When You Hear “No,” You’re Closer to Hearing “Yes”

Adam Stott
7 min readJun 24, 2022

Imagine that every time you offered your product or service to a potential client they said yes. That would be amazing. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for anyone. And many business owners can feel hurt when they hear the word “no.” It’s easy to get fed up when you hear it again and again, but in order to get better results to start hearing “yes” more often, ironically you need more people to say “no” to you first. An important part of the millionaire mindset is that the more you hear “no,” the closer you are to hearing “yes.” And if you haven’t had enough people say “no” to you, then frankly you haven’t talked to enough people.

Salesperson closing a Sale with a handshake

Throughout my career, I have hired many salespeople. I had one question that was a great way to get to know salespeople because they’re often very confident and egocentric. I used to ask them who was the best salesperson they had ever met. And they go into great detail to explain this person to me. I would listen, and as soon as they’d finished speaking about that particular person, I would then ask them why that person was better than them. That was the true test of whether they were great at sales — a great salesperson would turn what I asked around on me and say, “You asked me who was the best salesperson that I’ve met apart from me!” And I knew that I had a winner if they responded to my question in that way.

One day I was interviewing someone, and I asked him this question. He responded that the person he had just described was a good salesperson, but that he was much, much better. So, I asked him what made him so great? He said to me, “Adam, I don’t even hear the word no. There’s only one word that I hear, and that’s the word yes.” I said to him, “Well, you know, it’s very important that you do hear the word no many, many, many times because the more times you hear no, the closer you are to a yes.” And he said, “Exactly, Adam. But I just choose not to hear the word no. And I keep going until I hear yes.” I ended up giving him the job. He would speak with potential clients, and whenever anyone said they weren’t interested, he always had this just amazing ability to turn the conversation around and to continue talking with the person until he got them to say yes.

I learned early on in my sales career to never be afraid of hearing the word no because the more times I heard no, the closer I was to hearing yes. I think it’s very important to put this principle in your mind when you are selling your products or services.

So, one of the things we’re going to walk through is how you can get to hear more of the word. Yes, I’m going to break that process down and start to understand how you can make it much, much more effective, how you can make yourself much more, more, more effective and get more of the word yes. Don’t be afraid of hearing the word no. You need to make sure that that fear of rejection is something you’re able to overcome as quickly as possible.

I was running a coaching session recently, when one of my clients, who makes good money and runs a successful company, told me that he wants to go into the world of coaching. He wanted to start in-person and online training sessions, which I’m helping him do. He asked me why his client funnel wasn’t working. Why wasn’t he able to convert potential clients into real clients? The first thing I asked him was, “How many people said no to you?” And he said, “Oh, I don’t really know. I haven’t really had much feedback.”

There are really only two things that grow businesses: marketing and sales. And if I had to choose one that was more important, I would probably say sales, because every single successful person that I know, every single person who succeeded in business has the ability to sell, to persuade, and to influence. It’s a very important characteristic of a good entrepreneur. A good entrepreneur can sell their products or services. A good entrepreneur can sell their staff. They can sell people their vision. For many, this ability doesn’t come naturally. It won’t necessarily be something that you’re good at right away, but as time passes you will get better, and you will start to cultivate this skill.

I recommend that every single one of you master your abilities in sales. You may have never worked in sales, which is fine. If you think that your inability to sell is holding you back, then that’s something you need to master. Get yourself a part-time job working in the evenings at a call centre, go and sell windows door to door, go and sell cars — whatever it takes, go and put yourself in an environment where you’re challenged to actually sell products and services. And if you do this, you’ll find that you start to understand more about influence. You start to understand more about persuasion and very quickly you’re going to start to get better results. Sales is a vital skill in business, and the more you hear the word no, the more you overcome your fears, and the better you will become at getting to yes.

Many years ago, when I was 19 years old, I worked at the Ford Motor Company, and I was new to sales. I was very motivated and driven, but I didn’t have many skills yet because I wasn’t very experienced. Therefore, I saw that everyone else was having better results than I was, and I started to get down on my sales abilities. Richard Denny’s book Winning New Business, opened my eyes to a principle I had never even thought of the more people that say “no” to you, the closer you are to a “yes.” I adopted that principle, and my sales results completely transformed in a short period of time. Let me tell you why: all of a sudden, I no longer hated hearing “no” from people. That meant I made more phone calls, and I made more of an effort. If someone said “no” to me, I didn’t really let it phase me, because it was like water off a duck’s back. I realised that when someone said “no” to me, I hadn’t been influential or persuasive enough, or I hadn’t given them the reason that they should say “yes” yet. Therefore, I would keep going and I would make sure to turn that “no” into a “yes.” This principle led me to become one of the top salespeople in the company over a short period of time.

I also came to understand that business is a numbers game, and if you do want to win the game of business, you have to use your intellect rather than your emotions. Rejection can hurt if you let it, but you need to know that if you call a hundred people about your products or services, even if your message is terrible, even if your pitch is terrible, even if you speak to the wrong people, someone is going to say yes. So the reason you might not be selling as much as you want is that you’re not asking enough people. If you seek out rejection and widen the number of people you’re talking to, you will start to see results.

That said if all you hear from potential clients is “no,” you might decide to slightly change or tweak your message. See if the revised message works better and gets you hearing “yes” more often. For example, you might learn along the way that your pitch needs to be softer in tone, shorter, or in more depth. You’re also likely to learn what people need to know from you and what concerns your target audience has from the questions they ask you. Remember that it’s important to adapt and change your message as you see necessary.

My challenge is that I want you to contact a hundred people about your products and services. They might be existing clients, people that you find on Facebook, or Instagram, people in your database, or people you find through internet searches. It’s usually more effective if you do this over the phone or in person, but it can also be email or message can also be effective. If you don’t have any products or services ready to sell right now, contact a hundred people and talk to them about the products and services you’re working on, and ask them if they sound like something they would want to buy. They’re either going to say yes, or no, or they’re going to ask for more information. Regardless of how they answer, you will be several steps ahead of where you were before you made the calls.

You want to put yourself out there and have more conversations with potential clients because it’s a fast way to get more sales, more clients, and get more results. The more you do this, the more you will understand that one of the most important skills you can have in sales is to be able to hear the word “no” and keep on selling. Even if someone says no to you right now, they may say yes, the next time, or they might hang up the phone and change their mind after thinking it over. Be immune to hearing the word “no” and you’ll be more successful in growing your business and improving your results.

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Adam Stott

Entrepreneur, business coach, founder of Big Business Events, the UK’s fastest-growing business members’ network. Member of Forbes Coaches Council.