It is always a no until it’s a yes.
When your success requires that you ask people for commitments, you can expect to hear no as many—or more times than you hear yes. It is the nature of the endeavor we call selling, and no one, no matter how skilled, is free from this experience. It is essential to recognize that the word no only means not now and that you have not been personally rejected. It is always a no until it is yes.
No businessperson wakes up in the morning, hoping that a salesperson contacts them to ask them for a meeting. They aren’t excited by the prospect of giving their time to a salesperson who may waste it. Time once spent can never be reclaimed. There is only one reason a person rejects your meeting: they believe it is a waste of their time.
Maybe they say no to a meeting because they already have a partner they believe is satisfying their needs. They could also reject a request for a meeting because they don’t have the time or energy to swap out one partner whose failings they’ve learned to live with for another who maybe even worse? Even if you have real value to trade for a meeting, like a theory about why they might change and the better results available to them, you will still hear no.
The no that you hear now is not no forever. It is no for today, and maybe tomorrow. The no covers some time that, no matter how long, is likely shorter than you believe.
No Next Step
The no answer you receive also doesn’t cover the rest of eternity. There are all kinds of things that you can ask for and obtain a no outside of a meeting.
Your dream client can and will say no to your request to collaborate with you on a solution, asking instead for you to share your best ideas, allowing them to be cold and clinical about your proposal. That no does not have to be a final no, but for that to be true, you have to ask again, explaining how their input improves the solution.
There is little chance that your request to build consensus, especially a request for an executive leader, you are asking for something likely to be so difficult for your client to say yes to that they answer in the negative. Even if they know they are going to need help and support, they would prefer not to engage in politics and deal with dissenters. That no is a no until you teach your dream client that without it, they are unlikely to make a change—and if they do, it will fail.
The rarest of all unicorns in the world of sales is a deal where the money isn’t a factor. Money is always a factor, and it always will be. Many of the companies you call on will say no to more significant investment, preferring to believe that there is some supplier, somewhere, with the ability to give them better, faster, and cheaper. When you offer them the red pill that would open their eyes to the fact that the better results they need require a more significant investment, they refuse it, taking the blue pill and living with their poor results. Until you justify the delta and resolve their concerns. Eventually, they will pay more.
Selling is caring enough to create value for people, and much of the time, that means helping them change their minds.
Sometimes, you lose. Your dream client says yes to your competitor, which means you leave the content with a no, a loss if you will. No one is immune to this reality. You can do everything right and still lose. You can do many things wrong and still win.
Maybe it was no to the experience of the sales conversation they used to determine who they want to work with long term. It could also be that your solution missed the mark, or forgive me for suggesting such a thing, perhaps you didn’t position it well. Your dream client might have hit it off with your competitor, or maybe they just outsold you.
Too many people accept a loss as a permanent loss when it is anything but permanent. It’s only a no right now, not forever. You can lose a deal and walk away, and by letting a deal go, not follow up soon enough or frequently enough to discover your competitor is failing.
I recently heard from a salesperson who lost an account because the client thought they were underperforming. Then their client, having believed the exaggerated claims only to recognize how good this salesperson’s company was. Guess who is coming home?
Understanding the Nature of No
The nature of no is that it isn’t forever. Situations change. Needs evolve. Context changes preferences. Mistakes can cause people to recognize they made a mistake. What might not have been the right answer is not precisely correct. The nature of no is that it is unstable. It is subject to change at any time.
The mistake you might make in sales is believing that the no you hear now covers a longer time than it is capable of covering. It covers a much shorter time than you think. You will have people who will say they will never work with you, who will eventually buy from you. There will be people who will tell you they will never change partners, only to change partners a few months later.
Forever is a lot longer than you think it is. And it is a lot shorter time than your client suspects.
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