The Art of the Sale

Rethink the Meaning of “No”

Understanding the two-letter word with a hundred shades of meanings

by Tom Hopkins

Mr. Hopkins is the author of The Art of Growing a Successful Financial Services Business. Attend his next 2-Day Sales Academy

In the English language, the word “no” can carry many shades of meaning. It would be a financially costly mistake for you to assume that the meaning your clients assign to the word “no” is the same as the meaning you assign to it.

Opening your mind to the other parties’ potential meanings will help you to save some sales that you might have otherwise considered lost.

Some of the possible meanings of “no” are as follows:

1. Lingering questions
In sales, the word “no” very often means that the clients haven’t had all of their questions or concerns addressed yet. Perhaps they’re confused about how your program compares to the competition’s. Or, they may just not be clear on what it will do for them. Those are challenges you must be prepared to address.

A confused mind is more likely to say “no”. It’s an instinctive, protective device of the human psyche. If clients don’t see a clear way to go with regard to what you’re suggesting, they’ll tend to put off making any kind of decision.

2. Inadequate explanation of benefits
If you’ve done your job of qualifying your potential clients and are confident that your solution will indeed serve their needs well, a “no” just means you haven’t completed the client education process that’s inherent in selling.

If this is the case, not providing enough information isn’t necessarily a flaw in your presentation. Different clients need different amounts of information delivered in different ways before making decisions. Generally speaking, it’s better to give too little information and have clients ask for more (in this case, by saying “no”) than to give too much information and lose clients on the basis of information overload or boredom.

Trust your instincts during your presentations and close when you feel your clients have enough information to make an educated decision. If the clients consistently ask for more information after your initial closing attempt, then it is time to make an adjustment in your presentation. Use their “no” as a sign post to indicate that a change in direction is required in order to gain their business.

3. Additional discovery is required
A “no” may mean that you need to investigate further to determine what aspect of your presentation wasn’t clear. Or, it could be a case where now that you’ve presented a solution, the clients realize they should have given you additional or different information in the first place. This can be an embarrassing situation for them. You’ll need to be both patient and diligent.

4. A misstep in qualification
This can be related to #3 above. You may need to go back to the qualifying or needs identification step in the sales process to be certain you are presenting the right product for the client’s situation. This scenario may be due to your missing something when you were identifying needs earlier in the sales appointment. It also may be due to potential clients being unclear as what to their true needs are.

Because your presentation was effective in educating the potential clients on what you incorrectly understood to be the appropriate product or service, they may say “no” to your initial offering. The buyer may not be aware that have many other options available to you that will meet their newly-realized needs. Only with further conversation can you discover this epiphany and then present the better product.

5. Unrevealed questions/objections
Perhaps these people haven’t told you everything yet about their circumstances as to needs and their ability to afford what you’re offering. What? Don’t clients tell you everything up front that you need to know to offer a win-win opportunity and close the sale? Oh, heck no. This is a natural element in the selling process.

What? Don’t clients tell you everything up front that you need to know to offer a win-win opportunity and close the sale? Oh, heck no

Sometimes this is merely an issue of trust. One of the most powerful times to build trust is after a buyer says “no.” As mentioned above, clients are often unaware of their real objections and questions until they start to become educated about the products and services that provide solutions. Or, perhaps they like the product but not the amount of investment you’re recommending. The point is that by using the proper selling skills, tools, and strategies in the correct manner, you can continue to move the sale forward despite initial reluctance from the buyer.

6. Timing
The buyer’s “no” may just be a way of slowing the sales process down. It may mean ““no”, “no”t right “no”w.” Good timing is important when you make purchases, so why wouldn’t it be important to your clients? By discussing options in timing, you may discover a time frame that is quite agreeable to your clients even if it isn’t today.

7. Features
Their “no” may mean “No,” not that way.” When hearing those types of “nos”, well-trained salespeople will reflexively ask questions to clarify what the potential clients mean. They might say something like this: “I hear what you’re saying, Bob. To help me understand a little bit better, what would I have to say or do to help you start taking advantage of the benefits of this program that you seem to like so much?” Bob might jokingly come back with “You could tell me it’s free.” Then you know that the money is the issue. You then keep the sale moving forward by working on different financial solutions for Bob.

8. No, Not Right Now
If you believe your clients are saying “No, not right now,” it may be because they thought of going ahead at a future date (or they could just be procrastinators). Your job is to find out when is the best time for them to become truly engaged, and determine if you can do anything to help them take advantage of your suggestions sooner rather than later.

You may say, “I understand you’re hesitant, Sue. When do you think you’d like to start having greater peace of mind about your retirement by having an investment program in place?” Or, “Sue, based on all the benefits we’ve discussed here tonight, when do you think you would want to take advantage of this program?” Sue may have a large bill due this week, or she may have a reimbursement check coming that she plans to use for this investment. The point is, you can’t move the sale forward until you know what is truly holding her back.

9. “No, not you”
With some clients, the “no” you hear could even mean “No,” not you.” Please realize that in the financial services arena, clients know they’re not just choosing an investment vehicle, they’re buying future involvement with you. In many cases, the salesperson becomes the key connection between clients and the company, and they may just not have been “sold” on you. They may not feel comfortable with your ability to serve their needs. You always have to demonstrate your own level of competence as well as your product’s benefits.

Remember, people prefer to do business with people they like. It’s important to help buyers to like you and trust you so they’ll listen to what you have to say—take your advice and want to be involved with you in a long-term relationship.
There are many reasons that potential clients may say “no”, but lack of interest is probably not one of them. Disinterested people won’t waste their time meeting with financial advisors and listening to presentations. So, when you have their attention, it’s because they’re truly interested in knowing if you, your company, and your products can resolve issues or challenges they’re having. Once again, the job falls to you to identify or discover what their needs and expectations are as they relate to the services you can offer them.

You are the only one who can ultimately determine what each “no” means in every selling situation. You do that by keeping the conversation alive through the use of precisely-crafted questions. By mining the information you need to know in order to determine if and how you can help them, you’ll close more sales that previously would have gone by the wayside. ◊


One response to “Rethink the Meaning of “No””

  1. adriana diaz says:

    excellent info- first thing is not to be devastated by the NO as your reaction will put an end to the sales process. if you take the NO as you should as noted on the post; you may understand that its a process and more careful negotiations are on hand.