When you’re a new cookie decorator every order is super special. Every customer is a gift so you want to accommodate everyone. But it’s really important to find a balance between the cookie decorating and other responsibilities/important things in your life. Often times, and this is true even for me. We get so wrapped up in the cookies that we let our personal lives slip past us and then the people around us start feeling that we are not giving them the love and attention that they need from us as a mother, wife, or a family member. That’s why it’s really important to learn when to say "NO".
If you’re like me, you want to please everybody under the sun and the prospect of saying, "No" and potentially losing a customer is very very scary. However, in my experience saying, "no" can actually be a very good thing. To help with this, I learned to set a cookie limit and a series of polite but firm ways of saying I cannot accommodate anymore orders.
Set a Cookie Limit
First off, before I even think of saying no, I have to understand my baking ability and what I can reasonably accomplish in a given week. Therefore, I set myself a cookie limit per week. This is the amount of cookies that I can do in a typical week between Monday and Wednesday (sometimes Thursday mornings) and still have enough time in the week to dedicate to my family, my own personal interests, and work because I do actually have a full time job on top of all this. My soft cookie limit is 50 but my hard limit is 75. What I mean by soft and hard is I like to take about 50 cookies a week which is 4 dozen however I will take up to 75 depending on the order. With this limit in mind, every single week that I block out in my calendar is based on this number. Once I hit that limit I no longer take any more orders for that week.
Learn a Different Approach
When I’ve hit my limit, that’s when I say, "No". While this sounds all good and dandy in theory, in practice it can still be hard to do. Luckily, there are ways around it. such as offer another option, refer a friend, or find a polite way to say you're booked.
Offering another option
There are times where I will look at my calendar and somebody wants a quote for two dozen cookies but I only have availability for one dozen. So I am honest with the customer about the situation and explain I can only accommodate the dozen that week.
Another option is always mini cookies. I can push out 2 dozen minis for every dozen regular sized cookies so often I've suggested 1 dozen regular and 1 dozen minis if they truely want 2 dozen cookies total
Refer a Friend
While it's rare a customer does not want my suggested option, it is always possible they will ask for a referral to another baker if you cannot accommodate them. While you may feel that this will discourage people from ordering from you in the future, in all actuality, if you're professional, courteous and helpful, they will return to you. This has happened to me on several occasions. I also happen to be very very lucky and live in the state of Colorado which has this wonderful cookie community that I CAN confidently recommend other people and I do so. If you don't have this luxury, look for a FB group in your state or city and see if you can make friends with a baker or two. Offer a cookie swap so you can try their product and become referral buddies. Fingers crossed they'll feel comfortable referring back to you as well.
Find a Polite Way of Saying You're Booked
In the event you don't want to refer customers (which is totally okay) or don't know anyone to refer, you can resort to actually saying, "No" but in a way that is firm, polite, and professional. To do this, I use the formula, Positive, Negative, Positive. What I mean by this is start by saying something positive, then tell them no, then say something positive again.
An example of this is:
Positive: Thank you so much for Reaching out! We appreciate your willingness to fill out our quote form!
Negative: We are currently already booked for your date at this time.
Positive: Please check in with us in the future as we would love to help make your cookie dreams a reality.
In this case, the positives will outweigh the negatives and as people, we recognize that we ourselves cannot do everything under the sun so if you’re asking a service of somebody and you really cannot accommodate it, most of the time they’re going to be understanding especially if you've phrased it the right way.
In fact, most of the time customers feel that by you saying no, you are in higher demand which means they are more interested in coming back and working with you. And they feel like you're a respectable business that understands your limits.
Lastly, It's important that you do not apologize for being booked. This is something I still struggle with but that my good friend, Sara (ig: @sugarandspoonbakingco) taught me. You should not apologize for not being able to take an order. This indicates that you are doing something wrong and you are not. It's often the root of our guilt when using the , "No" word to begin with. There are several ways you can say no without apologizing such as the examples below: (P.S. You're totally allowed to use the following examples)
"Thank you so much for reaching out, we are currently booked for your date. We do hope you keep us in mind as we would love to work with you in the future".
"Due to ______ (holiday or event), we are no longer taking additional orders at this time. Please check back with us for your next event as we’d love to work with you"!
"We currently have several quotes out and until they come back I will not officially quote you as I cannot guarantee that I will have availability for your order at this time. I will reach out to you in the next 24 to 48 hours to let you know if I can accommodate your order".
In the end, saying no is hard however the more you do it, the more you will feel confident in yourself and your capabilities. Make sure to set your limits so you don't overwhelm yourself and know there are several ways of expressing that you cannot help someone that are less scary than that little 2-letter word we all hate. Hopefully this helps and I wish you luck on your No-Saying endeavors!
Until next time cookie lovers!