Ice Cubes To Eskimos

Overcoming When A Customer Says No

A customer says no? It's not over.

As an entrepreneur, you will hear "no" no matter how thoroughly you follow the tips on these pages. In fact, if you haven't heard some nos by now, you're not selling hard enough. But a no isn't necessarily the end of your hopes for making a deal with a prospect, says Jeffrey Gitomer, a Charlotte, North Carolina, sales trainer and co-author of Knock Your Socks Off Selling (AMACOM Books). He offers tactics to use in overcoming initial nos:

1. Use humor. "Say to the prospect, 'Thanks for telling me no. I usually have to hear four nos before I hear yes. Do you know anybody else I can call who'll say no?' " suggests Gitomer. Or: "Say 'Is that your final answer?' " says Gitomer. These tactics can help to defuse the tension triggered by a no and move conversation to the next level.

2. Ask why five times. "Ask why and ask why again, and keep asking until you get to the truth about why this prospect said no," says Gitomer. For instance, if the customer says, "I said no because I need a voice-actuated wireless telephone," start by asking: Why do you need voice-actuation? Ask enough questions, and the customer may find that your product or service does what he or she needs.

3. List the things of value you offer prospects in addition to what you're selling. "If you don't have anything to put on the list, you don't deserve this sale," says Gitomer. He explains: If you're selling long-distance telephone serv-ice for businesses, for instance, you might offer free sales training tapes to customers who sign up. To make any deal of value, "You need to offer more than just what you're selling," he says.

4. Tell prospects you can't accept a no until they make two phone calls. "Ask them to call two of your customers who initially said no, then decided to buy," says Gitomer. "You may not be able to overcome a prospect's resistance, but he or she might listen to your customers."

5. Find out whom your prospects eventually buy from and what the criteria were. Maybe you won't get this sale, says Gitomer, but if you get the reasons you didn't, you'll be more likely to get the next deal.

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ice Cubes To Eskimos.

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