Say Yes, Say No, but Say Something
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
I'm about to let you in on a secret that will forever change your world and empower you to deal with people differently...
Salespeople love to get a "no".
Granted, they don't like it nearly as much as getting a Yes, but No gives them clarity. It's some form of engagement that takes the conversation from a state of limbo, into a discussion. Some people don't like it, because they're scared that the salesperson is then going to talk them around - if that's the case, just exhibit a "hard no" to draw the conversation to a close;
"I'm sorry, we have made the final decision that we will not be, proceeding, but thank you for your time"
It is absolutely, 100% OK to say that. I give you permission, blame me. The people on the other end of it will love you for it in the long run - you just freed them. All any salesperson really wants is to get a yes or no as quickly as possible. The worst thing for their productivity is spending countless hours trying to find excuses to contact you in an endless pretence of what amounts to little more than "checking in" or "touching base".
Ronan Keating was incorrect when he said that "you say it best when you say nothing at all."
Saying nothing doesn't help anybody in the chain. It just wastes a lot of energy and burns through a great deal of goodwill on both sides of the fence.
Think of a sales engagement like a court case. You've had the intros, reviewed the evidence, heard the testimony of the witnessed and now, dear juror, the judge wants your final verdict. Don't be that Juror.
So the key is to put you in a position where you have to say yes, or no.
A few months ago, a colleague and I ran an off the cuff campaign to drive that exact behavior. We had a bank of around 50 leads that were either unresponsive, had gone quiet, or just weren't quite getting over the line. We then took a bold step - we invited every one of them to their own 15 minutes Zoom meeting entitled "Contract Signing". We left the body of the meeting invite blank, no explanation, just a flat demand for 15 minutes of their day.
D'you know what happened? Every...single...one responded. All fifty. People who were weren't even sure were still at their companies, alive or able to access their email or telephone anymore, such was their Scarlet Pimpernel unresponsiveness. Better yet, three or four responded with "great, let's get moving, I've been meaning to get back to this" type of response.
What was really great was that of the 40+ that responded, 32 declined the meeting. That may not sound great on the face of it, but what made it so was that every one of them offered a reason why. Those reasons were gold dust. Under the pressure of having their time demanded, every one blurted out their objections and what was standing in the way of the deal. This was information we didn't have at that moment and that we could now take action on.
Some, we could fix. It was just misunderstandings, things we'd yet to demonstrate, or issues that were quick fixes. Great! Now those projects could move forward and we could give the customer what they needed to help them.
Some, we couldn't fix. There was just a misalignment. But we at least now knew what we needed to do if we wanted those customers now or in the future and it enabled us to then make a decision. It meant everybody was happier.
However, to go from having 50 dead leads to a flurry of activity due to one simple psychological play, drove our pipeline forward months.
The most important thing was that, when forced, the customer's honesty and transparency enabled us (the vendor) and them (the customer) to move forward positively, either in delivering what they wanted or onto other things that ultimately would deliver greater rewards to both of our business.
So next time you're procrastinating, start with a No and see where it takes you.
WRITTEN BY ED HALSEY
Any opinions expressed here are my own and not the views of any of my employers. They are personal views based upon a 15-year career in insurance across underwriting and sales roles at mainstream insurers, consultancy firms and technology providers.