In some ways it’s the most important thing to achieve. Getting your client to say ‘No’ can save you a ton in terms of time, effort, energy, and emotional stock.But hanging on to a sale that has long since passed its ‘sell by date’, the date by when the decision should have been made, is something most sales people are guilty of.

I think this comes from insecurity. Insecurity in terms of the ‘pipeline’ that we spoke about here. And the pipeline in terms of building the ‘potential’ that turns into revenue that gets you to target. There’s only one cure for it, and that’s to have more out there than you need to get to target.

When you have that ‘luxury’ no single decision takes on the level of importance that makes it greater than any another. Then its just a question of getting through the process (presentations maybe?) till you get to the end (hitting target). Which is the ideal way to approach it. When you have limited opportunity in the pipeline however, then every last penny means way more than its worth in financial terms. This might mean getting closer to target, and most likely commission, or even hitting your budget plan, and with no alternatives coming through the pipeline, the last thing you need to hear is ‘No!’

You don’t like to hear it, the Client doesn’t like to say it

Chances are, you’re a nice person. Most sales people are. They look for positive ways to resolve differences, and gain the common ground in a situation. They make compromises by nature. Everything about their sales approach is aimed at preventing, or at least avoiding the bit where the client says ‘No!’  The funny thing is, that’s exactly what clients are like too. They are nice people. They get around the myriad problems they face every day by pasting solutions together and reaching compromise all the time. Plus they happen to think that you’re a nice person as well.

The last thing they want to do is upset you. They can see how keen you are to help. They can see that your motivations are equally aimed at doing a great job for them as they are towards hitting your targets. They’ll string it out as long as you are willing for them to do so. I might even go so far as to say they enjoy seeing you maybe? Why do they need to make what would potentially be an upsetting decision when you seem more than happy to keep calling around and passing the time of day with them in the pleasant way that you do?

But on the basis that it’s a very positive thing for us to get as many ‘No’s’ as we can, what can we do next?

Sales person in ‘client doesn’t want to buy what I am selling’ shock!

There are only two reasons why the client doesnt want to buy.

1. They can’t afford what you are selling. In which case, you should not be selling it to them in the first place

2. They don’t believe your product will do what you say it will.

In the case of point 2. This is where you earn your money. There is no system to over come this, no clever objection cushioning approach that someone has written a book about that you can research. You have to sell. You have to persuade, you have to argue your point, you have to cajole and yes, sometimes even nag!

Above all, you have to find out exactly what part of what you have been talking about has not made sense to your client. You need to really drill into the facts of the case as it were, through a thorough questioning of the clients decision-making process. Assuming you have got them to the point where they have made a decision in the first place of course!

Don’t allow this questioning to become ‘salesy’. Just ask normal sensible insightful questions. Don’t ‘trap’ them, they spot that a mile off. Don’t lead them, its unprofessional for the consultative seller. This is the major benefit of having the sort of relationship a high level and consultative seller can develop with their clients; good honest feedback.

Keep It Simple Stupid

Follow this pattern: You have a great product and the client has a problem. If you have spotted the problem you need to convince them that it is a problem. If they brought that problem to you, then you are already ahead.

Then you have to convince them, and I mean really convince them, that your product will solve / go some way to solving their problem.

Thats it. Thats what we do. We solve our clients problems.

If your product does not solve the problem don’t sell it. If you can’t convince the client that your product will solve their problem, then they won’t buy it. It’s that easy.

Fear of loss is a greater motivator than desire for gain

Pretty much everything we do is driven at a base level by fear of loss or desire for gain. Try and find out what is the major motivator for your client and utilise that to convince them that your product is the way forward.

If they are driven by the fear of loss, then their purchase might be driven by the desire to protect themselves. As a really simple example, let’s say we are selling make up / beauty products. Fear of loss campaigns are aimed at the anti-ageing market place. Fear of losing your youthful looks is solely at the heart of these purchases.

On the other hand desire for gain comes from the requirement to grow or achieve or win etc. In the case of the make up example, we’d talk about the purchase of the products that promise to make you more beautiful, giving you all the  imagined benefits we typically associate with beautiful people.

My old friend and mentor Dave Gifford called this ‘pressure point selling’ – Finding out where the pressure points are that motivate the client and therefore motivate the sale.

But whatever, if you haven’t convinced them that you are going to solve the problem you are dead in the water.

The problem either being based on a fear of loss, or a desire for gain, but a problem all the same.

What do you think? What else can we do when the client says no? fill in the box below to join in, or leave a comment on the Facebook page to take part.

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12 thoughts on “What to do when the client says ‘No!’

  1. “Then you have to convince them, and I mean really convince them, that your product will solve / go some way to solving their problem”
    Ah! This is probably the largest stumbling block I face week in week out. The people that arent really interested, that cant really afford it – the people I shouldnt have been wheeled in front of to do creative magic anyway – those people you can deal with quite easily and quickly (from a creatives point of view). Its the interested ones, who wont listen to the marketing experts, that are the real challenges!
    I work on a three strike rule. I will, three times, demonstrate my best advice. After that, you get what you ask for, but dont come running to me complaining it hasnt worked (which I am also crystal clear about).

  2. Great stuff Tony, thank you again! It ties in neatly, I think, with some superb advice once given to me by a Very Old Salesperson who once said; “Never try to sell anybody anything; try to get them to buy something from you”. My take on that is; “If it needs selling, the client doesn’t want it. The trick is to GET them to want it”. In other words, explain how whatever you’re selling will solve their problem.

  3. I would also suggest that “no” doesn’t mean “no” forever. I learned early in my career that even if they say “no” right now that they may change their mind down the road. If they were truly interested in your product or service you should keep in touch with them. If you continue to educate them on your product and develop a relationship with them they may say “yes” in a few months. Don’t give up on a good prospect.

    1. Hi Meg! And welcome

      Stay in touch yes, and don’t give up for sure. But don’t waste time on a good prospect that isn’t buying. If you consider all the clients you ever sold too and then the ones that didn’t buy straight away, yet came back a few months later with an order, the percentage would be very small

      Sales is a function of activity, and its deadly for a sales person to get ‘stuck’ chasing good prospects that don’t turn into revenue

      thanks for the comments, I look forward to interacting more!

      1. its deadly for a sales person to get ‘stuck’ chasing good prospects that don’t turn into revenue

        Well said Tony – As I was always reminded: “The heaviest briefcase is the one full of dead leads/prospects” Which I believe meant the dead weight on the mind & performance!

        Tony – would like to read your perspective/blog on the dreaded ‘Sales Forecasting’ – It seems most Sales Managers/Directors (in my previous and current day jobs) want a cast iron guarentee (if not a contract) that the deal IS coming in

      2. Thanks Kevin, great input, i like that briefcase analogy. And I also like the idea of a blog on forecasting! in essence, theres nothing wrong with forecasting as such, in fact its essential for a sales person to manage their own target performance. For instance I’ve alway liked to have three times out there in order to hit a month, and like to go into a month on at least 85% pre booked.

        However, there is a problem when accountants get hold of forecasts and treat them as you say, as a cast iron guarantee! Then sales people invariably are managed to hit forecasts not targets, and ultimately they are not encouraged to bill as high a number as they other wise might be able to with ‘proper’ sales management.

        Its a tough one OK. Forecasting is essential to allow a business to plan, but when it is allowed to become the be all and end all, it can become problematic.

        Thanks, its a great question and I’ll put something together on it soon!

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