If you’ve been alive for more than a minute or two, you’ve experienced being told no. It’s part of life. It happens to all of us. We all get told no more times that we can count. And if you’re in sales, forget about it – you probably think “no” is your middle name.
But take heart, the word no rarely means never. “No” doesn’t have to be the final word. Often when we are told “no,” all it really means is “not now.” It can mean, “You’ve caught me at a bad time.” It can mean, “I’m interested but have more urgent priorities I have to attend to at the moment.” It can mean, “I’m intrigued but not convinced” (which makes “no” just the path of least resistance).
So have a strategy to find out when “no” really means “no” and when it just means, “Some other time.” Crafting a follow-up plan to get back to people who initially told you “no” can mean the difference between winning and losing, between being profitable and unprofitable, between growing your business or stagnating.
Do you want to be the obnoxious person who pushes too hard, too often or comes across rude? Of course not, but there are ways to respond to that initial “no” that can actually be perceived as helpful. Here are a few suggestions:
- Acknowledge the no. When someone tells you no, don’t go into denial; thank them for their honesty and candor. That act alone will often cause people to relax and not keep their guard up so high to ward off what they fear will be your next point of sales proposition attack. After thanking them, remind them of the benefit, the value you desire to bring your prospect and suggest that perhaps another time, another approach another level of service might be more helpful to them.
- Stay in touch. If you properly prequalified your prospect and you know your product or service would genuinely be helpful to them, assume the timing just wasn’t right and have a plan in place to send periodic follow-up notices. Check in with your prospect perhaps by phone, by handwritten letter or by email. If your database is sufficiently large, it would be wise to test different timing and types of follow-up to determine the optimal strategy. Not every “no” will turn into a sale down the road but some will.
- Be curious. Whether you do this as part of acknowledging their initial “no” or as a follow-up, show enough interest in your prospect to ask them why they said no and, more importantly, what would need to change for them to say “yes.” Master the art of doing this in a way that is genuine and not manipulative. It’s worth the effort. Often the initial “no” responses you get can be a key in helping you make needed adjustments to your sales approach that will result in bettering your business.
Hang in there. Be persistent. Care enough to stay in contact with your audience to be in position to serve them well when the timing and circumstances of their initial “not now” becomes “I’m ready!”