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How to Turn a “No” Into “Yes” in Sales

Mark Jung

Oct 11, 2021

sales no objection

One of the things newer salespeople tend to find difficult is turning the initial “no” into a “yes”. In fact, until they get over the hump, many green sales reps avoid asking prospects for their business directly for fear of rejection, the discomfort of putting someone to a decision, or their own anxieties about what hearing a “no” might mean. 

“No” to many salespeople, is a terrible word to hear. It signifies failure, rejection, and time wasted — all things that we associate with negativity, a stagnant career, and (perhaps most importantly) a small commission check. 

But “no” needn’t be a scary word. In fact, a well-known sales phrase (attributed to Mark Cuban) goes something like this: “Every no I hear gets me closer to a yes.” This, at its core, is true. The more people you talk to, the more likely one of them is to buy, therefore, moving onto someone new will get you one step closer to a yes — a good motivator to pick yourself up and keep going.

Here’s how to turn a “no” into a “yes” in sales:

1. Rephase your “yes” questions into “no” questions

Making more cold calls isn’t the only way you can turn “no” into a yes. One way to use no to your advantage is by using it to put prospects in control. After all, it’s easier to commit to a no than a yes. For example, you can ask specific questions where no is actually good news, such as “Would you be opposed to X? No? Great!” By reframing the question, you’re turning “no” into a positive, which can pave the way for a “yes” further down the line. 

2. Use “nos” to build the relationship

Another way to view “no” is as an opportunity for prospects to let their guard down a bit and open up to you. You’ll never get a shot at a yes if your prospects are hanging up in the first seven seconds. Strangers are skeptical of salespeople, but if you have the guts to ask for a “no” instead of a “yes,” then you’re in a position where you’re communicating directly, rather than relying on manners or niceties in your discussions, which can be counterproductive if people are reluctant to tell you how they really feel. This not only buys you more time with the prospect, it buys you more trust because they know you won’t bully them into a yes.

3. Restate their answer

In sales, this is called mirroring. Sometimes prospects don’t mean what they say, they might just be trying to get out of the conversation. By restating the last few words they said you’re showing that you’re listening, and asking for clarification using their own language. Plus, you’re letting them realize on their own that their objection might not make sense.

You’ll be surprised at how effective mirroring can be, especially if you’re disciplined enough to keep quiet while the prospect opens up. When this happens, pay close attention to what they’re saying. Chances are, they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

4. Ask follow-up questions to uncover the real objection

No doesn’t mean never. Ultimately, turning a “no” into a yes comes down to understanding the prospect’s real objection, and reacting in a professional and positive way. Getting to a “no” should not be the end of the road.

Whenever you hear it, try to find out why the prospect feels that way, so you can look for a solution. Perhaps the timing is off, or (in a best-case scenario) they misunderstood some aspect of your product. In any case, digging deeper into a “no” can help point you in the direction of “yes,” like a roadmap to a sale.

Ask what would need to happen in order for the deal to be a success for them. Questions like, “What’s holding you back,” can get the prospect talking, and will allow you to understand what, if anything, can get them back on board. 

5. Disconnect from the outcome

Sales reps must desensitize themselves to hearing “no.” Once it feels like part of the job, it will no longer have the power to knock us back on our heels and will ensure that we don’t have to spend hours or days feeling down in the dumps or dejected about being turned down. It’s like exercise: at first it hurts and leaves you feeling miserable. But after a while, you adjust, and even start to enjoy the pain — that’s where the growth really happens. 

Once again, your reaction to hearing “no” will determine whether or not you can turn it into a yes. Don’t get angry, don’t try to argue with the prospect, choose your words carefully, and always remain in a positive frame of mind. And, if you can’t overcome the “no,” then don’t be afraid to move on to the next. There are plenty of prospects out there, and there’s a lot of truth to the quote we shared in the intro. No can get you closer to yes. Never be afraid of hearing the word “no,” because it’s the one word salespeople should get used to if they want to thrive.

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Mark Jung

Head of Marketing

Mark Jung is VP of Marketing at Sales Impact Academy. He builds B2B SaaS brands that dominate their categories by creating new strategic narratives that people rally behind. Mark is a great podcast guest, a stellar Fire Talks show host, and a bona fide leader in the revenue marketing space.

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