Use ‘No’ as an Opportunity to Learn

Gender, empathy, intuition, belief all factor into sales success.

Whether it’s insurance, signage or marketing, you’re selling a product or service to prospective customers. More importantly, you’re selling yourself. People need to believe in you before they will pay for what you have to offer. This is one of the simple secrets to selling, part of smart business strategies that help improve sales.

“Sales are about providing someone solutions to a problem,” says Kim Fredrich, sales and marketing consultant at The Stylish Marketer. She talks expertly about managing sales calls, creating a sales funnel of leads, and why converting prospects into clients is an art and a science.

To make a sale, people need to be comfortable with who you are as a person, and you need to be comfortable with yourself. That comfort starts with conversations, drawing out from people the problems they want you to solve, reassuring with “I’m here to help you.”

Delivering such an empathetic message helps if you’re a woman. Stereotypical, yes, but true. Women are often top producers because they are more intuitive, better at building relationships, more skilled at asking the right questions and getting the right information, and less aggressive than men. Fredrich explains that women “take time to understand what their customer really needs without having to ask.”

All is not lost for men, however. Fredrich gives us points for being more competitive than women, relying on facts, figures and data to prove our points; and for getting straight to the point. That’s pretty much it. In daily life, when men shop, they get what they want and leave. Women browse. Men who spend time at Walmart are called greeters.

Despite their strengths and weaknesses, the consultant says the key to sales for men and women is conversation. When selling to men who are naturally reticent, women should ask them, “What do you think?” Conversely, men should spend time getting to know their female prospects and learn what’s important to them. As Fredrich says, “Make sure you understand their problem.”

Regardless of gender, she offered these tips that apply not only for sales but for conversation in general:

  • If you are an interrupter, work on listening.
  • If you are soft-spoken, add a little more volume.
  • If you are a super sharer, modulate your output according to your prospect.
  • If you are overly concerned with niceties, adjust accordingly.

Just as with other conversations, sales success depends on listening and then asking questions that create value. The main way to understand people’s problems is to ask the right questions, or as business trainer Jeffrey Gitomer says, “Ask the wrong questions, get the wrong answers.”

Fredrich says the best questions are those that make the prospect think. These include questions that start with this:

  • What makes you choose …
  • What is one thing you would improve about …
  • How do your customers react to …
  • How do you propose to …

Specifically, a certified public accountant says he asks prospects, “What can I do for you that your current CPA doesn’t do?” Slyly and confidently, the CPA says, “No matter what the person says, I reply, ‘I can do that,’ because I do it all.”

The toughest part — again, in typical conversations as well as sales — is keeping quiet. “Ask for what you want. Then keep quiet,” Fredrich says. At closing time, the first one who speaks loses.

Even a “No” can turn into a “Yes” later. “When you hear ‘No,’ use it as an opportunity to learn,” the consultant says. “It might be only a no for now. A no creates a debt of sorts and makes it a great time to ask for a referral, permission to follow up, permission to add to your email list, and recommendations for speaking or networking opportunities.”

With connections established, follow-up comes into play. This applies to prospects as well as to clients you already have. As Fredrich notes, “It costs a lot more to get new clients than it does to keep existing clients. Whichever they are, make sure you engage with people. Be open and transparent.”

Eventually, prospects can turn into clients — if they get enough touches. Through a combination of emails, calls, conferences and in-person meetings, the magic number can be anywhere from seven to 13 touches.

In the end, you might have a client or an acquaintance. Just don’t force the issue.

“Know when to walk away and move on,” Fredrich says. “Some people don’t want to say no or say why they say no. Tell yourself that it’s OK if you’re not my customer.”

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.