Tell Them It’s OK To Say NO!

By Tibor Shanto

No one like to be the bearer of bad news, this includes buyers.  I know some sellers may find that hard to believe, but even when another product aligns better with their objectives, human nature kicks in, and delivering the news that you lost, is not pleasant for most buyers.  So what do they do, they either pass the buck to someone else, like procurement, or avoid your call for weeks, hoping you’ll eventually get the hint; or any number of ways to avoid an unpleasant task.

Goes without saying, they don’t have the same issues saying yes, and mostly because they have been conditioned to understand that sellers look for YES, and try to avoid NO.  But once you get beyond the cultural hang ups, NO is probably the best response one can get, as long as they are ready for it, and prepared to deal with it.

The Tree For The Forrest

The goal in sales should be to get as many YES’s in the most direct, efficient and repeatable fashion.  Many have allowed this to mean that their job is to avoid NO’s at all cost; I guess the thinking being that the alternative to a NO should look and smell like a yes (eventually, some time, maybe).  But when you consider the effort, resources, time, wasted emotion and other valuable things wasted on things that when looked at with detachment, are clearly going nowhere.

To be fair, it is the job of a sales rep to be professionally persistent, and resourcefully in pursuing opportunities.  That is why it is worth testing things in different ways, and because we are looking for repeatable elements, things that have helped you jump start an opportunity should be explored.  But there is a point where it becomes abundantly clear that this opportunity is not happening this cycle, quarter, or fiscal year.  While you may get points for artistic merit, and bonus points for effort over and above, other than filler, the opportunity brings nothing to your success.  And even when the filler is comforting, it acts as clutter that clouds your vision, and by extension actions.

Benefit Of Space

Once you understand the patterns of your success, you are in a better position to identify those patterns and act accordingly.  Those patterns are much more visible in an uncluttered pipeline.  If a sale has the attributes and patterns of a sales that will happen, our role is clear, to facilitate, and move it through the cycle.  This needs to be brought down to a detailed level for each step of the sale, each meeting or interaction.  But there will also be opportunities that are unfolding based on a pattern we have seen in previous losses.  In which case rather than trying to strictly change the course, we should also be test to see how likely that change of course will be.  And since most sellers have more losses than wins, they should have more data and experience, making pattern more recognizable.

I am not suggesting that when a negative pattern presents itself, we cut bait and run.  But we should recognize, acknowledge, and then take steps to test the pattern, and validate the direction.  This is better done in a direct fashion rather than a sheepish one taken by most.  Usually their thinking is that “if I am nice and friendly, and focus on the relationship, I may be able to turn it my way.”  Ya, OK.

I suggest that you be professionally direct.  By that I don’t mean confronting the buyer with even a vailed ultimatum.  But direct in a way that a subject matter expert is direct when trying to help you with something important.  This is less about style, meaning it cuts across methodologies, and is focused on substance.  If the buyer is unable or willing to make a decision now; unwilling or unable to provide the input required and present in deals that happen, you really need to ask why you persist, and instead put all that time and energy into prospecting for a better opportunity?

I think for most, that’s the rub, it is easy to pretend that you may one day, in and around the time of the second coming, you may get a YES, than to prospect.  With prospecting the rejection is immediate, right in your face, and has to be dealt with.  But with pipeline opportunities, one can pretend.  But if you, like most B2B sellers, have a close ratio of about 20%, 1 in 5, then why not look to get rid of the four that will not close, and focus on closing the one that will, while prospecting for new things, rather than pretending that you can resurrect a dead deal.

Some say it is harder to deal with that instant No of prospecting, than the game of hide and seek many enjoy with so called prospect.  For me, I’ll take the NO’s if they lead to quota, over the friendly maybe’s that lead nowhere.

John @ D-Tech

It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to to avoid (or I guess in this case, postpone) rejection. Thanks for the reminder we need to just hurry up and take the inevitable rejection and stop wasting time essentially stringing ourselves along with these “maybes” just because they make us feel good.

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