Why You Need “No” as Feedback to Improve Your Results

No one enjoys being told “no.” But it comes with the territory in B2B sales. While you don’t have to enjoy it, you can use it to change your approach and improve your results. “No” is simply feedback, and it can instruct you in what to do differently in the future.

No to the Commitment for Time

There is only one reason you ever hear the word “no” when you ask your prospective client for a meeting. It doesn’t matter what choice of words your contact uses, the root cause for rejection in sales is that your dream client doesn’t believe that what you offered as a value proposition for a meeting was inadequate to deserving a “yes.”

The feedback of a “no” response here is incredibly valuable to you, even more valuable than a “yes” to a weak ask, one that traded no real value for the meeting. When you recognize that what you offer your contacts in trade for their time isn’t good enough for a “yes,” you can change your approach and improve your offer. You might be tempted to believe that cold calling doesn’t work and that you aren’t responsible for your offering being rejected. Believing this would be ignoring clear feedback that can improve your results with an improvement in your approach.

No to the Commitment to Change

At the end of your discovery meeting, your contact thanks you for your time, suggesting that you will talk again sometime in the future. They didn’t recognize any reason to move forward with another meeting because they don’t believe there is anything they need to do differently, the bane of would-be consultative salespeople everywhere.

The feedback you are getting from a contact who doesn’t believe they need to do anything after meeting with you is that they are not yet compelled to change. For a long time, we counted on our clients to tell us all of the ways they were dissatisfied with their results and invite us to share with them our solutions. Over time, however, B2B sales buyers started to suffer “discovery fatigue,” as salespeople asked them their go-to, ca n’t-fail power question, “What’s keeping you up at night?”

Becoming a consultative salesperson and a trusted advisor requires that you learn to help compel your client to change, helping them discover something about themselves, their company, and their results. This is the modern sales approach.

No to Adding Stakeholders

At some point in time, you are going to have a contact you are working closely with tell you that they are going to be the only person you need to work with and that no one else is needed. When your contact sells you on this proposition, you increase your odds of losing proportionally to the size of the deal. Later, when you lose, your contact will tell you, “We decided to go a different direction,” without ever revealing who made up the “we.”

I have had stakeholders meet with me as a way to prevent me from meeting with anyone else, protecting the incumbent, and making sure their horse won the race by eliminating any other horses from running at all. Most of the time, however, the feedback you get here is that your contact doesn’t know that they need to bring additional stakeholders and build consensus on the need to change, the right solution, and the right partner.

You have to respond this feedback by sharing why your contact is going to need to bring in their peers.

No to Executive Leadership

Big initiatives almost always need an executive sponsor, someone who believes they need to make some improvement to their present results. The more important, more expensive, and more disruptive the change, the more you’re going to need support from someone who can help shepherd your deal when it comes under pressure.

The feedback you should take from rejection to your request to brief a senior leader and gain their support could be a number of things. It may be that they don’t feel like they have vetted you and that they aren’t comfortable risking you messing up things up for them. You might also recognize that your contacts are running a skunkworks campaign, trying to get something going before revealing it, and you are early stages.

The feedback tells you to adjust your approach, understand why there isn’t executive support now, and what has to transpire for you and your contacts to engage someone with formal authority.

No to the Investment

It’s possible that your dream client doesn’t have the money to pay for your solution. It’s also possible that they have budgetary issues that prevent them from spending what you require of them to deliver the better results they need. More often, however, you should interpret the feedback of a “no” to your investment as proof that your client doesn’t perceive the value, a truth that also covers the first two sentences above.

The feedback, especially if you receive it frequently, means you are not justifying the investment in such a way that the value exceeds the investment. Your solution has to be more valuable than the money you ask your client to pay for it. It can’t match the investment because that would mean they have no upside. And your investment also can’t cost more than the value it creates.

You have to be able to help your contacts recognize the value exceeds the investment you are asking them to make.

No to the Decision to Buy from You

There is a lot to share here, but what it boils down to is that your client decides they are better served by choosing your competitor. They had greater confidence that buying from someone else provided more certainty when it comes to the result than buying from you—painful feedback, especially when you feel like you deserved to win a big deal.

It might have been your solution. It could be another factor, but if I had to point at what might be the most reasonable explanation, I would start with your sales approach. How you manage the sales conversation and the value you create throughout that process will either create a preference to work with you or seal the deal for your competitor. Call the approach “the consultative sales advantage.”

The more transactional your behavior, the more difficult you make it to award you a contract. The feedback of a loss, especially one that is repeated, is to change your approach.

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