Don’t Say ‘No.’ Say ‘No, But …’

salespeople talking collaborating

I’ve been told that there are two kinds of people: The people who say “there are two kinds of people” and the ones who don’t. That reminds me of the favorite joke of one of my old sociology professors, who told us “there are two kinds of people: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.”

Take all the time you need with that one.

I don’t know how true it is that there are two kinds of editorials: The ones that make the subject of their editorial the differences between two specific subgroups of one group, and the ones that don’t, but I’ll take a stab at the first type.

Let me preface my following remarks by saying that not only have I been a salesperson working in sales jobs a long time, I’ve had to deal with a lot of salespeople as well. I mean, I think everyone has had to deal with salespeople, but not only do some of us have to deal with more salespeople than average, but because of my own background, training and experience, I’m a lot more mindful of how my interactions with them go.

For one thing, I’m mostly immune to other salespeople’s Jedi mind tricks and always-closing strategies, because I’ve been trained to do them too, so I see them coming a mile away. For another, having spent so much time not only being a salesperson, but training them, I can’t help but observe and critique their performance.

Getting right down to it, here’s something I’ve long observed: when you, the customer, tell the salesperson what you’re looking for, and it’s something they don’t have, they’ll tell you one of two things:

  • One kind of salesperson will say “No, we don’t have that.”
  • The other will say, “No, we don’t have that, but let me show you want we have that’s like what you’re looking for.
See related  Relationship Selling

The first response, “No, we don’t have that,” closes the door on the interaction, and leaves any further initiative to the prospective customer.

The second response leaves the door open. They may not have what you were looking for, but they want to help work through alternatives with you. That gives the salesperson the opportunity to ask more probing questions: to get a clearer picture of who the customer is, what they’re looking for and why.

I’ll tell you something else: quite often, not all of the time, but many times, what the customer said they wanted is only what they thought they wanted. Upon further examination and clarification, what you have to offer is better than what they thought they originally wanted. But there’s only one way to find that out, and that’s to keep the customer talking, not to tell them “Nope, sorry. Have a good day!”

Even if the alternatives you have offered still aren’t suitable, that’s only one interaction, and one potential transaction, today, right now. What about all the other things you have to offer. Is that prospective customer going to be in the market for any of those, maybe not today, but eventually? If so, then connect with them, build rapport and get their consent to add their info to your CRM files, and follow up with them down the road.

I’ll tell you right now, don’t look at any one potential customer as just one transaction. Look for ways to turn it into a long-term relationship. And the first step to doing that is don’t shut them down when you don’t have what they were looking for.