(By Wayne Ens) After putting all your effort and creativity into a presentation, you would probably rather endure a root canal than hear your prospect say no. But understanding what to do after your prospect says no is one of the most valuable steps toward yes in your entire sales process.
Before all else, recognize that “No” is a good thing. We often run sales contests where the salesperson who captures the most no’s wins first prize. To qualify, each sales rep has to authenticate the date the presentation was made and the date it was rejected, and document a clear understanding of why the prospect said no.
Second prize in our “No” contest goes to the salesperson who captures the most yeses. And here is the thing: The person who captures first prize for the most no’s always captures the most yeses as well. Always.
Psychologists know that to manage stress, you have to concern yourself only with that over which you have direct control. You have limited control over whether your client says yes or no.
What you do have control over is the effort you put into creating a proposal that achieves your prospect’s goals. If you define success as getting a yes, you’ll inevitably feel like a failure some days.
But if you define success as making pre-qualified, high-quality, customer-focused presentations, you can achieve that goal and feel like a success each day.
Here are 10 steps you can take after you’ve heard the dreaded “No.””
STEP 1: NEVER TAKE NO PERSONALLY. Structure your presentation so that no only means no to this particular presentation, this idea, or at this time — not no to you personally or to your stations.
I’ve always felt that if the client says no, they are the loser, not me, because I’m simply offering to solve their problems.
STEP 2: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE NO. Your prospect didn’t agree to sit still for your presentation because they had no interest. Assuming you are talking to the real decision-maker, “No” really means, “You have not convinced me I will get a return on my investment.” Generally, when you get a no, it means you missed a no earlier in the process. After no, you need to retrace your steps to find the no you missed along the way.
Ask questions like, “Did I misunderstand your goals?” Or “Can you help me understand why my proposal isn’t appropriate at this time?”
Did you establish rapport? Did you build your brand and credibility before making the presentation?
STEP 3: BE PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE. Some buyers say no as a negotiation tactic. Always build enough into your presentation to leave room to maneuver. Never offer so much value-added or other perks in your initial presentation that you have no room to sweeten the pie. Be prepared to practice “Negotiation 101”: Never give one without getting one. If your prospect asks for a lower rate, you can’t concede without changing the rotation, asking for a longer commitment, or some other concession.
STEP 4: ALWAYS LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN. If you have not been able to turn the no into a yes, get an agreement on next steps, again through questioning. Questions like, “Now that I have a better understanding of your situation, may I make an appointment to do another presentation that addresses your concerns and achieves your objectives?”
STEP 5: If you hear a veiled no, like “I have to think about it” or “I have to talk to my partner or accountant,” ask questions to remove the veil, like, “What is it in our proposal that requires more thought?” Or “May I have the opportunity to meet with you and your partner to explore this further?”
STEP 6: SAY THANKS IN A BIG WAY. Say thanks for the appointment, thanks for giving me new insights into your business or your goals, thanks for considering us, etc. Don’t only say thanks verbally, but follow up in writing with a personal note. Also, thank any key influencers or associates who referred you.
STEP 7: CAREFULLY PLAN YOUR NEXT STRATEGY BASED UPON WHAT THE NO TAUGHT YOU. Through questioning, you’ve learned why your prospect said no, and conversely, you now know what to do to get to yes.
STEP 8: INITIATE A MINIMUM OF THREE VALID BUSINESS CONTACTS BEFORE YOU ASK FOR THE ORDER AGAIN. A valid business contact is any contact that benefits your prospect. Delivering a minimum of three messages of value before the next ask help to pre-sell your next approach.
STEP 9: GET A SECOND OPINION. Review the situation with your sales manager or a mentor, or have a productive brainstorming meeting with your creative people to discuss alternative approaches for the next proposal.
STEP 10: LAST BUT NOT LEAST, BOW OUT GRACEFULLY. Know when to quit, but do it with confidence and style. Don’t just disappear. Let the prospect know you are convinced your station can produce results for them. Let them know you would like to have another account executive tackle the challenge of achieving the advertiser’s goals, and ask them what they look for in a media account executive so you can better select the team member at your station to serve them.
Wayne Ens is the President of ENSMedia Inc. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.