3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When People Tell Them No

Here's why you shouldn't use fear, guilt or shame as a tactic when people tell you no -- and what you can do instead.
3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When People Tell Them No
Image credit: shapecharge | Getty Images

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor
Financial Empowerment Coach
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you get into the business of selling a product or service, it’s inevitable at some point that you will be told no. In fact you’ll likely be told no a number of times before you get your first yes, and even then you’ll still get rejected. The success of your business will likely rest on your ability to fill a need and overcome objection. Your prospective client might default to "no" for a variety of reasons, among them timing, urgency, education and fear. That's why it’s important to look at a "no" as an opportunity to help the prospect understand the value of what you are trying to sell.

The dark side of selling involves using aggressive tactics like shame, guilt or desperation to win over the prospective client. Although fear-based marketing strategies can be effective, your new client might walk away feeling used or taken advantage of. Business models such as network marketing or MLM (multi level marketing) are notorious for leveraging this tactic. Sellers lead with the promise of financial freedom, flexibility, an increase in business acumen and all the perks of being your own boss. Leveraging poverty and the desperation associated with it is a tactic I'm unfortunately familiar with — I once bought an "elite training" package to learn a skill I later found out I could have learned either much more cheaply or for free. 

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t use fear, guilt or shame as a selling tactic — and what you can do instead. 

Related: The Relationship Economy and 10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Relationships

It diminishes trust

Trust is a cornerstone in most relationships. When you use guilt, fear or shame as a selling tactic, you're backing your client into a corner where they feel forced to buy something because of their emotional response, not because they actually need your product or service. That damages your relationship with that prospect irreparably. 

Instead, use relevant and relatable examples that show the prospect why your product, service or idea is the best fit for their business. Let them choose it with confidence, not fear. 

Related: 3 Strategies to Generate Fresh Business Leads During a Global Crisis

They are less likely to share their decision with others

When I was pressured into purchasing the “elite training” I mentioned earlier, I told a group of three people I trusted that I was considering it before taking the plunge. When I asked them “What if it doesn’t work?”, their feedback to me was “If anyone can make it work, you can!” Their belief in me was what sold me. As soon as I bought it, I began to doubt and second-guess my decision. 

I kept the fact that I purchased this a secret for a number of years until it was far enough in my rearview mirror for me to start discussing it openly. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most effective marketing strategies, and I refused to tell others about the opportunity because I was embarrassed and felt taken advantage of. Reading reviews and accounts of others who had been in similar situations made matters worse for me as I felt stupid for falling victim to it.

A good way to get a gauge on your clients' feelings about buying what you’re selling is to ask them directly. One metric you could use is the Net Promoter Score, which measures how likely the customer is to recommend your product or service to friends or family. Asking this question will help you determine how the client feels about the interaction and purchase they made, and it can also subliminally encourage them to go out and tell others about their experience, a win for you. 

Related: What Do Successful Sales Look Like for the Rest of 2020?

It’ll turn them off 

Some people might see the value in what you’re selling but will simply lose interest because of how pushy your sales approach feels to them. They identify with the discomfort of the triggers associated with fear, guilt or desperation, and they associate your pitch with that discomfort. They might have witnessed this pattern in previous sales attempts and disengage. After the first few "nos" you might become more aggressive and press harder, which will only make their decision easier. They might even tell friends, colleagues and family members about the experience and discourage them from entertaining a pitch from you. 

Understanding that every client is not your ideal client is important in setting and respecting the boundaries associated with establishing trust, providing value and closing a sale. Instead, try to uncover what barriers exist in getting your prospect to yes. Is it an issue of money, timing, circumstance or commitment? If you can make it easier for that person to do business with you, they likely will. And if it's something outside of your control, then ending on a positive note might encourage them to seek you once when they work out whatever is stopping them from getting on board. 

Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Be Relentless Like Michael Jordan

When I am approached by anything that feels “salesy,” I immediately put up my guard against the textbook sales strategies people use to win you over. I pay attention to language, tone open-ended or leading questions, and I start formulating my "no" before the pitch is even made. As a consultant and coach, I also have to be careful about how I leave prospects feeling. I make sure to establish trust, create an experience they’ll want to share, and leave the interaction on a positive note that invites them to return when or if working with me makes sense in the future. 

More from Entrepreneur

Our Franchise Advisors are here to help you throughout the entire process of building your franchise organization!
  1. Schedule a FREE one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Choose one of our programs that matches your needs, budget, and timeline
  3. Launch your new franchise organization
Discover the franchise that’s right for you by answering some questions about
  • Which industry you’re interested in
  • Why you want to buy a franchise
  • What your financial needs are
  • Where you’re located
  • And more
Make sure you’re covered for physical injuries or property damage at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business

Latest on Entrepreneur