Taking “No” for an answer

Digging into two overused sales phrases you should stop believing now!

Recently, I have seen repetitive social media posts regarding two sales phrases that everyone just keeps posting, reposting, and must believe.  The purpose of this article is to shed some real light on the damage those sayings do to a salesperson’s motivation.

The first is, “We don’t take No for an answer”.  The idea is that we don’t end our sales call just because the customer tells us they don’t want to buy from us.  We are supposed to persist through the “No” until we mentally wrestle the customer into submission and they say “Yes”. 

The concept is reinforced in Hollywood images of Tommy Boy going through sales training with his road trip companion (Richard).   Hilarious movie and fun to see the common sales experiences we all have on the road.  Yet, in the very next scene, Tommy Boy finds out exactly how “Not taking no for an answer” works.  Customer after customer turns Tommy down and he has to accept their rejection.

We are no different.  In our real world of selling, salespeople tend to fall on either side of a line.  Some persist through the “No” and push hard to overcome the objection.  This group will definitely have success when dealing with a small group of customers who tolerate aggressive style behavior.  Or, this style will work once on a customer, and then they won’t give that salesperson another appointment.  As a sales manager, I have had customers call me and tell me never to send that salesperson back to their farm.  In those examples, often, the salesperson was actually mildly successful, but it took a large geography for him to have enough customers to support a territory. 

With all the social media posts I mentioned and the Hollywood stereotype, you would think all salespeople are the aggressive type.  But they are not.  They are actually rarer than those on the other side of the line. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the salesperson who runs into the “No” and not only accepts it but often, will not go back and call on that prospect for months, maybe years.  I find a majority of salespeople in this category.  They despise pushy salespeople so much that they think any pressure is pushy. 

This group is also very worried about their image as a salesperson.  They will tell me,

            “I just go out and meet with customers to see what they need

            “I show them all the options we have and let them choose”

This might be harsh, but that’s called a brochure or a website.  The pay for that is a lot lower than being a professional salesperson.  While this salesperson feels good that they are not pushy, they struggle with getting customers to buy.  They struggle to handle objections.  More importantly, this group will struggle to close sales.

So, which side of that spectrum are you on?  Is it where you want to be?  How about the salespeople you manage?  Where are they on this spectrum? Do they push too hard or give up too soon?

Wherever you or they are, please don’t preach or post anything that you can’t back up with: How? 

If you feel energized to tell your sales team or the world that “We don’t take NO for an answer”, then take the next 20 minutes and explain how. 

Otherwise, you really just make most salespeople irritated and feel bad about their results.  And only on the rarest of occasions is that going to motivate anyone to do better.

Here are some perspectives on hearing “No” and how to deal with it:

  • Many people say no and to them, No means No.  Try pushing a Dominating DISC style and see how far you get. 
  • Learn to ask good questions of someone that says No to find out why.  Fighting with them about the no will only make the hole you’re in bigger. 
  • Change the words you hear from “No” to “No for Now”.  If you are staying in business and your prospect is staying in business, then find out when you should return for the next sales call. 
  • On a similar note, that “No for Now” might only be a reference to the one product you presented on.  Most of us have many products and services.  No on this, doesn’t mean no on everything you offer.
  • Learn to embrace a No and realize it is often the beginning.  If you did your discovery questions correctly, confirmed their needs, presented a solution, got agreement on that solution, and then got a No, well, then you got something wrong.  It’s time to clarify with this person what went wrong.  This will get us to the heart of the issues with this customer. 

These are but a few of the methods I work with salespeople on.  If interested in more, reach out, and let’s talk about having me work with you or your sales team. 

Good luck and I hope this helped a little for all those salespeople who read social media posts telling them to push past the NO and feel like failures because no one tells them how.

Come back next week as we deal with an even bigger mistruth in selling ……. “It’s never about price”! 

Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.

Subscribe to the Podcast
Receive My Free Weekly Blog

If this blog helped you on your journey to being more effective in your selling, I ask you to share it with those who might also benefit from it.

Sign up for my weekly blog and podcast using the links on this page.

As a final request, take a look at the newest book on the market written specifically for you!


A Season of Sales Book Cover

Want to Read More?

Check out my book, A Season for Sales, written for specifically for the Ag Sales Professional, by an Ag Sale Professional!