‘When a buyer says NO, we have been conditioned to have it mean, ‘NO, not yet!’ It’s the phrase we know and love, it makes us feel good and it means the salesperson can ‘hang in there’ and wait until the next round, the next opportunity and front back up again.

It can also be taken as a nod and a wink and a clear sign to negotiate and with NO being the most feared word a salesperson can think of, can typically result in discounting or giveaways or sweeteners of some kind. In fact a whole market has flourished around catering to a ‘fear of rejection’ and ‘how to overcome objections’ based on the power this one little word carries.

It’s the number one chokehold salespeople want help around – responding to NO.

But what if the salesperson is the person that says NO?

If the tables have been turned and the buyer is control for the beginning and middle of the sales journey (57% down the path before they need a salesperson) as we are experiencing, then what if the salesperson turned the tables in those final moments of the remaining 43%?

What would happen if salespeople started to say NO more often?

OK. I can hear you – then there would be no business to be got, but that in itself is a mindset. Let me explain for a minute:

One of my clients, a salesperson in a B2B environment and selling to a retail outlet that historically had called the shots, was faced with a buyer who was holding him hostage in those financial stages, meaning my salesperson was to accept the buyers conditions or they would go elsewhere.

My suggestion, as risky as it sounded, and his subsequent actions, saw him say NO to the buyer.

Sure, the buyer disappeared off the radar and we all squirmed a little, but with faith in our product and knowledge of our buyers business, adding to the fact we had weighed up margins as well as future opportunities plus we also realised client re-education had to start somewhere, then we deviated from the normal state of play.

Knowing there would be a lag time, we held our focus and the phone rang after two weeks. The buyer accepted the terms.

What did this do to all parties?

• The salesperson’s level of self confidence, self worth and levels of belief skyrocketed and the ripple effect spread to other deals
• The buyer realised the new terms of commercial engagement and whilst knowing there was always wriggle room, he also knew where the line stopped and started and
• My client held their margin and are standing taller and playing a bigger game.

NO is a very healthy word.
NO is a word that flushes out values.

If you can say NO based on the values and direction and mission of your business, you flush out those ‘expensive’ clients who will cost you in so many more ways – such as time, effort, convenience, resources plus dollars.
But it will also allow you to negotiate in a fair and equally respectful manner.

I watched Shark Tank last night and when a seller says NO and the shark is interested you can sense an energy shift. You can visually see what happens. It creates momentum. It demonstrates conviction in the seller and what they are selling. It also disrupts the perceived status quo and brings immediate value and balance to the discussion.

Last week, I was grateful to be given a business referral and spent time with the partner of a company discussing the opportunity of presenting to their staff on ‘commercial conversations’ aka, the role everyone has in selling and how to capture opportunities, only to be informed that they don’t pay for speakers.

It gutted me for a minute because that’s how I make my living so I said NO. I said NO with humility and with a re-frame that also explained why.

What came back to me created a magnetic like field that had me wanting to work for them at a genuine and deeper level. It was the respect shown to me and it was an awareness that our values were so aligned. We are now in talks for a role in the future. It may be a crumb for some, but it also may lead me to a whole bakery down the line. But it doesn’t matter – it opened up a healthy conversation with no resentment or misalignment and our terms are in the open.

I love the comment that Jared Leto from the band, Thirty Seconds to Mars quoted on employing the power of NO in a recent Fast Company article,

We all want to say yes, because with yes comes so much opportunity, but with the power of no comes focus and engagement.

NO is proof of your business acumen, that you understand the value of a dollar, that you don’t devalue your offering and as a result it conjures up a sense of trust and equality.

NO cuts to the chase and provides immediate opportunity to move forward.

But what about those buyers who should say NO (perhaps to the salesperson who may not have got their approach or conversation or outcome totally 100% correct by the book but has still invested time,effort and good intentions), but don’t have the courage, the respect or the courtesy to even return a call – definitely say NO to them and open up the space for other opportunities, but that’s another article for another time.

So, a couple of key reminders:

• Say NO and begin a new conversation, or, say NO and end a dead conversation
• Don’t lose margin by being a people-pleaser and giving free stuff away because you will lose long-term
• Say NO and hold your value and the value of your offering – your industry will thank you for that!
• Respect and demonstrate your own, individual business acumen and watch your results shift elsewhere
• Say NO to the request and not the person or the business you are dealing with
• Practice saying NO to the little things and bring the word into your vocabulary even more.

It’s such a little word but carries so much punch. The typical 2-year-old speaks at least 50 words and topping the list is the word NO, according to the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College.

We knew the power of the word when our vocabulary was so minute – it was our major word for selling our ideas to our toughest buyers.

Maybe, just maybe, we ought to respectfully re-introduce the word NO into our commercial conversations, with the intent to serve our new buyers with more elegance and relevance and fast track our outcomes.

Be Bold and Brilliant!
Bernadette McClelland - Keynote Speaker

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