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Hearing “No” for the Win!


It is heartbreaking for us, in sales, to hear the word “no.”


It’s the end, there is no working through it. The customer has given us their final decision and we cannot possibly do anything about it! Woe is us! Let’s just pack up the whole organization and quit!


Also, I’m pretty sure that the customer wasn’t really interested in buying anyway. They probably didn’t have enough money or they weren’t really smart enough to understand how good of a price we were giving them. I bet they end up buying the wrong thing altogether… in fact, I hope they do.


Honestly, I can admit that early in my career, those were statements that came out of my mouth. It was true of the other salespeople around me as well. Were we awful? Yes. We also didn’t know any better.


Since that time, I have been told “No.” thousands of times both professionally and personally, and it is a completely different experience for me now because it is not about me at all. It is also not about you. It is about the customer not feeling that there is congruency between the value of what we are trying to sell them and the price that we are asking.


Nowadays, I love the word “No” because now I understand what it means. A “No” is not a barrier, it is not designed to block a sale from happening, it is a boundary, and allows us to guide our way to helping a customer make the right decision for themselves.


So a customer tells you “No.” How do we make this a positive experience for us, the salespeople, and them, the customers?


Were we properly aligned?


If we are in alignment with the customer, we find that whatever we offer the customer buys. If the customer is looking for tires for their Porsche, and we have those tires, we likely couldn’t be any more in alignment with what the customer is looking for. The customer has a need or a want, we have the answer to that need, bingo!


Why wouldn’t that customer make that tire purchase? Well, what if they have a specific need of size for that tire and we cannot get it for them, would our current stock of tires meet their needs? Probably not. What if we had the tires, but they were all black and the customer really wanted to get whitewalls? Would we be in alignment? The short answer, no, unless you wanted to grab some white paint.


Aligning our offering to the customer’s needs or wants means that we have something that they can actually use and make their lives better or easier. This is what creates value. When something has enough value, someone will make the decision to purchase it.


Those standard black tires do not have enough value to the Porsche driver, so they will likely pass. So should we even have bothered to offer the black tires to them?


The answer: yes! We may not know how valuable those whitewalls are. It is possible that by not getting whitewalls, the customer could save a significant amount of money, which might be of value to the customer.


We can create value in one of two ways: increase how much better the customer’s life will be with whatever we are selling, or by lowering the cost so that there is less pain to get whatever it is we are selling.


So, when we hear a no, we need to ask a question to find out if the customer is worried about the value of the thing we are selling, or if they just do not have the ability to purchase. 


Here is the question: “Is this something that you are not interested in?”


It’s a really nice question, because if the customer is genuinely not interested, they will answer “no, I am not” guess what… move on with your life. You are not closing this customer at this time on this transaction. Something about how you presented it or, genuinely, the thing you were offering just doesn’t work for the customer. Move on.


But what if the answer is yes?


Creating a Price/Value Equilibrium


If the customer answers the question of “Is this something that you are not interested in?” with a “yes, I am interested but…” you can almost guess what the “but” is going to be.


Primarily it is going to revolve around cost. 


Let’s be honest though, no one likes to spend money. This is our number 1 objection from any customer: everything costs too much. So, perhaps, in this case, the customer wants the whitewalls, we have the whitewalls, but the customer gets sticker shock. How do we know?


They said they were interested, but they already said no. We can almost assume it is going to be cost and, more than likely, the customer will tell us that.


This is also why we offer the lower-cost black tires, because in this case the value of the money is more than the value of those white tires. To create Price/Value equilibrium we needed to understand that this particular customer still needs tires, and that we can provide tires, at a lower price than the whitewalls, and allow him or her to keep some of their hard-earned dough.


Use Every Sale as a Learning Lesson


Take each “No” that translates into a sale and make sure that you add that to your mental repertoire of solutions to sales problems. When you are in a similar situation, it will trigger the memory and you will feel a lot better about moving forward because it is familiar territory.


More importantly, though, is if you do not end up making a sale. In this case, it is time to reevaluate your presentation and see if there are ways to make it stronger. Did you do a good job aligning the customer’s needs to your product or service? Did you have alternatives for customers that could not afford the initial price? Are you prepared to run into that customer again and have a solution for them that works in their budget? Every time a customer decides not to buy, it is important to review it and see if there is opportunity to change for the better. Sometimes it might have just been the approach, and that can be telling for the next customer you may run into in this situation.


So why is every “No” a win? Because it gives us an opportunity to learn and become better for the next customer. Whether the customer ends up buying from you or deciding to go elsewhere, if you treat each sale as a learning opportunity you will absolutely come out on top.

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