How far will buyers go to avoid telling you ‘NO’?

In sales, the one word you have to teach yourself not to get upset by is ‘no’. When you start out, you hear it a lot and when your experienced, a ‘no’ normally has a lot riding on it meaning at no point is it something we want to hear!

Yet, try as we might, we all still have to deal with sales falling through and the prospect or client rejecting our offer.

The thing is, at least when you get an actual ‘no’, you can move on or reframe the offer. There is a situation much more frustrating than the ‘no’ outcome, and it’s one that I challenge any sales person to say they have not experienced at some point:

When the prospect or clients goes totally silent instead of giving you a solid ‘no’. As the seller you think the sales process is going well. The relationship is built with the prospect and you are awaiting a decision, and then, with no explanation, silence!

It astonishes me the lengths that some buyers will go to, to not tell a sales person ‘no’.

The best example of this still makes me laugh to this day. Years ago I was running a telesales sponsorship team and had agreed a deal with a prospect on a Tuesday verbally and arranged a call to speak on the Friday when he arrived in Australia for a work trip to close off the paperwork. The prospect was the CEO of a £30m company. At the scheduled time I called (let’s just call him) Steve on his mobile:

Me: Hi Steve, its Tim from XXX, how are you?

Steve: Oh Hi, erm…. this isn’t Steve, this is…..Tom, Steve’s err….brother.

(I am confused as I’m calling Steve’s mobile and its sounds very much like Steve)

Me: Hi…’Tom’, is Steve there? We had arranged a call today.

Steve: No sorry, Steve is ummmm….in Canberra.

Me: And he left his mobile phone with you in Sydney?

Steve: Erm….yes. He won’t be back for a couple of weeks.

Me: Are you sure that’s not you Steve, this seems a bit odd?

Steve: I’m not Steve, I’m errrrr……

Me: …Tom?

Steve: ….er yeah, right….I’m Tom.

Me (trying not to laugh): Ok ‘Tom’. If you speak to Steve please let him know I called.

2 minutes later I have one of my female sales people (let’s call her Alice) call Steve’s mobile back on speaker phone:

Alice: Hi, can I speak to Steve please?

Steve: Hi, this is Steve speaking, who’s this please?

Me: It’s still me Steve!

Steve: Arghhhhhhhh……

Steve hangs up.

This caused a large amount of laughter on the desk and needless to say we couldn’t get hold of Steve again but it is the furthest I have ever seen a prospect go to avoid saying ‘no’.

I know of a sales person who told me they had agreed a deal with a prospect but when they went to book the deal they could not get hold of them again. They tried emailing, leaving voicemails, sending texts and LinkedIn mails. When this didn’t work they left a voicemail every day for 3 months on the prospects mobile until eventually they bumped into them at an event and the VERY sheepish prospect apologised for not calling back but also said they enjoyed the comedy nature of the daily voicemail.

Now, I’m not condoning this as a good sales practice, I am merely saying that whole fiasco could have been avoided if the prospect had just said ‘no’ to the seller.

So why does this happen? Why do (in some cases) incredibly senior professional buyers not just say ‘no’? Is it because people don’t like saying ‘no’? Is it because the buyer has so many things to buy and so much to do that they don’t have time to call back to say no? Or does the buyer hope the seller will just get the point and give up?

Whatever the reason, as sales people, we have a duty to pre-empt this situation and make the buyer feel comfortable right from the off that it’s ok to tell us ‘no’ but we do need to know. We also have a duty to ourselves and our businesses to understand why we got the ‘no’.

What we can do, at the point we are putting forward a solution, is say something along the lines of:

“We’re confident this will be the right solution for you, however if it’s not, and you decide to go in a different direction we’d just ask one thing – that you tell us, and let us know why so that we can either change the proposed solution or learn for next time.”

By doing this you:

  • Give the buyer confidence to say ‘no’ should they decide not to proceed

  • Keep your pipeline cleaner and your sales cycle shorter

  • Increase the likelihood of avoiding the silence situation

  • Increase rapport with the buyer as they will appreciate your open, mature approach

  • Give you better intelligence on your lost opportunities

Understanding why we lose opportunities is critical to increasing win ratio’s. The intelligence we gain from the deals we lose helps us improve our business offering as well as our sales process.

For more help with your sales process drop us a line…

#sales #salestraining #buying #procurement #negotiation

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