How often do you say “yes” to something over the phone, and then regret it the instant you hang up?
When I develop products for clients, it’s a constant struggle to stop myself from promising them the moon. They’re footing the bill, and I want to keep them happy. When they ask me for a quick favor or a previously-undiscussed feature, it feels like saying “yes” is the right thing to do.
Sometimes, “yes” is the right answer. But more often than not, committing to something without thinking it through will just dig you into a hole. Even the most innocuous-sounding task can lead to trouble once you consider the gritty details.
And once you take on one extra task, it won’t be long before you find yourself committing to another. And another. And another.
In order to stop this cycle before it begins, you need to break the habit of using “yes” as your default answer. Instead, when a client asks you to do something—anything—have a quick answer prepared that will buy you time to consider the question properly.
Here are some phrases I use often:
“Let me think about that and get back to you.”
“Can you send me that question as an email?”
And my personal favorite:
“I can look into that, but it will delay the feature I’m working on right now. Is it important?
Remember, you’re a busy person, and your client knows that. When they’re paying you, they’d like you to be as busy as possible! Using one or more of those phrases as your default answer reinforces that knowledge. It protects you from scope creep and shows your client that you are a thoughtful, competent professional.
Next time your client makes a last-minute request over the phone, give this a shot and let me know how it goes. And if you have another way of handling those requests, I’d love to hear about it! Either way, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.