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Are you afraid of ‘No’?

By: Paul du Toit – regular contributor

Learning to say ‘no’ is an important skill that can help aid communication and which has many benefits, both for the salesperson and the customer

A pool company commissioned an online sales campaign generating fresh leads that were forwarded to their sales team according to area. Leads were allocated to sales folk in their designated areas. However, failure to convert that lead within a month resulted in that lead being re-allocated. The process was that an appointment would be made and the potential customer would be visited. Part of the process was to discuss where on the property the pool should be situated. Favourable payment terms would be discussed and a deal struck. It was not a particularly difficult sale since a swimming pool adds value to a property and therefore enhanced the asset rather than being an ‘expense’.

But the company soon found that conversion rate of initial leads to sales was less than 20%. So they decided to survey all the leads where a visit had not resulted in a sale shortly afterwards. When asked the simple question “Why didn’t you buy a pool?”, most customers gave the same answer: “Because your salesperson did not ask for the business.” Crazy isn’t it?

A salesperson who leaves deals on the table has hungry children! Unfortunately this happens all too often. To understand why this is so prevalent, we need to understand one of the great modern fears of man (and woman!).

We don’t know how to say ‘no’, and we don’t like to hear ‘no’
In this case either the sales person did not want to hear ‘no’, or the customers didn’t want to reject the offer outright or both. The result was that both parties would have parted in limbo – without satisfaction.

Fortunately this does not affect everyone, otherwise the pool company’s campaign would have registered zero sales and the entire population of that state would have been buying their pools elsewhere or take cold showers to relieve themselves from the summer heat. But this condition affects far too many of us to our detriment – whether we believe we are ‘in sales’ or not. Let’s unpick this a bit.

Not wanting to hear ‘no’
Through little or no persistence our aversion to hearing ‘no’ most often prevents us from hearing yes, because we are afraid to ask. We then end up with nothing. The fear of ‘no’ is the highway to procrastination. When we are afraid of hearing ‘no’ we remain in a fantasy world of what might happen. We don’t want to be ‘pushy’, so we shy away from asking the right question. In sales we end up with a huge pipeline but no conversions. In life we pay for not asking the tough question by remaining in limbo. Isn’t it better to simply ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’? The beauty of ‘no’ means that everyone can get over it and move on.

Not knowing how to say ‘no’
Today’s ‘no’ has become the ‘put off’. Send me an email. I’ll let you know. I want to think about it. I need more time. These responses may be quite legitimate if the offer is genuinely appealing and one needs time to consider options and alternatives. But all too often the ‘put off’ is simply an outright fear of saying ‘no’ – perhaps an aversion to losing out. Consider this: You can say ‘no’ today and change your mind tomorrow. A straight ‘no’ gets the issue off the table and allows you to move on. You can soften the blow by saying, ‘no, not now’. You can always pick it up again another time.

What is the attribute required to be able to say ‘no’ or face the possibility of rejection? It’s called assertiveness. This can be described as one’s ability to influence calmly without undue use of aggression. It falls in-between aggressive and passive. It is a critical attribute in leadership, since a leader who cannot face or say ‘no’ only pretends to lead their team. A salesman who cannot move on from a disappointment for fear of the next rejection will at best survive for a while, but will soon falter and crash. And anyone in any kind of relationship who fails to ‘put their foot down’ when necessary and exercise the necessary assertiveness will be dominated by the one who will.

I’m sure that’s not the future you’d like to map out for yourself? So teach yourself to say ‘no’ when necessary – and practice doing it so that saying ‘no’ becomes a habit you can call on when needed. On the other hand, if you need decisions from others, learn to look forward to hearing ‘no’. Each ‘no’ inevitably then becomes a step closer to your next YES!

“Anyone in any kind of relationship who fails to ‘put their foot down’ when necessary will be dominated by the one who will.”

  Paul du Toit

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