How Do You See the Word “No”?

How do professional salespeople see the word “no”? Do they see it as someone slamming the door in their face? Or do they see it as someone holding the door open and inviting them to walk through?

They see it as an open door, an invitation, and an opportunity. And so should we. This is more than my passion and confidence and optimism and persistence talking. There’s science on it too.

Daniel Newark and a team of researchers at Stanford found people believe that when someone says “no” to them once, they are likely to say “no” again. Participants in the study predicted that a person would say “yes” to a second request after saying “no” to a first request only 18% of the time.

In fact, 43% of people said “yes” the second time after saying “no” the first. “People consistently underestimate the chances [of hearing yes] after a previous refusal,” according to Newark, and he found this to be true in several other studies he conducted.

This means we should see the word “no” as an opportunity to win a “yes” by discovering why the answer was “no” – that is, an opportunity to listen to the person tell us what we need to do to sell them. Let’s seize it, because our chances are pretty good we’ll succeed!

The first step is to take the answer “no” in stride. In my book, Everyone’s in Sales, I talk about giving people “say yes to us” clues. We ask for a “yes” in a relaxed, confident way, and those are clues that our buyer should feel confident about saying “yes.”

This works with the answer “no” as well…except the clues we give here are even more important. We treat the “no” as a reasonable and natural next step in the conversation – not the end of the conversation. When we do that, people hear their “no” as just the next step in the conversation too.

This approach also puts people who don’t like to say “no” at ease. People don’t like to say “no” because they don’t want to offend or upset us, seem confrontational, or make us think they are unhelpful.

Finally, taking “no” well shows we are on our buyer’s side. It shows we are committed to what’s right for them. What will help them succeed. Selling the right way is about committing ourselves to the success of other people first. Our commitment is to what they want and need—not what we want and need. Hearing a “no” with confidence, grace, and optimism, plus a strong desire to understand the reasons why shows we respect the other person. It shows we value our relationship with them more than we value getting any one particular “yes” from them. Taking “no” easy makes people comfortable and makes selling easier.

1 thought on “How Do You See the Word “No”?”

  1. Todd,
    Good article and how true. Since I am now in sales after 40 years in the finance world I am trying to learn more about the nuances of the “selling game”. I know you have no doubt read this book but I found it very helpful…..”When Buyers Say No”, Tom Hopkins and Ben Katt.
    See you soon….

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