –

1. Be empathetic – Being empathetic is the key to convince the customer that the NO is being said in their favor. If you put yourselves in the customer’s shoes and try to understand his thoughts and feelings about a situation, you would be able to justify the NO to yourself as well as to the customer, who is being denied the discount.

2. Be sure of when to tell a customer NO– You have to define your own yardsticks to measure whether a NO would put your company behind or ahead from where it stands today. Be clear on what your boundaries are pertaining to customer service. You can tell a customer NO when you know that the discount is not being offered to any other customer as well, hence, you follow a fair practice. You can also tell a NO when the perk being asked for is against your company policy.

3. The sooner the better –Instead of procrastinating the process of saying NO, do it quickly and honestly. Keeping the customers waiting for a decision on their request would only fluster them. But if it is required at all to evaluate the issue, you should try to offer an alternative solution and convey the final decision soon. The customers will appreciate that.

4. Stay positive- When it comes to iterating a negative thing, we tend to emit similar emotions. But if you convey the NO in a positive way, it leaves the doors open for the customers to come back to you in future.

End the conversation on a positive note and make the customer feel good about the NO so they may get back to you when they find you affable.

5. Offer the next best solution – If not the best, then offer the next best solution to the customers. They may get upset at first but there’s a possibility that they settle in for the alternative solution being offered to them. All you need to do is emphasize its benefits to the customers and they are likely to be convinced.

6. Be clear and transparent – Don’t give a vague explanation.The clearer and more transparent you remain in your explanation of saying NO to the customers the better it is. Explain the cause of being unable to process their request at that point of time very lucidly and honestly; it pays.

7. Create a long lasting impression – Be polite and sincere. The customers always look for an exhilarating experience from the service provider. If you maintain a mannerly stance right from the beginning till the end, even if you have to decline a request, they would still retain the impression and the experience that they have had with you!

8. Stay mindful – Keeping in mind the thoughts of your customers and the impact that your decision might have on them can make things easier for you to portray. Being mindful and aware of what your words might sound like to the receiver will help you mould them in an acceptable manner.

9. Don’t lose your graciousness – Be elegant in your tone and mannerism while saying NO and never shout at the clients even if they get irate. Maintaining your calm will always help you cool down the customers as well.

Consumers like being treated with care even if sometimes we are not able to give them what they have requested for.

10. Build relationship and not cut corners –  Investing into a relationship will go a long way than just cutting corners at once. Gain confidence of the customers and build trust by soliciting their feedback and thanking them for their time.

If you show that your support will continue through this established relationship, the customers are likely to contact you when they think of such a project again.

Fed up with Skype? Here Are 6 of the Best Free Alternatives

For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.

Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.

For something much simpler than Skype, a service like might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.

1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)

A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.

Since its launch just a few short years ago, Google Hangouts has rapidly grown to rival Skype in terms of user numbers while, according to many, surpassing Skype’s call quality.

While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.

The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.

Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.

2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)

One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.

Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).

You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.

3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.

Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.

If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.

It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.

5. Talky (Web, iOS)

Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.

Just like, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.

Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).

Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.

And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.

6. Voca (Android, iOS)

Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.

Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.

If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.

And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp

Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.

It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).

When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.

Will You be Abandoning Skype?

Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.

Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?

If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?

Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.

The freelancer and the entrepreneur

Which are you?

A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run. The entrepreneur builds an organization that creates change.

The trap is simple: Sometime freelancers get entrepreneur-envy and start hiring other freelancers to work for them. This doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and saving the best projects for yourself gets you into trouble. The cash flow gets you into trouble. Investors don’t want to invest in you because you can’t sell out if you’re a freelancer at heart.

If you’re an entrepreneur, it is impossible to succeed by using your own labor to fill the gaps. That’s because your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).

This problem has been around for awhile, and it’s tempting to think that more effort can let us solve it — that we can be both. New tools give freelancers more leverage than ever before, and our culture continues to push us to get big, right now.

The thing is, more effort can’t solve this dilemma for you. Sooner or later, more effort doesn’t scale. Travis doesn’t drive the Uber that picks you up, Sheryl doesn’t do any coding and Jacqueline can’t work with every investment, every day.

The solution is surprisingly easy.

If you’re a freelancer, freelance. Figure out how to do the best work in your field, the best work for the right clients. Don’t fret about turning away work, and don’t fret about occasional down time. You’re a freelance for hire, and you need to focus on your reputation and the flow of business. Find leverage in the form of assistants and outsource the commodities if you can, but your work is always going to be your work.

Freelancers get ahead by becoming more in demand, by charging more (and being worth it). They get ahead by being more connected, smarter, more effective.

If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t hire yourself. Build a business that works, that thrives with or without you. It might not be good for your ego, but it will be good for your bank account.

It’s possible to switch hats, to have side projects, to have two ‘jobs’. But we can’t wear both hats at the same time, can’t freelance our way to entrepreneurial success.

Reblogged from

To Foster Innovation, Connect Coworkers Who Share Aspirations

There are three types of identities we all have as human beings. Identities of origin we are given at birth: gender, race, or religion among others. Later, we form identities of growth, those in which we seek to satisfy our emotional needs, based on our likes and dislikes. Finally, as we become more independent, we often look to make a contribution to society through our identities of aspiration.

