The sale starts with a no, a lesson on objection handling

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Ever heard somebody say that “the sale starts with a no”? In case you’re wondering if that’s true, I can tell you that it absolutely is. Before we go further, it is important to differentiate between a no which can be objection handled or a no representing a total lack of interest. The phrase “the sale starts with a no” is only valid for the former situation.

In this post, I’ll write about the reasons prospects say no and why their no is not a deal breaker. Then we’ll take a look at why it is important that sales people close deals with clients that initially said no. In the end, I’ll talk about what to do when the prospect says “no.”

Why does a prospect say “no?”

  • There is a misunderstanding about the product / service
  • The flip side of the previous point, the salesperson hasn’t sufficiently explained the product / service
  • The salesperson has not displayed sufficient value
  • The salesperson is too pushy (to early in the process to ask for a decision)
  • The salesperson is not pushy enough
  • The timing is not right
  • The prospect is not the right person

This list is definitely not exhaustive but covers the most common reasons for a “no.” The objection handling for each of these “no’s” is different.

What to do when you get a “no” in the sales process?

The first thing that a salesperson needs to understand is that a “no” (or objection) is simply part of sales. In my experience, most high performing sales development representatives and account managers react to no’s in a healthy way (they switch to objection handling) by looking at each no as an opportunity rather than a failure.

Secondly, the avoidance of the “no” is dangerous and here’s why: if your team is only closing deals where the customer started out with a yes, then your team is focusing on the quick and easy wins. Your sales staff are letting a lot potential go to waste by not converting the no’s to yeses. There are far more no’s than there are yeses, so you’re definitely going to run out of them.

1. Take it as constructive criticism

The worst thing a salesperson can do after getting a no is become defensive. If the salesperson becomes defensive, so will the prospect which makes it really hard to move ahead. Instead, take the no as an indication of interest and constructive criticism. Often, the prospect isn’t saying no to the salesperson, your product or your service entirely. It could be any of the reasons listed above, so the goal is to find out what is the reason for the no and then address the issue.

2. Handle the objection

By not becoming defensive and asking follow up questions (also via email) the salesperson can find out what the issue is. Each of the issues require a different response and are affected by the stage in the sales process.

Objection: misunderstanding, confusion or not sufficient information

If there is a misunderstanding or if the product / service is not sufficiently explained, then provide more targeted information based on the prospect’s needs (here quality of information vastly outweighs quantity)

 not enough value displayed or trying to progress through stages too soon

Receiving a no for not enough value displayed or being to pushy are related to each other. The progression of the sale through it’s stages depends on the value displayed to the prospect(s). The level of pushiness the prospect perceives is opposite of the level of value displayed by the salesperson. In other words, if the salesperson displays enough value the prospect will not experience the salesperson’s behaviour as pushy.

 salesperson lacks confidence or takes tool long to push for decision

Although there is fine line between following up just the right way and letting the sale go stale through waiting, a lot of salespersons often let potential sales fall through due to lost momentum. The communication intervals, the sales cycle and the number of people involved in the sale play their role in affecting what is the right way and the right speed. The key thing to remember is that it is better to be a bit more assertive and get a no than waiting to long and let the momentum die out.

 the timing of sale is not right or the prospect is not the right person to make the decision

In both of the situations, the answer lies elsewhere. Whether it is at a different time or with a different person, the salesperson is basically off the mark. The no that the salesperson gets in this case doesn’t start the sales process but rather restarts it. Depending on whether it’s wrong timing or the wrong prospect, the best course of action is to set up a follow up or request an intro to the right person, respectively.

3. Internalize the solution

A key resource that many sales teams let go to waste is the knowledge of successful salespersons. Every objection which is handled successfully is a pre-made answer to the same objection from another prospect. Using templates, shared documents which are updated frequently and aggregating call log data from CRM systems can help in using home grown knowledge.

What are your techniques for handling objection? Do you agree / disagree with the ideas presented here? Share your thoughts with us.

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