Does “No” Always Mean “No” in Sales?


When does “No” mean “No”? Is No always the end of the road for your sales campaign? When you hear “no” should you just pack up and move to the next client or prospect?

In a word, the answer is…“No”

Many sales professionals simply give up when they hear that word. It strikes fear in their hearts and a feeling that a great prospect has now evaporated! I however, take a very different position on hearing “no”. My belief is that hearing no actually is a good thing and that it rarely means an absolute “no”. Many times the word “no” mean something very different and this is a reason to continue your sales campaign to get to “yes” and eventually a signed contract.

To Get from “No” to “Yes” in Sales: Listen to What the Client is Really Saying

Sales campaigns can be complex. Frequently, many moving parts need to be aligned. People must agree and products and services must fit the challenges that the client is facing. When you finally get to the point of presenting a proposal and articulating your solution, it is not uncommon to hear no. The challenge to you as a sales professional to not hear “no”, but to try and hear what the client is actually saying. Listen for the real reasons and what the client needs you to hear!

When a prospect says no, is he or she really communicating a different message:

“No” can mean = “I am not comfortable with your solution.”

This is the most common response and it says that you have more work to do. You need to commit more time to discovery, understanding what the client needs and adjusting the solution you have provided to match more closely with the client’s challenges. In this case, hearing no tells you that more work is needed and it is a roadmap of sorts.

“No” can mean = “I am not ready to commit.”

In this case hearing no means that the timing may be off for the client and they are not ready to make a purchase despite how great your solution is. Again, spend time understanding timeframes and purchase parameters. This does not mean never, it means not right now.

“No” can mean = “I don’t get it.”

This one is tough, because it means that the client does not understand what you have proposed. Your responsibility as a sales professional is be constantly checking for their understanding throughout the entire sales campaign so when you get to the point of presenting your proposal they are confident and open to what you are proposing! If you are not educating your client as part of your sales campaign you will hear no and your sales campaign will face an uphill battle. Here is the key learning point-your client must embrace the value proposition and they must be willing to take it forward for you to the next level and have confidence and enthusiasm around selling it.

“No” can mean = “Too risky for us right now.”

This is a first cousin of “I don’t get it.” A few things could be happening here. The client does actually understand what is being proposed. In fact, they may love the idea and really want to implement your solution. However, for a myriad of reasons, the timing is off. This is tough to deal with because you may never know the reason, but you need to commit to more discovery to find out. Do not give up here, ask more questions and keep probing. Your ability to develop a trusting relationship is very crucial. The client will only share things with you if they trust you.

“No” can mean = “Our Company is not ready.”

Your solution may be viewed as too far reaching for a company that has not caught up with your technology or thinking. This one is less about discovery and more about the culture of the company and what they are willing to adopt. This point is always interesting because you can quite possibly turn a “no” into a ”yes” if you ask the right questions. You will then carefully create a dialog about the culture and not your product. That conversation, if done correctly, and with extreme integrity, will yield more about the culture of your client or prospect then you ever dreamed. Once you find out about the culture, you can work in the background with your team to create a solution that does fit with the culture. This win can be especially sweet.

“No” can mean = “I can’t support this.”

In other words, your client is unwilling to endorse your solution because it may carry some risk to his or her career. In this case, you need to listen carefully to the client during the entire sales campaign for clues that may point to some level of risk if your client or prospect backs this change. Pay attention.

Next time you hear “no”, take the challenge, relax, think carefully about what your client or prospect may really be saying, and work with them to get the “no” to a “yes”.


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