Yes, Most of Sales is Hearing “No”

Today I heard back from someone I had been in touch with about next steps. In less than five words I already knew the answer was “no”, I simply had to wait out the other few dozen words to make it final. The highlight of the call was getting a bit of honest feedback, which confirmed my hunches. Always good to confirm a hunch, whether it’s a “yes” or a “no”.

Before I hung up I thanked the person. After all, this is what sales is.

The majority of what we do as sales professionals ends without a deal.

Most cold calls end with no meeting.

Half of those first meetings won’t get close to being a deal.

Most of your proposals will get shot down.

I think this is the biggest reason why most early career sales people won’t be in sales in 5 years. Everyone tells you just how great sales is. Except they don’t tell you, really tell you, that you’re doing to get knocked down every single day.

It’s so easy to focus on the reps making the big paychecks when you’re on the outside looking in.

It’s just as easy to focus on the last person who said “no” to you when the person at the other end of the phone hangs up on you.

When you take a good, honest look at what sales is all about, it’s about getting back up after “no” and moving on to the next thing.

This is why every sales manager out there is so concerned with pipeline.

I remember in my first sales role that my boss laid it out very clearly to me. Every month I needed to make 4 sales. To make a sale I needed 2 on site demos with clients. To get 2 on site demos I needed 4 discovery meetings. Every week those were my targets.

It’s so easy to think, “I’m getting better, I can sell a deal with only 3 discovery meetings, I don’t need to face as much rejection as before!”

The first time I did that I missed my quota. Whoops.

Looks like I needed 4 discovery calls each week to land my deals.

Picking myself back up after each “no” wasn’t easy in the beginning. I knew rejection was part of sales. It’s one thing to know that you’re going to get shot down and it’s another to realize your job, your paycheck, and your immediate career hang on your ability to get enough people to say “yes”.

That’s the scary part of sales. There is no “I’ll stay later than everyone else to get more done” if you can’t get someone to say “yes”.

The quickest way to get over hearing “no” is to categorize each one and take the appropriate next step.

Let’s start with the easiest ones: prospects who shut you down no matter what you do. Hang ups, including the people who say “not interested” after you’re 6 seconds into a pitch.

Once the phone line is dead, cross them off your active list and put them in a rotation to be called back in 6-12 months. Done.

The next easiest category are prospects who throw you an objection, a real objection, and no matter what you do they still say no. There’s a little you might be able to learn, but for the most part you have to move on like you did with the hang ups. Most of these you have to chalk up to timing.

That leaves everyone else in one final bucket: the group you can learn from.

This sounds exciting on a high-level until you realize that yes, after every single rejection you need to sit down, take some time, and figure out what happened.

If at all possible see if the prospect will give you their insights. You may not take them at face value, but at least you’ll hear how they thought out their decision.

You won’t always learn something you’re hoping to learn, mind you. All you may learn is that your competition is crushing you and boy will you wish you worked for them.

Still, what can you learn from that scenario?

You might realize that in those competitive situations you’re likely to lose. Or that your products aren’t competitive any more and you should be looking for a new thing to sell. Either way, it’s helpful as long as you take a next step.

Learning from rejection turned getting a “no” from being solely a disappointment into an expected and useful event for me.

First off, being able to accept that getting shot down is simply part of the job made it a lot easier for me to swallow.

In the beginning you may want to find that “magic bullet” to handle your worst objection. It doesn’t exist. Once you realize that and focus on being as effective as possible then you understand that you’re dividing your prospects into the “now” and “not right now” buckets.

If there’s one thing that wastes an incredible amount of sales people’s time, it’s chasing after prospects who aren’t going to do anything new.

Focusing on the real prospects, the ones who might buy, is the biggest win you could ask for. Spend most of your time on the prospects who are most likely to buy and you’re going to close a lot more deals.

If there’s a secret to sales, it’s to celebrate your wins and forget your losses.

There is no way to eliminate getting another “no”. Heck, there are very few ways to even win half the time (unless you’re selling a magical product that kills the competition, in which case you’re in for a rude awakening at your next job).

The next “no” will come. So will the next “yes”, if you do your job well.

If you can smile at the end of every week, month, and quarter, knowing that you helped enough prospects become new customers that you, your company, and your clients are all better off, then you did all you need to do as a sales person.

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