Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"No" is not an ugly word

Get used to being turned down. Unless your business is selling $20 bills for only $15.99, prospects will say “No” to what you are selling more often than they will say, “Give me two of those.” Hearing "no" is not the end of the world.

When you’ve made it through the initial meeting, the demonstration, the proposal, the countless questions, and then the prospect still turns you down, the most important thing you can do is to learn why. This may not be as easy as it sounds. You have essentially extended a marriage proposal that has been met with "NO WAY". Most prospects would prefer that you go away rather than have them explain the reasons why they don't want to do business with you. It's not unusual for some former prospects to ignore your phone calls and emails.

If you do get the opportunity to ask your prospect why she said no to the incredible value of your product/service, however, be gracious. Ask her thoughts in the most non-threatening, low-key way possible. Here’s an example:

“I appreciate that you took the time to consider us, and I hope we can do business in the future. You can’t win them all, but we sure like to try. I would value your insight on how we can improve our patent-pending fiberglass-lined elbow warmer. Can you tell me what the deciding factor was in choosing to go another direction? What could we do better the next time around? Your opinion really means a lot to me.”

It is hard for any human being to resist offering her opinion, particularly if she doesn’t think you’ll take it personally. A lot of prospects will feel they owe you an answer in exchange for the time you spent meeting with them. The information the former prospect provides you, if honest, is gold. In fact, the occasional honest feedback from one or two lost prospects is almost as valuable as a paying customer, minus the whole revenue issue. In fact, it could help you turn the next prospect into a paying customer.

You may never get better information on how to improve your stuff than from someone who turns you down. It doesn’t mean you must immediately change the color of your fantastic widget from blue to chartreuse just because the prospect said so. Some prospects simply aren't a good fit. At least you will learn a little about how the prospect thinks and how she compares you to your competition. Then you can draw on that insight when applicable for future prospects.

Appreciate that kind of intelligence when you receive it. Then get back up, dust yourself off, and move on. Don't ponder endlessly what you could have done differently to win the business. It is possible you could not have done anything to sway the prospect’s decision in your favor, not lowering your price, not adding a few more bells and whistles, not changing your hair color, not upgrading your toupee or anything else. File the prospect feedback in your brain, and then focus on turning the next prospect into a customer. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time, and your bank account will not be getting any bigger.

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