Sales techniques: Take no for an answer

staff Published by Staff – 29 June 2021

We didn’t start this post with the legendary song “Je t’aime moi non plus” (I love you me neither) by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin out of our love for French chanson (well, maybe a bit), but to show that it’s not always a good idea to say yes during a negotiation and/or try to be liked.   “No” is a very positive word. In some cases, it’s even advisable to seek it out. Here are three tips for making “no” work for you.

The yes needs the no to win…

The value of “yes” is always contingent on a “no,” as former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin pointed out with brio:

More seriously, in a sales meeting, putting a “no” on the table gives the client a feeling of freedom. It’s a straightforward way of telling them that they’re in control of their decisions and should not feel obliged in any way.

Here are a few examples of how to phrase it at the start of a meeting:

  • “The idea is to present a few recent projects to you and see whether you think it would be worthwhile to have a closer look at our companies working together.”
  • “I would like to present a few examples of our recent work and we can discuss whether it would be worth it to move forward.”
  • “Given what I know about your company, I think that we can help you, which is what I would like to go over with you by presenting a few recent projects.” But I may be completely mistaken. Tell me if that’s the case.”

 Telling your prospect “don’t hesitate to tell me no” may seem risky but it’s effective precisely because it draws from the power of this freedom of choice.  What’s more, it’s a way of letting your client know that you really want to do business with them, but that if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.

Negotiating with no

Ok I’ll give in. We can talk about the “win-win.” It’s a concept that’s been promoted far and wide over the decades and remains sound in the long run.   But be careful, if you have your mind set on “win-win,” it’s easy to forget that the best opening foray can be simply saying “no.” By starting with a no, you give your client the chance to speak and make a counterproposal (what we call the “anchoring technique”) and that’s when the game is afoot!  You can put forward arguments, make another offer…. basically show that you know how to negotiate.
If you want to find out more, read Start with No by Jim Camp

No thanks, that’ll be all

 We’ve covered prospecting and negotiating, so let’s finish with closing the deal. How and when do you close?

Say you have a client in a store. The salesperson often uses this unforgivable phrase, “Will that be all?”. Instead of wrapping up the sale too quickly, try to make it last as long as possible! Let the buyer go with the flow and leave them the pleasure of saying “no” later, during an additional sale. That will be the best signal that the selling has ended for the day and it’s time to close your sale. Wouldn’t it be better for the salesperson to ask, “Would you like anything else?”

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