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The Different Types of NO

It’s confronting sometimes to hear the word NO. At the same time, don’t think of NO as a singular negative response because there are several different types of NO. Before you choose how to respond, ask yourself which of these six different types of NO you’re addressing and how you might eventually turn a NO into a YES.

#1.  NO, as in ‘No, not now’

You’ll get this type of NO when you’ve approached the person at the wrong time.

They’re too busy with immediate priorities to give you their full attention, or your offering or solution isn’t something they’re interested to consider right now. In short, your timing if off, and you probably need to postpone to a better time for them.

Some things to consider:

  • Accept you’ve picked the wrong time, apologise (if relevant and appropriate) and ask when might be a better time to re-start the conversation.
  • Determine if there’s anything useful they might like before the next conversation, such as:
    • More information or background
    • A comparison between what they use/do now vs what you’re suggesting
    • Differences in budget
    • Relevant testimonials or expert opinions.
  • Ask too what’s the most efficient way to share this information in advance, including format. Some people like a one-pager, others like visuals like charts of graphics.
  • Ask what’s the best way to reschedule. Directly by phone? By email? Through an assistant?

#2.  No, as in ‘No, maybe later’

This different type of NO has an additional issue: the other party doesn’t have the time right now to think about what’s you’re suggesting.

Perhaps they like their current solution right now but – in the back of their head – they aren’t happy long-term with their current solution. Or, perhaps your solution isn’t part of their current budget.

A similar situation maybe they say NO at this stage because there are other aspects ‘behind the scenes’ that need additional thought, conversations, or approvals. Your solution might be part of a larger, more complex problem internally, but they also don’t want to share that with you – internal politics as one example – before they think about your offering or solution. Perhaps they need to debate the problem with other people, or get approval to talk to anyone about a potential change.

Are you talking to the Decision Marker?

In a sense, you’re not talking at this point to the real decision maker, but someone who has the potential to shape the internal conversation. In addition to using the tips in #1, you might also consider what you can provide the other party for them to share with other people internally. In other words, help them sell your idea internally to others.

  • Ask how decisions are made, such as criteria, standards or even an internal policy to make decisions.
  • Ask what information would be helpful to support a change. Offer to provide them relevant information that might help them make a better decision, even if that is decision is not your solution.

This last point is important: more often than not, a client has asked for both the benefits and disadvantages of my offering. There’s something trustworthy about a person being open and honest with the solution, but at the same time, I’d suggest adding a bonus. List not only the benefits and disadvantages of your own solution, but the same with y our competition. What better way to demonstrate you understand your industry?

  • See if there’s any chance you can be part of those internal conversations. It doesn’t need to be a formal presentation. I’ve had useful conversations informally at a coffee shop. I’ve offered to take someone to lunch at my expense, no strings attached.
  • Ask how or when it’d be appropriate to re-connect.
  • In some situations, the other party may not want you to follow-up, but at least offer up the most efficient way to reconnect with you, such as leaving a business card (real or digital), or share relevant links (company websites, social media). No potential client should have to struggle to find you.

#3.  No, as in ‘No, not from you’

This is the variation of NO you’ll receive when you are the problem, not your solution or alternative.

First, it’s important to remember do not to take the NO personally … unless you’ve done something specific to damage your reputation, but that’s a different problem to manage.

There are plenty of reasons why you aren’t the right ‘salesperson.’ They don’t know you or your organisation. They aren’t familiar with your offering or solution. They have a preferred vendor with (probably) a strong existing personal connection. In terms of your personality, you could simply be too (fill in the blank): young, old, different, arrogant, new, brash, etc.

Some things to consider:

  • If you don’t think it too confrontational, ask why. Or ask who would be preferable? To understand their perspective of ‘who,’ I’d stick to things that you might have or be someday, such as a more prominent title, a level of hierarchy, years of experience, number of testimonials. Steer the conversation away from aspects you’re not interested in changing, such as your religion or sex.
  • ‘ve learnt over the years that I am not the person for everyone, so I always have a back-up person to suggest. Don’t look territorial when there’s a chance you could ‘win’, simply because of a different influencer. Leaders pass along good opportunities to others.

#4.  No, as in “No, I don’t see it”

This is the NO you’ll receive when the other party doesn’t have context or relevant proof.

You haven’t proven the advantages or benefits of your solution or offering, particularly in comparison with the benefits of their current solution. To do this however, you need to understand what preference, decision or solution they use now, if not enquire how likely they could change their opinion if they were given the right information. Never forget:

You cannot a change a person’s mind if you don’t know what they think now.

Some things to consider:

  • It’s one of the Golden Rules of Sales: People don’t like to be sold, they like to buy. Know what the other party needs, not how the solution only benefits you. To do that, you need the next point.
  • Never go into any meeting and not have your questions thought out in advance. Why? So you can listen better. Most people ask a question and then stop listening half-way through the answer so they can think of the next question. People can tell when you’re not active listening!
  • Closed questions are good at the start to get common understanding but ask open-ended questions to get more perspective … and then, most of all, stop talking. Also, notice how open questions give you better insight.
    • Closed: What is your biggest issue now?
    • Open: Why is that your biggest problem now?

#5.  The Generic No

This is the NO you’ll get when the other party isn’t sure what to do.

It’s likely you’ve caught the person when they’re emotional – not being weepy or yelling – more akin to they aren’t using rational thinking the moment you cross paths with them.

Their emotions could range from:

  • Confusion (Who are you?)
  • Distraction (Sorry what did you say?)
  • Embarrassment (Oh geez, did I forget to read an email?)
  • Anger (Can’t you see from my face I’m too damn busy?)
  • Fear of losing face (Just keeping smiling and maybe they’ll leave) … as examples.

First: you’ll never have a good conversation when the other party is thinking emotionally, especially in business. In my experience, I take the blame. It’s me, not you. I’ll laugh at myself or make a simple joke using myself as the punchline, or at a minimum, apologise for approaching at the wrong time. I postpone any further conversation until they choose the next time to talk. But, as a set-up to the next conversation, I usually cover these basic points:

  • Our common ground – I want us to start on the same page
  • Relevant background – if they’ve never met me0, I’ll give a one-sentence preview. If we know each other, I’ll focus instead on …
  • The purpose – why I’m talking, and I am as concise as possible because no one wants a lot of information when they’re emotional
  • Action – here’s what I’m hoping they’ll do (as a minimum, to simply consider my suggestion)
  • Timing – Ask when the best time might be to reconvene

(You can thank Aristotle for these points by the way.)

#6.  No, as in ‘No, definitely NO

You’ll get this type of NO when their decision is absolute. As far as they’re concerned, the conversation is over. The worst thing you could do is keep talking.

On the plus side, the definitive NO is a good thing because it means you don’t have to waste any more time with this person and you can move on to other real opportunities.

One Final Point

Sometimes you need to understand the WHY behind the NO.

Be judicious about how far you press after someone has said NO. If you have any rapport or trust, you may get some critical advice. If you do, you might ask something like: “I accept your NO, but at the same time, it would be helpful to know WHY so I not only understand your point-of-view, but I won’t bother you in the future for the wrong reason.” If you can: “Perhaps not right now because you’re busy, but sometime when you have a free moment because I value your opinion.” Of course, this should be 100% sincere.

By the way … sometimes even NO isn’t the final action step. I’ve written a complementary article: What To Do If They Say No.

What different types of NO have you dealt with? What you have done? Please leave your thoughts below in the Comments section!

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The Different Types of NO