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How to Overcome the Immediate “No” in Sales

4 min read
Updated Aug. 4, 2021
Published Mar. 24, 2017

You phone buzzes with an incoming call. You reach over to pick it up and you see it’s a number you don’t recognize. You send it to voicemail. It’s nothing personal, you just don’t want to take the chance that it’s going to be somebody selling you something or some other unexpected situation.

It’s not your fault. As humans, we’re naturally conditioned to view everything as a potential threat to be wary of, and in a digital world where most everything is tailored to us, our wariness of the unknown is only growing more pronounced. And that’s a professional problem for sales people.

Getting Past “No”

It’s hard enough to counter objections or position yourself against competitors, but before you even get to that point, you have to counter that fight or flight response ingrained in every single on of your prospects. It’s that response that results in the immediate “no” when they pick up the phone or read your email.

And again, it’s not personal. They‘re not even saying no to you or what you’re selling. They’re saying no to the uncomfortable situation they believe you’ve put them in. The important word to focus on there is “believe,” because while that is their immediate perception, the situation of cold calling or cold emailing isn’t really uncomfortable at all. You’re just trying to see if you can help them in their life or their business and they’re trying to do the same.

There’s no real need for the fight or flight reaction that creates the immediate “no.” So how do you get around it? While there are dozens of ways to accomplish this, in my experience the simplest and most effective is to just be honest.

Honesty and Personalization Open the Door

If you encounter somebody who is on the defensive and gives you an immediate “no” or “not interested” right out of the gate, it’s important to realize that they’re expecting to be sold to or coerced. They’re preparing to resist. Giving an honest response that is tailored to them. is unexpected and can immediately disarm that resistance. Try saying something like:

“I know we haven’t spoken before and I don’t want to take any time out of your day. I know you’re busy over there at [company name] and want to get back to it. I understand. I am calling because I know that you’re the [job title] over there and I wanted to speak with you about your [pain point or value prop] and see if there’s an opportunity for us to help. If you just give me three more minutes, I think you’ll find it valuable.”

Now this script will (and should!) vary depending on your company, industry, product, and the situation itself. But there are a few important elements that should be used.

Acknowledge their position. You know getting a cold call in the middle of their day is not ideal. You understand.

Show you know. If the sweetest sound a person can hear is their name, it also helps to tack on their position and company. Show them that you’re not just dialing down a list. You have a genuine interest in them and only them.

Give them a reason. Be clear about what you’re there to talk to them about. If they really have a need for your product, this should get their attention and keep them interested.

This certainly isn’t a silver bullet for overcoming every single immediate “no” you receive, and you’ll get a lot. But it’s an important way to flip the situation for your prospect and lead with value, empathy, and care. All three of which are the hallmarks of the new sales generation.

For more advice on how to reach the right accounts for your organization, download your free copy of “The Essential Guide to Account-Based Sales Development,” and start landing larger clients, earning more revenue, and enjoying more sales success.