When Buyers Say No

By: Tom Hopkins Ben Katt



Let’s face it - when you are in sales, you are going to hear no much more often than yes. A lot more often. So what do you do when you hear dreaded word come out of a prospect’s mouth?

Maybe you heard somebody say that you simply need to soldier on, “keep in touch”, and continue making calls until you get a yes. That’s one way to do it. But as Tom Hopkins and Ben Katt (the authors of When Buyers Say No) would tell you, “no” doesn’t always mean “no.”

Through their work, they’ve found 8 different reasons why a prospect might tell you “no” when they really mean something else. In fact, even if they tell you “no” multiple times, they still might not mean “no.”

Learn these 8 reasons, and what you can do about it, and you’ll be on your way to making more sales than you ever thought possible. Most importantly, there are no manipulations or aggressive moves required.

Just the bill, please

You’ve probably been on the other end of a “no” magically turning into a “yes” many times.

You’ve just finished a fantastic meal at your favourite restaurant, and you are stuffed. Your waiter starts to clear away your dishes, and asks you whether or not you are interested in dessert. You say “No, just the bill please.”

Inexperienced waiters will walk away without saying a word, and do just as you’ve asked. A good server, as the authors point out, won’t let that be your final answer. They’ll go on to describe a few of the desserts in mouth-watering detail, and probably point out their favourite dessert on the menu, which is even better than his mother makes - just don’t tell her.

Of course, you still might say no. But once in a while, something the waiter says makes you realise that yes, in fact, you do want that pecan tart with vanilla ice cream. You’ve worked hard all week, after all, and you deserve it.

So, now that you know that it’s possible to save a sale, just like the experienced waiter at your favourite restaurant, let’s dig in to why prospects sometimes say no when they really mean something else.

8 reasons prospects say no when they really don’t mean it

Here are the 8 reasons a prospect might say no to you:

  1. They have lingering questions. It might mean that the prospect hasn’t had all of their concerns addressed yet.
  2. You haven’t explained the benefits adequately. If your prospect is qualified and you are sure that your product will fill their needs, you probably haven’t explained the benefits properly.
  3. You might need to do additional discovery work. As the authors point out, a confused mind says no. So, you need to dig deeper to find out what they might be confused about.
  4. You didn’t qualify them correctly. It’s possible that you didn’t do an adequate job in the qualification process. You might need to go back and make sure you are presenting the right product and benefits for that particular buyer.
  5. There are unrevealed objections. It’s possible that the prospect hasn’t told you everything that relates to whether or not they will buy from you. Your job here is to further uncover those objections.
  6. The prospect might be trying to slow down the sales process. Instead of “no”, they might actually mean “no, not right now.”
  7. The prospect might object to a particular feature. So when they say “no”, the really mean “no, not that size”, or “no, not that colour.”
  8. The prospect might actually mean “no, not you.” Well, that’s unpleasant, isn’t it? Sometimes it means they are not sold on you as the salesperson, who is their future contact at your company.

So those are just 8 of the reasons why a prospect might say no to you, and not really mean it. While there are some other things that might be added to this list, there is one reason that you will never see on this list - disinterest.

Remember, the prospect is just as busy as you and I, and they don’t waste their time meeting or having calls with people they have no intention of buying from.

Turning No Into Yes

The authors lay out a 4 step process that you need to go through to close a sale.

(1) You establish rapport;
(2) You establish the prospect’s needs;
(3) You present solutions;
(4) You close the deal.

If you want more information on those 4 steps, go out and buy a copy of this book. Even if you are a seasoned sales rep, there’s something here for you.

But what happens when you go through each of those steps and the prospect still says no?

Step #1: Reestablish Rapport

The learning starts right here, and if you skip this step you will sabotage the rest of the sales process and leave empty handed.

You’ve asked your prospect to make the decision to buy from you, and they’ve turned you down. This is an act of non-compliance, which makes even the most surly of us uncomfortable.

Now things are a little bit awkward, and your rapport has been disrupted. So, before you go ahead and start diving in with probing questions again, it’s critical that you get your rapport back on the level.

The good news is that it only takes a fraction of the time you spent establishing rapport in the first place to get it back.

For instance, you might say something like, “I understand your hesitation, Jim. Perhaps I misunderstood that aspect of your situation.” What you are communicating here is that it’s ok that your prospect didn’t buy from you right away.

Step #2: Identifying Questions

Now that you’ve got things back on track, it’s time to figure out where you haven’t quite understood their needs. You need to identify what questions your prospect still has lingering in their minds. There are 5 steps here:

(1) Listen! If your prospect is telling you why they aren’t moving forward, your job is to sit there, be interested in what they are saying, and not interrupt them until they are done.

(2) Restate their questions and concerns. Your job is to identify what is preventing your prospect from taking action. You can simply say, “So your concern is that…am I correct?” You’ll find that you probably don’t quite understand what the prospect was trying to get across, and answering with a solution when you don’t completely understand their concern is worse than not having an answer at all.

(3) Find agreement. When it’s possible, always find something to agree with in the prospect’s concerns. Here’s an example from the book. If your prospect says “I don’t think I need this product,” you might way “I agree that you should only invest in products that help your business.” Notice that you did not say that the buyer does not need your product.

(4) Confirm that the buyers have stated all of their concerns. This does two things - it allows you to stay in control of the conversation, and it helps your prospect identify their thoughts.

(5) Confirm the buyer is ready to take action. Here, you simply say something like “If I can adequately address your concerns, would you be ready to move forward with the purchase?”

Then, and only then, do you move on to presenting your answers to their concerns.

Step #3: Presenting Answers

At this point in the sales call, you are not presenting your entire product and service line-up. You are presenting small bite-sized pieces that address only your prospect’s concerns.

You should only provide as much information as you need in order to help the prospect make a decision. If you present any more, you run the risk of bringing up other topics that will send them further away from making a decision rather than closer to it.

Finally, after you present your answer, confirm that you have given the prospect the information they need in order to make a decision.

Step #4: Ask for the Sale (again)

Now you are at the moment of truth again. You’ve re-established rapport, identified their objections, presented reasons to satisfy their concerns, and it’s time to ask for the sale.

Here’s where most salespeople drop the ball. You need to ask clearly and directly for the specific action you want your prospect to take.

This is such an important point of the sale, that you should have the two or three sentences you are going to say to close the deal scripted in advance. Winging it here is a rookie mistake.

If you want them to sign a purchase order, make sure you know exactly how you are going to get them to sign the purchase order.

Never stop at No

If you want to transition from an average salesperson to a great salesperson, you need to become a pro at turning a “no” into a “yes”. Follow the 4 steps we covered here today, and you’ll be well on your way.