The Power of “No”
Many people have unusual thoughts about selling. I wanted to share two strange views people have shared with me:
- One person’s definition of selling was: “Saying yes to buyers until you have to say no.“
- Another offered the advice: “Never confuse the sell with the install.“
The message from both was the same and reflects a belief that sellers should say whatever is necessary to get the business and sort things out after getting the order. Certainly following this approach doesn’t make a positive buying experience a likely outcome.
In my experience, there are times when by saying “no” sellers can establish credibility with buyers. In some cases, they can improve their relationship. I wanted to share some examples.
When to Tell a Customer No
Years ago I handled a major account. My primary contact was the CIO. The data center had about 300 pieces of my equipment installed. The company I worked for had acquired a line of printers that were inexpensive, but limited in the volume of printing they could do. My account had 3 IBM printers that were candidates to be displaced.
When asked, I shared with my buyer that the volume of work would adversely affect the uptime of my printers. I suggested it would be best for him to keep the printers he had in place. It was the right thing for the client. In addition, from my standpoint, I had to attend monthly meetings to review the performance of the hardware. I didn’t want problems with 1% of the install base to compromise what was a great reference account. At the end of the call, the buyer thanked me for my advice.
A few months ago I had a VP of HR contact me. She was looking for a one-day program on communication and presentation skills. After having a conversation about the attendees and the skills she would want them to walk away with, I told her that I didn’t feel my offerings would be a good fit. She then asked for some details about the core competencies that can be acquired with CustomerCentric Selling. Based upon our discussion she was kind enough to make an introduction to the VP Sales.
Most buyers expect sellers will try to “yes” them to death. In doing so, it positions sellers as subordinates. Beyond that, any yes’s that should be no’s create gaps between what sellers commit and what can be delivered.
A core concept of CustomerCentric Selling is that bad news early is good news. It’s better to disqualify low probability opportunities early rather than go the distance and lose. We usually apply the concept when your offering is a viable option, but the transaction appears wired for another vendor. That said, when your offering isn’t a good fit, buyers appreciate honesty rather than attempts to “shoe horn” offerings into places they don’t belong. Better to move along and find an opportunity where there’s a better fit.
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