These three sources of identity shape the communities we join and create. Communities of aspiration are especially powerful. When people who share the same ambitious goals come together, they can move mountains. While communities of origin and growth currently attract the most attention from HR leaders, we think communities of aspiration deserve more attention.

Any company that wants to improve collaboration, break down so-called siloes, or live into its diversity goals will be well-served by pursuing a deeper understanding of each. Each requires a different approach.

Communities of origin are our connection with the past; they link us to our forebears, who provided us with our first map of understanding the world. Whether we personally identify with them or not, other people will often categorize us according to them.

Whether it’s based on race, gender, religion, or country, some communities of origin experience obstacles to inclusion. Since the 1980s, some organizations have tried to eliminate these obstacles in their workplaces. One of the most common efforts has been to create affinity groups within the company for people sharing a specific identity (a “Women’s Leadership Network” for example) so that participants can mentor each other and discuss ways to overcome the shared challenges they face. For example, IBM has created its business resource groups (BRG), employee-driven units based not only on race or gender but also on issues like cross-generational differences. By 2015 the total number of such groups in IBM was at least 244 around the world. Such communities are particularly useful in recruitment, hiring, talent development, or in defining employee retention policies.

Most multinational companies now have similar BRG schemes that help achieve specific key performance indicators on how diversity of origin manifests itself in the organization.

Communities of growth offer connections to the present; they are made up of people we feel an affinity with based on our current likes and dislikes. Communities of growth may be official or semi-official – such as the company softball or soccer team – or self-organizing and informal, such as a group of employees who regularly meet up for yoga and coffee. Communities often provide us with a feeling of security. They also give us maps of the world different to those of our identities of origin, which is why they change as we change, while at the same time always representing our present.

Many companies have attempted to develop friendship-based communities among employees, typically organizing activities such as weekends out, departmental Christmas parties, and so on, in a bid to create emotional ties between workers and the company. But because emotional communities are held together as much by the likes as by the dislikes of members, they can be unpredictable and difficult to manage. As a result, these emotional communities can sometimes work to the benefit of organizations, but they can just as often end up having the opposite effect, particularly when people share a dislike for certain policies, boss, or for what they consider to be an unfair situation.Continue

If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together Is Pointless

Collaboration is crumpling under the weight of our expectations. What should be a messy back-and-forth process far too often falls victim to our desire to keep things harmonious and efficient. Collaboration’s promise of greater innovation and better risk mitigation can go unfulfilled because of cultural norms that say everyone should be in agreement, be supportive, and smile all the time. The common version of collaboration is desperately in need of a little more conflict.

You’ve probably been taught to see collaboration and conflict as opposites. In some cultures the language and imagery of teamwork is ridiculously idyllic: rowers in perfect sync, or planes flying in tight formation. As a team, you’re “all in the same boat.” To be a good team player, you must “row in the same direction.” These idealized versions of teamwork and collaboration are making many teams impotent.

There’s no point in collaboration without tension, disagreement, or conflict. What we need is collaboration where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants.

It’s time to change your mindset about conflict. Let go of the idea that all conflict is destructive, and embrace the idea that productive conflict creates value. If you think beyond the trite clichés, it’s obvious: Collaborating is unnecessary if you agree on everything. Building on one another’s ideas only gets you incremental thinking. If you avoid disagreeing, you leave faulty assumptions unexposed. As Walter Lippmann said, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” To maximize the benefit of collaborating, you need to diverge before you converge.

Unfortunately, our distaste for conflict is so entrenched that encouraging even modest disagreement takes significant effort. I find that three specific techniques help people embrace productive conflict. Carve out some team development time to do these exercises before your next contentious discussion.

First, discuss the different roles in the team and highlight what each role brings to the conversation. Highlight how the roles are there to drive different agendas. As an example, if you are in a cross-functional meeting with sales and production, the production person might be advocating for more standardization, control, and efficiency. The sales person advocates for the exact opposite: more flexibility, customization, and agility. When they are doing their jobs well, the sales and production leads should conflict with one another on the path to an optimized solution. One is fighting to be as responsive as possible to unique customer needs; the other fights for the consistency that breeds quality control and cost effectiveness.

As you work through each role in the team and their different motives, you’ll see the light bulbs going on as people realize, “You mean I’m supposed to fight with that person!” Yes! “And when he’s disagreeing with me, it’s not because he’s a jerk or trying to annoy me?” Right! If the team has the right composition, each member will be fighting for something unique. They are doing their jobs (and being good team players) by advocating in different directions, not by acquiescing. By taking the time to normalize the tensions that collaborators already feel, you liberate them to disagree, push, pull, and fight hard for the best answer.

Second, use a personality or style assessment tool to highlight differences in what people are paying attention to. In addition to differences stemming from their roles, team members will have different perspectives on an issue based on their personalities. As you explore the findings for your team, look for any tensions that might stem from personality-based diversity. Pay particular attention if you have one or two styles that are in the minority on your team. Team members with minority perspectives should be given the responsibility to speak up if the team’s thinking becomes lopsided.

