If you’re a sales development professional and you’re not hearing “no” many, many times per day, then you’re not trying hard enough. So what are the best ways to take “no” for an answer? Here are some of our suggestions for failing gracefully…and a quick video example of what not to do, courtesy of Tommy Callahan.
Don’t Be A Jerk
It sucks to put a ton of effort into an opportunity/relationship, only to get “no” at the end of it all. But getting a “no” is actually a good thing because it provides clarity. High performing sales professionals are constantly qualifying in an effort to get to the truth, be it a yes or a no. So the worst thing that you can do is respond to “no” like a jerk, which might include any of the following and more:
- Belittling the prospect or the incumbent vendor.
- Not accepting the “no” and being overly persistent to the point of annoyance.
- Dropping the relationship altogether.
You’re probably selling in a smaller market than you think…and there is a reasonable likelihood that this prospect knows the next prospect. So take the long view and make an effort to preserve the relationship.
Try To Get A Smaller Yes
This approach is a reinterpretation of the “if mom says no, then ask dad” strategy. Instead of asking the same question to a different person, we’re going to ask a different question to the same person in hopes of getting a “yes”. When your prospect says “I’m not interested”, they’re saying that they don’t want to enter into a sales process. But they might be perfectly willing to hear from you on an ongoing basis or to receive your latest research or to connect on LinkedIn. The worst thing you can do when you hear a “no” is respond with “well OK then!” Instead, you need to be prepared with a second advance that requires a lower commitment from the prospect and keeps the conversation moving forward, even if it is a baby step.
Get More Data
“No” often comes with a reason or some context:
- We’re happy with our current vendor.
- We’re taking this process in-house.
- I don’t have time.
Hidden inside of each of these responses is a nugget of data that you can use to continue, if not advance, the conversation. If you’re in the habit of asking friendly, relevant follow-up questions — which are often as simple as “Do you mind sharing a bit more?” — you might be able to determine when their current contract expires or learn why they’ve decided to move the process in-house or understand why the prospect is so busy, all of which could lead to an appropriate next step. For early stage companies with new, innovative offerings, “no” can be enormously instructive. Just this week, I had a prospect tell us that the timing wasn’t right and that they would like to revisit RevBoss after their next financing. I responded with a friendly message and a number of questions related to our conversation, with the caveat that I wasn’t trying to sell but instead trying to learn. The prospect responded to my questions and several follow-up questions, all provide some great feedback and insight in the process.
Think Like A Jump Shooter
The best jump shooters — and the best salespeople — are able to selectively suppress their short term memory. If Ray Allen misses 7 jump shots in a row, he’s still going to take the 8th shot when it comes because he knows that he can make it, he knows that he put in the work, and the knows that his process is effective. The same goes for high performing sales professionals. “No” is a huge part of the process — in fact, you’ll get “no” waaay more often than Ray Allen will miss jump shots. Embrace the no. Take it for what it is, develop the habits to take the right next step, and move on to the next conversation.
Don’t Do Any of This Stuff
So how do you respond to “no”? Any suggestions to add to the list?