For many years, I took almost every "request meeting" from our clients and stakeholders. I was the person in charge of telling the customer that we could or couldn't develop the feature request they asked for.
I took a 3 step process to do this:
1.- Understand the problem
First, I listened and understood the why behind the requirement using frameworks like the "5 why's ". Maybe the problem the client is facing could be solved with another feature, a "workaround solution," or sometimes, there was not even a problem at all. In doing this, the stakeholder sees that you are trying to help, generating empathy towards you and the company.
2.- Analyzing the opportunity
If there was no "workaround solution," I tried to figure out if the feature request would be helpful for other customers, and if it was aligned with our product vision. Sometimes this required an extra meeting, so I had time to research with other customers if the problem to be solved was a real pain point. Also, I asked other areas like customer support, sales, and on-boarding if they've heard this request before.
3.- Saying no
When the feature request was too specific and not aligned with our vision, my approach was, to tell the truth. I said something like, "...Imagine we made every feature request that a client asks for. We would end up with so many unuseful features in our software and no time at all to complete the vision that we have, which is...", then I proceeded to explain our vision, and how they will be benefited from it if we make it a reality. Explaining this through honesty improved our relationship and confidence with customers.
How to say "no"
The importance of having a product vision