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Getting To Yes - Starting With No

Yes - the word we all want to hear. It provides validation and agreement. As a sales person we want customers to choose OUR products and services. We associate yes with agreement and purchase. After nearly 20 years in sales, I have learned - like so many of us - that prospects have mastered the use of the counterfeit yes. You know the one, yes but.....yes definitely going to buy from you but...... objection handling becomes circular. Is there a better way to approach the psychology of sales? Have we become the prisoner of yes?....... why not start with a no?

Getting to yes - starting with no

I started in sales in the late 1990's - door-to-door. Since I began, the object was always to get a yes. The approach was simple..... if a prospect would say yes, they were in agreement and ultimately provide the final commitment. We devised our pitches to get multiple 'yeses' in a row. The questions asked and the journey we took our prospects were crafted for yes. In fact, if a prospect said no, they were intentionally being difficult because the questions could only be reasonably answered with a yes.

A couple of years later, we had moved from the doors to the phones, calling prospects with the same approach - cleverly crafted call scripts gleaning the power of 'yes'. Again if prospects would say 'no', we knew they were just being difficult because answering 'no' was ....well....stupid. This approach is still being taught today. I recently spoke with an old associate who proudly let me in on his new carefully crafted door script which- you guessed it- was a straight line "yes,yes" pitch.

What I have since come to realise is that this "yes,yes" approach has been pushed so hard in sales that prospects are wanting to say no. Yes has become associated with entrapment and has forced people to become experts in giving a counterfeit yes. A yes with no intention of being honoured. The realisation hit home when I started to hear this "yes,yes" technique used on me. It was irritating. The technique was obvious, no matter what objection you give you will be 'handled' with a statement that could only be agreed with. No wonder people became rude, the pitch was designed to force you into agreement.

The problem is that this "yes, yes" method takes away our freedom. We feel as though we are being trapped into saying yes and buying. It's a hard sell technique and in Australia, laws are providing protection for consumers from such behaviours. Traditional forms of prospecting like cold calling and door knocking are not only harder but in many cases illegal.

So what is the story with no? No is security and safety. No gives prospects the ability to feel in control again. They stop feeling as they are being controlled and are able to be honest again. Honesty is very important for me. When I first started in sales it was about selling my products, and what ever the problem, my product offered a solution. These days my approach is to discover the problem and offer the solution (which is sometimes not my product). As a consultative sales rep, it is nearly impossible to do the best by my clients unless they are honest. Unless the prospect feels safe and protected, a meaningful analysis can not take place.

When prospects are protecting themselves, they can't be open and frank for fear they may get trapped. Rapport helps but this needs to be genuine and unfortunately like the "yes,yes" technique, this is often over used and misused.

So how do you start with no? You can try to re-frame your questions. If you are door knocking or cold calling you may ask "Have i caught you at a bad time?". Your prospect may say "yes" which is ok (you can organise a time that will suit) but they are also free to say "No, you haven't caught me at a bad time". And if this happens- the magic happens- you are likely to have their full least for a few seconds, rather than the prospect silently thinking how can I say "no" to this person, you allow them the opportunity to say no (and feel safe/secure) from the start.

During a presentation try to summarise their request in a way which allows a no response. In his book 'Never Split the Difference', Chris Voss* champions this technique and follows it with a summary which will yield a "that's right" response. For example, lets say a customer is communicating that they desire a product which is up market, low key/neutral but classy.....understated. You may summarise their request by saying "So, Mr Prospect, are you looking for a statement piece, something that says, "Here I am.....I've made it?" To which the prospect will undoubtedly respond "no". This can then be followed up with a revised summary which will produce a "that's right" response. "Ok Mr Prospect, so you are after a product where attention to detail and quality of workmanship is discernible to people that appreciate quality - something sophisticated yet understated." Such a sequence gives the prospect the control and safety to say "no" and then yields a 'that's right" response indicating you really understand them and their needs.

If you haven't read the book 'Never split the difference' by Chris Voss, I highly recommend it. In the mean time, if you are in sales and a slave to the "yes,yes" approach, try something different and lead with a 'No', the difference in your prospects is immediately noticeable.

Are you wanting to share something you have learnt in sales or after some help improving your sales game? I would love to hear from you

* Voss, Chris. Never Split The Difference. London: The Penquin Random House Group Limited, 2016. Print

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