How to Get a No and End Up with a Yes

As surely as the sun sets in the west, my LinkedIn inbox can’t go 24 hours without accumulating half a dozen messages from people with sales titles (something that may or may not indicate they are salespeople) requesting a meeting. Fortunately, my ability to see all the “tells” that indicate a would-be connection is going to straight-pitch me has cut down on my LinkedIn spam, as has my willingness to accept a large number of false positives.

Honestly, I don’t know why a salesperson would ever choose to ask for a meeting on a platform where recipients can literally click one button to reply “Thank you for reaching out, but I am not interested.”

Selling is a series of conversations—in fact, one good way to measure a conversation’s success is whether you secured a commitment to the next conversation. It is possible to have an incredibly value-creating conversation with your prospective client, only to find yourself chasing them for weeks over voicemail and email. When you leave a meeting without a next meeting, the net result is the same as “no thank you,” even if it takes more than one click.

Whenever something negative occurs frequently, you should anticipate and deal with it in a way that improves your ability to achieve a positive result later on. To do otherwise is to ignore the evidence and weaken your results.

Expect the Patterns

As much as we want to believe that every conversation is different, they often feature recurring patterns. Here is an example you will know well. You call your dream client to ask them for a meeting, promising them you’ll share information about your company and your solutions. Your contact has a real concern about giving you their time, especially because your value proposition is so weak that they must reject it.

Your clients, however, are polite enough not to tell you directly that you’d just waste their time. Instead, they say:

  • We already have a partner, and we aren’t interested in changing.
  • We are happy with our existing supplier. But we’ll keep your information on file, should we need something.
  • Can you try me back after the first of the year?
  • Can you email me some information?

After working in sales for, say, six months or more, you should know several ways to effectively resolve the real concern behind every one of these objections. You should be able to schedule the meetings you need to succeed.

Anything you experience repeatedly should be something you are prepared to handle.

Commitments by Level of Difficulty

In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, I list ten of the common commitments we encounter in B2B sales, especially complex sales—those featuring a decision the client makes very infrequently and one with the potential for negative consequences, should they get it wrong.

Here are the ten commitments in the linear order in which they appear in the book: Time, Explore Change, Change, Collaborate, Consensus, Invest, Review, Resolve Concerns, Decide, and Execute.

And here they are again, from most to least difficult: Consensus, Resolve Concerns, Change, Time, Invest, Execute, Decide, Review, Collaborate, Explore Change.

Because your job is to help your clients have these conversations, there is no reason you shouldn’t expect a “no” from your dream client while preparing the work necessary to turn it into a “yes.”

Expect a No, Work for a Yes

For some reason, most salespeople prepare to resolve their clients’ concerns when it comes to getting a meeting, but they rarely prepare for the nine other commitments that the client needs to make.

Among these outcomes, few would disagree that achieving consensus is often the most difficult—and one that clients frequently try to avoid with some variation of “I am the only one you need to work with, and I will be making the decision.” Later, when your client tells you, “We’ve decided to go another way,” you will have no idea who made up the “we,” and they will have no idea who you are or how you would have improved their results.

Or how many times have you finished the sales conversation and handed over a proposal and pricing, only to hear the dreaded words, “I’ll talk this over with my team in the next couple of weeks, and we’ll get back to you”? The two weeks come and go without any further communication from your prospective client, something that leaves you hopeful, even though you have deals in your pipeline that are old enough to get their learner’s permit.

You end up chasing your clients for one reason, and one reason only: You didn’t get the commitment you needed when you needed it. The continued challenge of gaining the commitments you need means you should recognize these patterns and prepare to have a different conversation in the future, one that results in a better outcome for you and your client.

The Sales Conversation

There is always the potential for novelty in the sales conversation, whether it’s from some prospect with a challenge you haven’t seen before or some criticism to your business model that no one has yet raised. Mostly, however, there are patterns that repeat. It’s not enough to recognize the challenges that you encounter throughout the sales conversation; you have to work to improve your skills and ability to produce better results.

Much of what is written here can be found in The Lost Art of Closing. But if you want a half-day training on gaining commitments and closing deals, please join us for a workshop on October 29th at Noon ET, where we’ll provide you with the strategies, tactics, and talk tracks for the most challenging commitments.

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