The Nuclear Bomb of Sales Responses

NoNo is a power word. No is inflexible. No is final. No is a relational nuclear bomb. No painted me into corners of embarrassing finality. Saying no without sticking to my guns always weakened my position and eroded my customer’s confidence in me. A blunt no hurt negotiations, killed deals, and damaged relationships.

Adversity to buying is the common climate of the sales environment. How we deal with the curve balls and road blocks creates an image of whether or not there is worthwhile opportunity by moving forward with us. Intense focus on questioning our clients to discover their wants and needs often distracts us from our responses to our client’s. While we size up the possibility of making a sale, our customer is determining whether to do business or not do business with us.

Buyers are exceptional at baiting us into responding with a blunt no that makes an easy decision for them to stop fishing with us. Saying no may give us a feeling of power, but it presents us as inflexible. Lowball offers and unreasonable requests that would have us jumping through hoops, can push the most self-controlled sales rep to negative kneejerk reactions. Even in less stressful situations, no is too handy of a retort, but avoiding this is a best sales practice.

As a New Yorker, my tendency to answer quickly is often followed by deeply embedding my foot in my mouth. Diplomacy is not my strength, so I continually work at being discreet and prudent with my tongue.  Buttoning my lip, thinking, and responding thoughtfully, requires diligent effort. After years of reprogramming myself and consistent practice, a little recording plays continuously in my head, “Listen and shut up.” With mentorship and diplomatic reminders from my wife, I have found better ways to say “No.”

Learning shades of gray was challenging for my natural black and white disposition. Holding back on a quick yes, was just as difficult for me. In our eagerness to earn business, freely giving a yes can actually hurt negotiations later, which I’ll address in another post. Finding middle ground improved my sales quantitatively and qualitatively.

Maybe is a power word. Maybe is open ended. Maybe promises possibility and hope. Maybe leaves the door open to opportunity. Creating, cultivating, and nurturing opportunity even in the most adverse situations is what selling is all about. Here are a few ways to phrase maybe:

Let me research your request.

That’s very interesting. Let me see if that is possible.

We have never done that before, I’d love to find out if we can do that.

Postponing a no presents your flexibility, your willingness to try. Stating that you are going to find a solution or compromise requires your legitimate effort. But when “No” is the only answer, put on the “white hat” folks and make your sales managers or sales executives wear the black hat. This is one of the secret values of management. As a sales manager and V.P., I never minded wearing the black hat for my sales team. One president I reported to willingly took the hit for me and taught me the value of taking the hit for my sales team.

Responses like these will put keep your white hat untarnished:

“I don’t’ have the power to make that decision, so I’ll have to take your request to…”

“I have to check with my manager”

“I’ll have to check with the president.”

And when I ran my own company, “The decision is up to my partner” maintained my good guy image.

Salespeople work from behind the 8 ball and buyers try to keep us there. Don’t sacrifice yourself, be the good gal or good guy. You may have the decision making power, and your customer may know that you do, but that does not prevent you from passing the black hat.

With all of the years of training and constant rehearsal, my knee occasionally jerks my mouth and no slips out. This is fixable with a quick sincere “Let me take that no back and look into this.” I’ve watched the demeanor of a client switch to very positive in those instances.

Creating OpportunityAs salespeople, we work against a continuous tide of adversity. We want to say yes whenever we can, but that is not always possible. Our job to convert challenges into opportunities is dependent upon how we respond and resolve difficulties.  No is a dead-end, maybe is a world of possibility.

How do you manage your urge to say no?

What are your favorite escape routes?

Jill Konrath is running a contest to compile the top things “Salespeople Should Never, Ever…” do. My answer prompted a conversation with Jill that inspired this post. Please check out her contest. Your contribution could be included in her upcoming eBook and win you an autographed copy of her renowned book “SNAP Selling!”