Startup Lessons Learned This Week: The Power of ‘No’

Image for the Dasheroo Power of No article.As I mentioned in Startup Lessons Learned in the past couple weeks, we’ve launched our pricing and our billing solution. So now that we can actually charge people, we’re getting into sales discussions with agencies and larger companies who are interested in our business dashboards solution. It’s exciting!

That said, we just launched Dasheroo on May 5, so we’re still early on and we don’t yet have all the features and functionality that more advanced users like agencies or consultants want. Features like co-branding our app, dashboard exports, and user roles and permissions.

So, just this past week I’ve been in the unenviable position of having to say ‘No’ (more on that below) to several excellent prospects. “Do you have co-branding?”, “Can I export your dashboards to a PowerPoint?”, “Can I make this dashboard read-only?”

‘No’, we don’t have any of those features yet. Years ago I would have freaked out to not have a pocket full of “Yes” to respond with. I would have felt like a loser, and the pressure to close a sale now would have been immense.

But there are benefits of this powerful, and sometimes feared, word. Let’s take a closer look at ‘No’:

  • It shows some real honesty & confidence; people appreciate that.
  • You can sometimes turn a ‘no’ into a thank you, when the request sounds reasonable but you’re just not sure if you’ll ever get around to it. Occasionally we’ll receive feature requests than actually sound great, but not for the near term. So it’s not a ‘no’, it’s a “Thank you for your suggestion. This feature isn’t on our near-term roadmap, but I’ll get it in front of our product folks to review…”. And we do review each feature request we receive.
  • ‘No’ can often be communicated as ‘Not yet or ‘No, but…”, if that is an accurate statement. For instance, co-branding, dashboard exports, and advanced user roles and permissions are in fact on our near-term product roadmap. People will be patient if they believe that your goals are aligned and you’re open with them.
  • Sometimes a firm ‘No’ is warranted. In the case where one customer may be forcing feature demands on you that will not value the balance of your users, or is just something you feel strongly is not in your best interests. Jason Freid of Basecamp wrote a great article a few years ago, where he noted that a customer requested they provide Gantt Charts as part of their Basecamp project management offering. He duly noted that many other companies already provide Gantt Charts and it’s not something they will ever consider.

After several agency and larger company meetings the past week or so, the results are interesting and encouraging. People genuinely like our user interface, ease of use and pricing. That’s the core of our value proposition. So when we discuss upcoming features and functionality with these folks, we’re driving toward a mutually beneficial solution and inviting them to help define that solution. Plus, we’re often able to provide some short term workarounds in the meantime.

So can forms of ‘No’ actually get you to a yes? It’s looking promising, plus it ensures that we stay true to our product vision, which hopefully will benefit all of our users for years to come.

What’s your take on the pros and cons of ‘No’? Let me know!

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