Two Mistakes to Avoid After A Prospect Says No

BY Jessica Helinski
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Hearing a prospect say no is an inescapable part of sales. No matter how successful a seller is, they’ve likely heard this dreaded two-​letter word at least a few times in their career. Unfortunately, sellers’ common responses to hearing no can make things worse. 

As sales professional and author Andrea Waltz explains, “They might take it personally, not understand the reasons for the rejection, and give up too easily or burn a bridge with the prospect. By avoiding these mistakes, you can change your mindset, respond positively to rejection, and even turn it into an opportunity.”

What not to do when a prospect says no

Whether it’s turning down a next meeting or declining an offer, hearing no from a prospect is tough. And unfortunately, reps sometimes respond without using their best judgment. Responses can come from a variety of feelings: disappointment, panic, frustration, desperation, etc. If the seller doesn’t respond in a professional way, they risk the chance of ever getting the deal closed. Today’s sellers are especially wary of high-​pressure sales tactics, so pushing them for a different answer is a big turnoff. And even if you are able to argue your way to a yes, how sustainable is this strategy? Not very, according to Waltz. “It’s the classic example of a ‘bad yes’ and often won’t turn out well in the end,” she writes. “This type of pressure will never get you a long-​term sales care.”

Begging and bartering

Yes, negotiating is an effective sales strategy, but begging and bartering after a prospect says no is not a successful negotiation tactic. Negotiation leads to a compromise for both the buyer and seller in which they work together for a great outcome for everyone. Pleading for a yes from a prospect ends in a weak agreement and leaves the seller in a powerless and vulnerable position. In the same vein, bartering differs in that it is simply finding a quick-​fix solution to get the prospect to agree. It also sets a precedent: if you concede now, you’re showing the buyer that if you’re desperate enough, you’re willing to make concessions. 

What should sellers do?

When a prospect says no, sellers have an opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism. By avoiding common mistakes, they can stand out from other sellers and still keep momentum with the buyer going. 

When hearing no, salespeople should stay calm and composed, reframe the rejection as a neutral or positive outcome, and seek to understand the prospect’s concerns and needs,” Waltz advises. 

Staying calm and not giving in to knee-​jerk reactions is vital. Yes, you may feel frustrated, panicked or even annoyed. But it’s important to maintain composure and control of emotions. 

Instead of responding in a negative way, approach the conversation from a point of curiosity. Don’t be afraid to ask why the prospect has said no. Ask a question or to get to the reason behind the no, then practice active listening and acknowledge their concerns. You then have an opportunity to reposition your request or adjust what you’re proposing. If the answer is still no, you’ve at least set yourself up for future options. 

As Louder Online’s CEO AAaron Agius explains, “Sometimes a no is, at the end of the day, a no, and there’s nothing you can do about it." He recommends:

  • Asking the prospect for feedback.
  • Suggesting a later time to follow up to either keep the relationship going or simply to stay in touch.
  • Thanking them for their time.

When you hear a prospect say no, shift your mindset and avoid mistakes that so many other sellers make. Approach it as an opportunity to adjust your strategy and learn even more about the buyer, as well as your own process.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán