What to do when your client says ‘No!’
What do you do in that awkward moment at the end of a sales conversation where the client decides “Thank you, but No”?
Do your sales conversations end smoothly when the client says “Yes” but descend into awkwardness if it’s a No? If so, you are not alone.
I recently attended an event where the host made an offer for a high-end coaching programme. Now, much as I loved the person doing the teaching the programme wasn’t right for me and I was clear about that. Yet a member of her sales team had clearly been trained not to take No for an answer and our conversation quickly descended into what felt like an argument – me defending my position and feeling unheard, her ploughing on regardless.
And I know from my experience that this is a common situation after sales conversations.
The problem comes, not because the person doesn’t care, but because traditional sales training is so focused on getting the “Yes” that it simply doesn’t focus enough on what to do when the client in fact says “No”.
So what DO you do when a client says “No” to enable them to leave that interaction with you feeling positive rather than browbeaten? And allow you to walk away without pouring lots of what I call “sticky” energy into thinking about why they didn’t work with you.
Here is what to do when your client says “No”
Understand why they are a “No”
This is where the structured “7 Steps to Yes!” sales conversation comes in. If you build trust and rapport, and ask the right questions in the right order you will know exactly why the client is saying “No”. This doesn’t always mean that you will agree with their decision, but understanding where they are coming from gives you a great sense of control. It’s also great for your confidence as it means you can relate from the client’s point of view rather than beating yourself up and feeling rejected.
Identify what sort of a “No” it is
Identify whether it is a clear “No, no thank you” that requires you to let them go gracefully, or a “Please convince me” No, where they just need a little more reassurance from you before they become a “Yes”. The difference can be subtle, but a few sensitive questions will enable you to discover which of these it is.
Acknowledge their reason
If it is a clear “No, thank you” then acknowledge their reason so that the client knows that you have heard and understood them. By this point in the conversation they will have opened up and shared a lot of personal or business information with you. It can be quite painful for a client if, after all that, you act as if you simply haven’t listened. So even if you don’t agree with your client’s decision, please show them that you have heard them and that you respect their ability to make their own decision. Your response could sound a bit like this:
“I completely understand why working with me doesn’t feel like the right thing for you right now. You’ve got so much on your plate with your mum being ill and your son going through his A levels”.
Challenge them (if appropriate)
If you really are committed to serving your client to the highest level, sometimes the right thing to do is to challenge their decision. People often say “No” for all sorts of crazy reasons that sound a lot like “I can’t come to you for help with weight loss because I’m too big. I will come back to you when I’ve lost the first 10lb”. Or, “I would love you to help me organise my systems and processes but I simply don’t have the time”. The very reason they need help becomes the very reason that they say No.
In these cases you may decide to challenge your client’s decision – but do this gently and without confrontation. Now, I appreciate that this might take some courage the first few times you do this, but there are ways of phrasing things so that you can challenge them while being compassionate and respectful at the same time. And the more you do it the easier it gets.
Let them go Gracefully
Once you’ve acknowledged their decision (and maybe challenged them if appropriate) warmly wish them well and let them know that you will still be here if they want to come back to you in future. You might leave the door open for them to contact you, or you might schedule to speak again in say 6 months’ time. Be very careful not to stray into impatience or confrontation. Because if you do, that door will be slammed firmly shut.
Follow up for Referrals
Some of your biggest fans will be the people who choose not to work with you, but had such a positive experience that they recommend you to friends and colleagues. So have a system of follow-up soon afterwards to ask for referrals. If your client has had value from your conversation and felt heard and cared for, they will be quick to want to refer people to you. And who is going to refer a friend after an interaction that ended in friction and awkwardness?
Review and Reflect
Take 5-10 minutes after a sales conversation to review what you did well and where you could have improved. Did the client decide not to go ahead with relationship coaching because they have decided to spend the money on a holiday in an attempt to patch things up instead? If so, maybe you failed to fully communicate the benefits and value of working with you. Or, maybe it was clear from their answers that they were not really all that committed and were probably never going to be a “Yes”. My students who become real masters at the sales process always reflect on these conversations to see how they can improve.
‘No’ is not the end of the world
It is really important to be OK with “No”. No’s in business are just part of the process – you simply don’t get the “Yeses” without getting a few “Nos” along the way. So commit to getting out there and getting some “Nos” this week – the “Yeses” won’t be far behind!
Let me know in the comments below how you get on. In the meantime, here’s how you can ensure you’re getting more ‘Yes!’ answers from your sales conversations:
The 7 Steps to Yes!
Learn how to make the most of the time you spend with potential clients with my “7 Steps to Yes!” structure for an authentic and comfortable sales conversation that helps the client see the value in working with you. You’ll find out how to have elegant sales conversations without coming across as pushy or manipulative, while also guiding them to an excited “Yes please!”, but only if it’s right for them.
Following the ‘7 Steps to Yes!’ process will massively reduce the number of times you’ll be hearing a “No” while you’re out and about looking to make an impact.