Great salespeople are expert and dealing with “no”. It’s part of the sales process. Not every prospect is going to want or need your product or service. Sometimes salespeople are dealing with “no” for reasons outside of the control of either the buyer or the seller. Think about a company supplying food to restaurants when they were shut down during the pandemic. Recently the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was shut down. Something the contractors never wanted to happen but didn’t control. Airplane manufacturers are dealing with “no” aircraft deliveries since airline traffic is drastically reduced. So what do great salespeople know about dealing with “no”.
Get To “NO” Quickly
Prospecting is the art of finding good potential customers. Great salespeople know how to determine the quality of a prospect quickly. They are skilled at asking questions and actively listening to prospects answers. As soon as they find the prospect doesn’t have a need or want the product or service, doesn’t have the budget or the decision maker is apathetic about the project the salesperson has two choices. Either drop this sales pursuit and move on or determine how to overcome the barriers to this sale. Great salespeople are expert at evaluating a prospect.
The Reaction to “NO”
Great salespeople understand “no” can occur at any part of the sales process. The later it occurs in the selling process the more time the salesperson has invested in closing the deal. So finding out the prospect you are trying to sell replacement windows is the tenant not the owner quickly is important. Working with a prospect with a real problem you can solve but they don’t have the funds calls for some salesperson creativity. In the budget phase of the selling process when the prospect lacks funds salespeople either revise the scope to meet the budget or help the buyer find additional funding.
Salespeople need to have the skill of dealing with “no” when it occurs during the closing presentation. My experience of getting a “no” at the end of the sales process means I missed some key point along the way. Once early in my career I was wooing a new customer at a large manufacturing company. I met with the safety manager who needed five new ventilators for his confined space crews. He already had a proposal from his current vendor but that was at full price for each of the five ventilators. I knew the manufacturer offered a substantial discount for orders of five ventilators so I offered the better price. When I checked with the safety manager he said he sent my proposal to purchasing and asked them to place the order. When I checked with the purchasing agent, she said she asked the competitor whether they could meet the price I quoted. They did and she placed the order with them since they were a long standing vendor. My fault in not understanding the decision making process and building a relationship with the purchasing agent lead to the fatal “no”.
The Meaning Of “NO”
Not all “no’s” are alike. The one in the story above is a fatal “no”. But often “no” means “I don’t understand” or “I need more information”. This “no” is most frequently encountered during the closing presentation. Great salespeople assume this is an objection to be overcome, not a fatal “no”. Salespeople then apply their questioning and listening skills to change the “no” to a “yes”. A “no” early in the prospecting process could mean “I don’t have time now” or “you need to speak with someone else” for example. When investigating the decision making process getting a “no” is good:
Salesperson: “Are you responsible for choosing the vendor for this project?”
Buyer: “No. I have to have it approved by the engineering manager.”
So there, the great salesperson has gained an understanding of the decision-making process.
When “NO” means “NO”
Dealing with “no” which means the loss of the sale is something we all experience. Fortunately for skillful salespeople it is infrequent. Great salespeople have good ego strength. So they can deal with the fatal “no”. Salespeople understand that the fatal “no” is not personal. It’s driven by the considerations of the customer. Great salespeople believe in themselves. Accept the fatal “no”. And move on.
When I am dealing with “no” I recall Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take it personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
If I have followed that path I know I did all I could to make the sale.
What You Can Do Right Now Dealing With “NO”
- Anticipate you will get a “no” any time in the sales process
- Practice dealing with “no” in various selling situations
- Believe in yourself and your ability as a great salesperson
To learn more sales secrets see Chapter Six, Characteristics of Successful Salespeople, in Secrets of the Softer Side of Selling. For even more sales encouragement, join our FREE Sales Club! “See” you next week.