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What to do when prospects say no

It’s time to embrace no!

Sales people hate the dreaded word “no” when they are talking to prospects and customers. It means that their sales efforts have been wasted. They have put in a lot of hard work trying to win new business, only to be rejected.

However, some sales people see no as an opportunity. They are not put off when someone appears to reject them. These sales people prefer to see no as a stage on the sales journey which needs to be worked through. They are often able to form strong relationships with their prospects despite the fact that the prospect initially said no. They can create powerful sales propositions even though there seems to be rejection. The sale is achieved, despite what seem to be less than ideal circumstances.

Naturally, there are a lot of sales people who believe that no always means no. But, if they think this, then they fail to achieve as many sales. Their selling proposition does not have the same power. This is because they have often failed to see all the opportunities open to them.

Here are three of the opportunities that are available when a prospect says no:

No can mean “Convince me”

Often, when a prospect says no, it is because they need more information. They are saying no because you haven’t yet given them a good enough case to buy. Change your case and make it better and you may change the no to a yes.

This is the time to start asking why they are saying no. You can even be blunt and ask what you need to do to change the no to a yes. Prospects often do not expect this line of questioning. As a result, they are less prepared for it and therefore can be a lot more open. They may also appreciate the fact that you want to listen to them rather than coming out with the same old objection handling techniques that so many sales people use.

Remember also that there can be another reason why they won’t buy straight away.

No can mean not yet

There may be very good reasons why a prospect cannot buy at the moment. They may not need your product or service until they have a particular event happening. Or they may want it right now but have to wait for budget. Alternatively, they may want to engage with you but have some higher priorities to deal with first.

Often the prospect will be open with you about this. So this is a good opportunity to ask when is the right time to continue the dialogue. Your prospect goes into the sales diary, ready to be contacted closer to the time when they will be ready to say yes.

Of course, sometimes no really does mean no. But this does not have to be a reason to be downhearted.

No is a great way to qualify a sales prospect

When I have a sales conversation, I see a real no as a positive. If someone is really not interested in my services I would far sooner that they were upfront with me about this quickly. The last thing I want to do is waste my time and the prospect’s time trying to convince them to invest in something that they have no interest in.

I would far sooner be able to strike a prospect off my list than be unsure whether they were really interested or not. The last thing I want to do is encourage sales people to give up too early. However, far too many people keep trying to sell to prospects who are not interested when they could be spending their time more profitably on better opportunities.

A useful question at this point is to ask if there is any way you can persuade them to say yes. But, even when having this conversation, it can be hard to work out what a prospect really means.

So how do you know if a prospect really means no?

There are generally two times when a prospect decides that they are really not interested. The first is right at the beginning of the engagement. The prospect really does not want to hear more about your product or service and they make it clear. If they try and shut you down from the outset then you are probably better off moving on to another prospect. However, if they were interested enough to have an initial conversation, then there is usually some sort of opportunity for a sales person. But this opportunity can be lost during the conversation if you discover a deal breaker.

The deal breaker is the second time when a prospect really can mean no. Sometimes, during your discussions, you may uncover something that means that you cannot work together. It may be something as simple as payment terms. It may be a difference in the ways the two companies work. If you discover a deal breaker and there is no way that either party can move on the issue, then it is time to accept this and move on.

There is one other time which many sales people incorrectly take to mean no.

A lack of response does not mean no

When a prospect fails to respond to you, it does necessarily not mean that they are not interested. It can mean that they have other priorities right now, that they are busy or that contacted them at the wrong time or through the wrong channel.

Remember it can take between at least seven and sixteen touches to engage with a prospect, depending on which study you read. Keep trying and make sure you mix up your communication channels, as I advised in the first chapter of this section.

It is hard for prospects to be removed from my sales diary

I keep prospects in my sales diary until I am sure they mean no. (Having said that, I qualify people early on to make sure that they really are a good fit and are interested in my services.)

There is no need to dread the word no. I embrace no as an opportunity, not a threat.

This article is one of the bonus articles that comes with the premium version of my new book “Done For You Sales Scripts” where I share all the templates I use in my sales process. There’s a special launch price until 22nd May.


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