Oh, Yes!

4 secrets to getting past NO
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the October 1998 issue of . Subscribe »

Ask experienced entrepreneurs, and they'll tell you the one word they hear most often is "no." Even legendary Beatles manager Brian Epstein was turned down by every major record label in England before he finally got the Fab Four signed by Parlophone. Successful entrepreneurs understand that in order to get to "yes," they must often pass through a succession of "nos." The good news is that rejection is fleeting and "no" is rarely the last word.

Here are four common reasons why customers say no, and some tips to help you get past no to the yes you deserve:

Reason #1: The prospect can't make a buying decision. A qualified prospect 1) has a need for your product or service, 2) can afford it and 3) is willing to pay for it. Carefully qualify every prospect early in your relationship to determine if he or she meets these three criteria. It takes much longer to create a need than to fill one. So it's best to find prospects who already understand the usefulness of the type of product or service you offer.

A good example of someone who has a need and a budget for your product would be a prospect who is using one of your competitors' products. So if you've been backing off from going head-to-head with your competition, you've been missing out on opportunities to close .

Even if your prospects meet the first two criteria--they need and can afford your product--you must clearly communicate the benefits you provide in order to motivate them to pay for it. And of course, your prospects must have buying authority, or, even if they say yes, you may have to repeat the entire process with the real decision maker.

Reason #2: The prospect has lingering objections. The basic framework of any sales interaction involves two components: asking questions and listening to the answers. Whether you're on the telephone with your prospect or face-to-face, it's important to ask questions in order to uncover the prospect's needs and desires. If you come to the point in your conversation when you're ready to close, but the prospect isn't, try asking questions to reveal any objections lingering in your prospect's mind. For example, you might ask "What are some of the features you need to know more about?"

Once you've uncovered the prospect's needs, you can offer a compromise. You might say "Suppose you could get 24-hour guaranteed delivery and online order processing. If I can provide you with both, will I have your today?"

Reason #3: The prospect lacks trust/confidence in you.People do business with people, not companies, and they do business with people they like. That's why it's essential to always project a polished, professional image. Before meeting with a prospect, try to anticipate his or her questions. Plan how you'll use your materials, and prepare a family of tools that convey a high-quality image. Without these necessary ingredients, your prospect may doubt your ability to carry out your promises.

During the sales interaction, be sure to demonstrate value before you ask for the sale. Your prospect wants to know you have the right experience, knowledge and resources. Use case histories to demonstrate your company's ability to deliver the benefits you promise. These are confidence-building stories that show how you've provided beneficial solutions to other clients.

Reason #4: You've forgotten the call to action. A strong call to action gives the prospect a reason to buy now. This applies to selling situations where there is a single meeting to close the sale, such as when a roofing contractor meets with a homeowner to provide an estimate, or when an independent sales representative meets with a prospect to sell a piece of electronic equipment. Buying incentives offer the prospect a reason to take action today. Devices such as a money-back guarantee or a special discount are examples of common buying incentives.

Some types of businesses--such as consulting practices, public relations agencies and accounting firms--have a longer sales cycle that requires building relationships with prospects over time. It takes numerous interactions before a sale is closed. Your job is to build urgency, with each step moving the prospect closer to a buying decision.

Positive Energy
Even when you fail to close a sale, be sure to take positive action. "No" is rarely an absolute. It's not uncommon for companies to select a particular vendor, then replace that vendor just months later due to poor performance.

Always ask what your prospect's decision is based on (so you can do better next time), then offer a fall-back solution, such as to supply further information. Be sure to add the prospect to your database for ongoing follow-up. Continually update and add to your prospect list and send those who are on the fence information that will help them jump off in your direction.


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