The power of NO

The power of NO

We all know how important getting a YES is, but how important is the word NO in sales?

For some companies the word no is just as, if not, more powerful than a yes. The number one killer of success in any sales model is time wasting! That is to say salespeople not knowing how to manage time-wasters and distractions or how to apply their time correctly. I call this scenario ‘The Black Hole Effect’: lots of time going-in but nothing coming out, ever! By out, I mean productivity, tangible value, results and outcomes.

I talk at length about ‘Crazy Customers’ and their damaging effects on time management and sales performance. The key to eliminating time-wasters is to get comfortable with saying no. As a salesperson you need to know your place, and that is in front of your customers; but not just any old customers, the right customers.

When I work with a sales team, I always look for ways they can maximise time, value and contribution. The first place to start is understanding where they individually and collectively add the most value and then structure their time more in and around that activity. You then create support structures around them to allow them to execute.

To clarify, let me share a story with you. A couple of years ago, I worked with an IT company that had a solid solution and technical capability, but little sales savvy and no clear and consistent sales process. In fact, there wasn’t even a dedicated sales leader driving the sales channel. This meant that when the company was presented with a client opportunity ― out of need and desperation they would bend over backwards to win the business. But in doing so they set the tone for the ongoing relationship i.e. we give and you take. Now, this is okay to a point, but in this instance although my client was winning large contracts, they were haemorrhaging red ink. This was caused by uncontrollable scope-creep and copious hours of non-billable work which was sending them towards the hazardous rocks of insolvency.

After a consult and insights session with the key stakeholders, my first recommendation was to get used to saying no and investing time, energy and resources in the right customers by designing a sales process that set the tone for the ongoing relationship and delivered value and buy-in from all parties at each phase. Example:

Client: Can I have a price and proposal on this solution by Friday morning?

Salesperson: I’m happy to provide you with a proposal and the best price, but that would be toward the end of our initial conversation. Do you have 15 minutes now so I can learn more about your requirement and what you are setting out to achieve here?

Client: No, I just need a quote at this stage?

Salesperson: Our experience tells us (insert credentials)  that with the solution you’re interested in there is too much ‘grey area’ to simply guesstimate a price. And we believe you deserve service better than guesswork. How important is it that you get this solution right?

C: Very important.

SP: What is the cost associated with getting it wrong?

C: Hard to say, but considerable.

S: I hear you. So you need the right information to make the right decision, yes? And based on our (insert credentials) delivering successful solutions in your space, we have a process to ensure this is achieved. If you have some time now or later I am happy to take you through this process. Is now a good time or is another time more suitable?

C: I am busy now, but can we make a time for early tomorrow, I would like to have my director sit in our conversation to make sure we cover all areas?

S: Great. How about 10am? And what is your director’s name?

C: 10 am is fine. His name is Harry Highpants.

S: Thanks Sally, I look forward to speaking with you and Harry then. In the interim I will email you my contact details and some relevant information to review prior to our phone meeting. I look forward to speaking with you and Harry then!

You can see from the above example how simply The Power of NO works. You can apply it in a myriad of ways. It’s not a power trip or tactic to alienate customers ― it’s simply an approach designed to give you and the customer confidence. It will also help you to kill time wasters (manoeuvre them accordingly) which enables you to have the right conversations with the right clients more often.

Just don’t forget to always communicate the word no in a way that benefits the customer.

This is an excerpt from Trent’s first book The Naked Salesman.


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