For example, in my work with dozens of executive teams, I’ve found a dearth of executives who fully appreciate the process-related issues involved in strategy and execution. I call out those who have this lens and set the expectation that they are going to challenge the team when big ideas are insufficiently thought out or when alignment is only superficial. By describing the unique value of different perspectives, you encourage those in the minority to raise their voices.

A third approach to normalizing and encouraging productive conflict is to set ground rules around dissension. Ask your team to define the behaviors that contribute to productive conflict (i.e., conflict that improves decision making while contributing to increased trust) and those that detract from it. Cover as much territory as possible to give people a clear picture of what is, and is not, acceptable behavior on your team.

In addition to clarifying appropriate conflict behaviors, you might want to define processes or roles that will help you to have more-frequent or more-effective conflict. Some teams have success with DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, which has team members use a specified perspective (e.g., white hat is logical and fact-based; black hat is cautious and conservative; green hat is creative and provocative) to shed new light on the issue at hand. Others assign the responsibility for eliciting diverging views to a rotating chairperson or the owner of the agenda item. The key is to clearly define the process you’re using and the associated expectations. Continue

How To Build A Better Team? New Meta-analysis Says Active Learning

Whether you work in healthcare, engineering, or as a professional soccer player, working together smoothly with your colleagues is essential. Teamwork is so important for organizations that a whole industry of teamwork training has sprung up to help teach employees how to be better team players. But do these kinds of team-building interventions actually work?

To find out, a team of Canadian researchers recently conducted a massive review of the research on teamwork training interventions. Their results suggest that, overall, teamwork training really does seem to help teams of all stripes boost their performance.

“Bringing a group of highly-skilled individuals together is not sufficient for teams to be effective,” the researchers write. “Rather, team members need to be able to work well together in order for the team to successfully achieve its purposes.”

Led by psychological scientist Desmond McEwan of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, the meta-analysis included 39 interventions from 33 studies comprising a pool of more than 8,000 participants.

From bringing in motivational speakers to multi-day workshops, there are many different approaches to teamwork intervention. The researchers started their review by classifying different interventions into one of four general categories:

  • classroom-style lectures where a group listens to speakers on teamwork-related topics;
  • hands-on workshops that might include interactive discussions of the team’s purposes and goals;
  • simulation training, where teams practice various skills that they actually use (e.g., an airline flight simulator or a medical emergency dummy);
  • and in-situ reviews where team members provide feedback on each other’s work in real time.

The researchers also analyzed several other factors that might influence the effectiveness of a training, including how long the team had worked together, how improvements in productivity were measured, and whether the study took place in a lab or in a real-world context. Additionally, McEwan and colleagues only included studies that compared a control group (i.e., employees that did not receive teamwork training) to an experimental group (i.e., those who received teamwork training).

Across the board, teamwork interventions had a significant positive impact on team performance.

“[T]eamwork interventions were shown to be effective at enhancing both teamwork and team performance across a variety of team contexts, including laboratory settings as well as real-world contexts of health care, aviation, military, and academia,” the researchers write.

Interestingly, interventions seemed to work better for new teams compared with already established ones.

“It is possible that teamwork processes might be more malleable and display greater potential for improvement with new teams compared to more established teams whose teamwork processes may be more entrenched,” the researchers explain.

The researchers note that a far higher proportion of the studies included in the meta-analysis focused on new teams compared to already established ones.

The analysis also showed that “all four training methods were effective for enhancing team performance,” but some were far more effective than others. Specifically, classroom-style instruction was found to be far less effective than the three types of interventions which included hands-on components.

“This suggests that simply providing educational lectures wherein team members passively learn about teamwork is not an effective way of improving teamwork,” McEwan and colleagues write.

What works for boosting the effectiveness of teams of doctors and pilots also appears to be true for teams of astronauts. A 2015 review published in Current Directions in Psychological Science looked at the emerging field of teamwork in space. One of the best ways to improve the quality of teamwork, the researchers found, was to incorporate active involvement into team-building exercises.

For organizations, this means that interventions that utilize interactivity and active learning are likely to be more effective than lectures or other forms of passive instruction.

Source:psychological science

Are we learning anything from climate change?

Its absurd that a lot of climate change talk has been done since time memorial but no one seems to care. Uganda is experiencing the worst dry spell since 100 years ago, this as explained by researchers. 2015 was really hit with many districts having food shortages because the crops dried and couldn’t grow anything. The forests are still being cut all at the expense of farming and development.  Real estate and industries are encroaching on the wetlands; we need an immediate solution.  Fortunately the causes of this problem are well known and need to be addressed with everyone on board. Environment degradation needs to be addressed with an iron hand to ensure that things move.

Forests and wetlands need to be restored to return water vapor back into the atmosphere, absorb greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, keep soil moist by blocking the sun, produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.  I believe the hot weather we are experiencing is just the beginning and hence immediate action needs to be taken into account.

The more we learn about how climate change will affect people and the environment, the more we can see why people need to take action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. We can also take steps to prepare for the changes we know are coming.