5 Good Ways And 1 Bad Way Sales Development Pros Take “No” For An Answer

We’ve all been there — you put a ton of effort into an opportunity or prospect relationship, only to get a “no” at the end of it. It’s not a great feeling.

But hearing no is an inevitable part of being a salesperson (most research says only 10-15% of leads ever ultimately turn into sales) and the way you handle it determines how successful you’ll be long into your sales career.

In fact, there are responses to hearing a prospect “no” that can turn it into a learning experience and even an opportunity to win more business in the future.

Let’s explore how to respond when a prospect says no — 5 good ways that can boost your sales results in the future, and one not-to-do you should always avoid.

Quick Takeaways

  • Ask for feedback so you can learn more about why a prospect said no, how you can keep the conversation going, and/or how to improve in the future.
  • In many cases, you can get a smaller “yes” by asking for a commitment smaller than an actual purchase (like a newsletter subscription).
  • Think like great athletes — even when you miss with a prospect, you’ve got to embrace the experience, get back up, and try again.
  • At all costs, do not be a jerk. Avoid belittling your prospect, being rude, or ghosting them by not responding at all.

5 Good Ways to Take “No” Like a Sales Pro

Learn From the Experience

You might not want to hear this right after it happens (or ever, for that matter), but you can put a positive spin on a “no” by using it to learn something about your process.

Start by examining the interactions you had with your prospect leading up to their no and look for potential reasons for their change of heart. You can also go right to the source and ask your prospect (politely!) why they said no, then use their feedback to improve in the future.

Keep in mind that sometimes a no is just a no for reasons outside your control, and it’s important not to get discouraged. Simply use it as a constructive learning opportunity, gain any insights you can from the experience, and refocus on the other opportunities you have in your pipeline.

Keep the Relationship Intact

It’s a small world — in life and in business. This prospect probably knows other prospects you’ll meet in the future, as well as partners, vendors, and other peers in your industry. The worst thing you can do is drop the relationship and/or fail to respond to a prospect’s no. Even though you’re disappointed, it’s essential to take the long view and end your sales interactions on a positive note.

Today, 88% of B2B buyers seek word-of-mouth referrals and 75% consider them a key influencer in making buying decisions. Keeping the door open in your prospect relationship can encourage them to refer you to others — yes, even if they didn’t choose you themselves.

Statistics from ThinkImpact research show that 88% of B2B buyers seek word-of-mouth referrals, and 75% consider it a key influencer in making decisions (among other insights).

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In many cases, the buyer rep you deal with may not even have made the final decision. As long as their experience with you was positive, they’ll be happy to recommend you or at least speak highly of you in other business scenarios.

Further, not all B2B buying decisions work out. In the case that your prospect ends up needing a provider again in the near future, you want to be the first person they think to call.

Get a Smaller Yes

This approach is a reinterpretation of the “if Mom says no, try asking Dad” strategy.  Instead of asking the same question to a different person, you can ask a different question to the same person with the goal of getting a smaller “yes.” When your prospect says they’re not interested, they’re saying that they don’t want to make a purchase — but not that they want to be rid of you entirely.

They might be perfectly willing to hear from you in an ongoing way by subscribing to your monthly newsletter, reading your latest content or research, or connecting on LinkedIn (to name a few examples). 

This is just one more reason why the worst thing you can do when you hear a no is throw your hands up and call it a total loss. Instead, you need to be prepared with a second advance that requires a lower commitment from the prospect and keeps your conversation moving forward, even if it is a baby step.

Get Information to Keep the Conversation Going

A prospect “no” usually comes with greater context. Maybe their current vendor improved their offer to keep the client, or the prospect decides to handle things in-house instead. Maybe they unexpectedly face an internal challenge that requires reprioritization, and they need more time before they can handle this purchase decision. 

No matter what the reason, it’s a critical nugget of data you can use to keep the conversation going. Ask follow-up questions based on this initial response, and leave them open-ended when you can to encourage more sharing (i.e. “Do you mind telling me more about that?”).

You might be able to uncover valuable information, like when their current vendor contract will expire or how you can help with the unexpected challenge they’re facing. For early-stage companies with new and innovative offerings, exploring a “no” can be enormously instructive.

Recently, I had a prospect tell us that the timing wasn’t right but that they’d like to revisit the conversation after their next financing round. I responded with a friendly message and a number of questions, with the caveat that I wasn’t trying to sell but instead trying to learn. The prospect responded enthusiastically, which provided great insight into our process.

Think Like a Jump Shooter

The best jump shooters — and the best salespeople — have the ability to selectively suppress their short term memories. If Kevin Durant misses seven jump shots in a row, he’s still going to take the eighth shot when it comes because he knows that he can make it.

Why? Because He knows that he put in the work, and he knows that his process is effective. The same goes for high performing sales professionals. Hearing “no” is a huge part of the process. In fact, you’ll get no waaay more often than Kevin Durant will miss jump shots. 

You’ve got to embrace it. Take the no for what it is, develop the right habits to take effective next steps, and move on to the next conversation.

One Bad Way to Take a “No”

Acting Like a Jerk

This one’s pretty straightforward — don’t be a jerk. As we’ve already touched on, hearing no is a crappy feeling, especially after you put hard work into a deal. But being a jerk is not only unprofessional, it’s likely to come back to haunt you later on when others in your network (not to mention your boss) hear about your behavior.

A few tips:

  • Do not belittle or be in any way rude to your prospect
  • Do not keep pushing to the point of annoyance
  • Do not ghost the prospect and fail to respond at all
  • Do not set your prospect’s belongings on fire

Think that last one has never happened? Then you clearly don’t know one of the most famous salespeople of all, Tommy Callahan. Let him show you first hand what not to do when you hear no (or even a hesitant maybe) from your prospect:

At RevBoss, our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations. Schedule a call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.