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Driving to “No”

At last week’s Drink ‘N Think, presenter Chris McDonell of McDonell Consulting & Development, taught me something I never thought I’d learn from a sales consultant – the importance of getting a no.

He was talking about outcome. After the discussion, as the allotted time is winding down, what everyone in business development is looking for is an answer. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling copiers, legal services or lawn care. What you want is closure – one way or the other.

I’ve heard it said, and I agree, that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy. Hate is at least a strong, visceral emotion. Apathy is the absence of any feeling whatsoever. I thought about that during Chris’s talk.

To me, an “I’ll think about it” uttered at the end of a meeting is akin to apathy. From Chris’s point of view as a sales professional, it’s worse. As Chris said during his Drink ‘N Think presentation, “eighty to ninety percent of the time, ‘I’ll think it over’ means no and I don’t want to leave a meeting like that. If it’s no, it’s no.’”

There is one thing Chris recommends to every business development professional, and that’s closing well. That might not always mean closing the sale, but it does mean closing the meeting. Chris tells prospects, “Look, at the end of this meeting, two things might happen. If we’re not a fit, feel free to tell me no. If we are a fit, tell me what the next steps are and what I might do to proceed from here.”

If someone says they’ll think it over, they’ve probably just sentenced you to a future waste of time. You keep them on your radar, circle back a few times, spend time on them in a sales meeting as an active prospect, and perhaps even do a bit more research to see if you can push them to yes. That’s a considerable amount of time spent when eighty to ninety percent of the time they meant no in the first place. Worse, by following up continuously, you transform yourself from the human being they first met with to an insect – an irritant.

That’s the reason Chris recommends that we drive to no.

Drill down to see if your prospect is really thinking it over or if they just don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you think they wasted your time by saying no right away.

After all, if in the absence of a yes, you do your best to drive to no, and the prospect still wants to think it over, maybe, just maybe, you’ve got a shot at yes down the road.

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Eliot Wagonheim shares business insights that help companies stay on course. Get our latest blog posts sent right to your inbox. Subscribe using the sign up form here.