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Why You Should Not Listen to Your Parents: When No Does Not Always Mean No

Can I go to the movies with Steve? No.
Can I take the car to the beach for the weekend? No.
Can I get a tattoo? No.
Why? Because, I said No.

If there are three things we have learned from this oh-so familiar dialogue it is that One: children are relentless little creatures who have no bounds for what they ask permission. Two: parents sometimes just like to annoy their children with an empty, “no.” Three, and probably the the most important: children aren’t always content with the unforgiving and empty no.

But why should they be? “Because I said so” and “no means no” are very ambiguous responses that can only be used but so many times before a not-so-childish teenager realizes that, sometimes, their parents might not actually have proper, or sound reasoning for their no.

Photo by Roland Tanglao.

Photo by Roland Tanglao.

It works like this in business, too. While the scenario doesn’t necessarily have to do with car privileges or going to an over-priced movie with the good-for-nothing boyfriend, the structure of the conversation goes a lot like the one above. And, rightfully so. It has been so ingrained in our brains that this becomes our back-up in the business world. We either don’t want to confront the client or simply don’t have an accurate response. So, by nature, we resort to the unsettled “no.”

But this is where the conversation is not like your childhood. You won’t be grounded or lose car privileges for questioning a no.

Most conversations end right there. You hang up the phone and make your next phone call with your tail still tucked between your legs. “I don’t want to be pushy,” “I don’t want to look desperate,” “I don’t want to piss them off,” etc., but the harsh truth? That is business.

1 in 100. That is the average “yes to no” sales ratio. In other words, you will hear only one yes for every 100 nos. The ratio is not an excuse to hang up the phone after each no, but rather, view these nos as one step closer to your yes.

What’s next after “no?”

One thing you never want to say is “I’m not taking no for an answer” or “your no doesn’t have any sound reasoning” (unless you want them to hang up on you). Rather, treat them as you did your parents. Sincerely ask them follow-up questions like:

“Would you mind telling me why in order to get a better understanding of what you are looking for in the future?”
“How could I change my offer/service in order to better accommodate you and your business?”

Just as you were your parents’ most valuable asset, most clients treat their business as such. Instead of badgering them about why they have rejected your offer, focus on their “child” and how a yes from them might improve or change their business for the better.

Different types of “no”

  • “It’s just too expensive.”
    Value vs. Service. Your client does not see the value/benefit of your product over the cost of the service – make sure to emphasize and specifically show them how your product is worth the cost.
    Suggest other options. Are there any other packages or cost options? If so, discuss them. Or, simply ask what is in their budget and try to go adjust from there.
  • “It does not fit in our budget.”
    Not to be confused with “it’s too expensive.” Businesses often allocate a certain number of funds to specific areas and leave no room for additional transactions.
    Respect their response. Ask if they would remember you and your service for the next budget meeting (this may be yearly, monthly, or weekly).
  • “It is not what we are looking for.”
    Ask questions. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the client and salesperson that can be solved easily through conversation. Ask your client what they are seeking.
    Asking questions can leave you with a better understanding of what they need. It might not be your service, but make suggestions if you think you know what they need. This does not benefit you directly but shows that you are concerned with customer satisfaction and, hopefully, they will be more likely to suggest your business to others in the future.

Whether you have been working sales for two months or 20 years, most people can gauge when a conversation might be headed toward the lesser of the two responses. In this case, try to turn the conversation away from a definitive answer and be personable – Make conversation. Ask your client questions. Tell a joke (if you’re are funny; you know if you are funny or not). Yes, you are technically selling a product/service, but more than that, you are selling yourself and your values.

The next time you make a sales call or are pitching a new product/service, expect the answer to be no. (Another lesson your parents failed to teach you, the business world is a cruel place and sometimes the glass is half empty). By preparing yourself for the no, you will not only learn how to handle that type of conversation, but the yes will come much easier.