It sounds crazy but it works.
If you’re getting ghosted by potential clients after sales calls, feeling like everyone who wants to “think about it longer” or “talk it over with their partner” disappears off the face of the earth, you need to keep reading. But, how can you close big deals with the word “no”?
The most underrated ability in a sales call is actually getting to “no”.
In Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference, he explains the three types of “yes” you can get in a sales conversation: counterfeit, confirmation and commitment.
We’re talking about the counterfeit “yes”.
The counterfeit “yes” is exactly how it sounds: a fake yes.
You’ve done it before: telling that new friend you don’t vibe with that “for sure! we’ll plan something soon”, the awkward “yes, I love it!” when your weird aunt asks if you like the sweater she bought you, or when the door-to-door salesman gives you a flyer and you say yes with a fake number just to make him go away.
All of these are counterfeit yes. They are your body screaming no while your mouth pushes out a “yeah, sure. whatever I have to say to get this to end NOW.”
THIS IS A WORST CASE SCENARIO IN SALES.
We see “no” as the end of the conversation, but it’s where the real conversation begins. No lets the potential client stay in control, and as Voss puts it, “no is an affirmation of autonomy.”
So, we’re going to talk about how to get to no, and what to do once you get there.
We’re our own worst enemy: getting comfortable with “no”
We need to create an environment where “no” is okay. That starts with you.
Most sales advice is about getting to yes. Yes is the goal, and yes is the absolute only option at the end of the sales call.
I need you to forget that going forward.
No cannot be the enemy.
“If your biggest fear is no, you can’t negotiate. You’re the hostage of yes.
You’re handcuffed. You’re done.” – Chris Voss
The first step is exactly that: get comfortable with no. One of the ways in which I recommend going about this may feel kind of backwards but roll with it: assume the sale.
Don’t sell, assume the sale.
I go into a sales call with the understanding this person is already sold on what I’m selling, they simply have some clarifying questions and I need an opportunity to see if they’re a good candidate for working together.
It is not a sales pitch. My goal is not to sell, it is to discover if we are match. (Remember the blog on the two types of salespeople? Click here for a refresher.)
When you go into a sales call to sell, of course you’re going to feel the pressure to end in a yes. Otherwise, it feels like you failed.
If you go into it assuming the sale is already done and seeing it as a conversation, it’s not a big deal if it turns into a “no” because that no is simply an indication that it’s actually not a fit, not that you shot your shot and it rebounded off the goal post.
Instead, think of it as you’re a goalie who gets to actively decide if you’re letting that ball in or not.
Setting the room for romance: creating an environment where “no” is sexy
Alright, maybe sexy is extreme. But we need to create an environment where it feels okay to say no; like no is a real option.
At this point, you’ve mentally prepared yourself for a conversation instead of a sales pitch. You’re already going into it with the right attitude, but the start of that chat helps set the tone for them.
There’s a few ways you can do this:
1. The full-on disclaimer: Let them know they can say no! Let them know your goal is not to end this call in a yes unless it makes sense for both of you. Explain the purpose of this call is to get to know each other’s context and see if it makes sense to join forces.
2. Naturally set the tone: A lot of sales ‘gurus’ will say to skip the pleasantries of “how are you?”, “how was your weekend?” conversations off the bat, but we’re humans first. I love to kick off the call chatting about their day, their pup, or their newborn baby. It reminds them we are both humans and creates a more comfortable setting from the get go. (And hello! We could all use more puppy and baby stories?! Me please!)
3. Whatever feels good to you: People always want to know the guaranteed strategies that will work best, but above all else, what works best is what feels good to you because that’s when you show up to your fullest.
So test these out if you’re not sure! See what version of a disclosure, natural conversation, or a mix somewhere in between fits your style.
The passive aggressive stepsister: the power of “why” vs “how”
If you have siblings or super close friends, you know the power in a “why” question.
“Why do you always do that?” “Why do you even like that?” “Why can’t you do it this way?”
“Why” questions have a wild ability to put us on defensive mode in a heartbeat.What starts as the question we use to discover the world as toddlers gets a confrontational undertone as we grow older.
Try to actively sub out ‘why’ questions as well as ‘yes or no’ questions to keep the conversation open and flowing.
Instead of “why don’t you want to commit today?” you can ask “what’s making you hesitate?” Instead of feeling like we’re saying “yo, what’s wrong with you / why can’t you make up your mind?” we’re asking a question for more context. Asking “what’s making you hesitate?” feels less confrontational and also provokes a different response than “why don’t you want to commit?” might.
It gives you more information about their hesitation than you’d otherwise get.
Focus on leading your questions with “how” (besides how come) or “what”. This has been an incredible exercise for myself in life, even in conversations where I’m helping friends navigate a decision.
Give them the out throughout: offering “no” for dinner
Remember: no is an affirmation of autonomy. (Thank Chris Voss for that gem!)
We’ve set the mood and made it clear no is an option, but how do we remind them throughout?
Give them the out!
You ask: “What do you feel you’re struggling with? Where do you want help?”
They explain. (Maybe they’re falling off their workout schedule)
You reply: “Gotcha! Well here’s what I do for my clients that feel that way too. (Maybe you provide weekly accountability check-ins & morning texts) Do you think that’s something that would help you feel better?”
The likely answer: “Yes!” Because you’ve actually listened and heard them, and formed a response that directly relates back to what they’re voicing.
But it also opens up the opportunity for no. They could explain they’ve tried that with a coach in the past and didn’t like it, maybe they have a tendency to grow resistance with check-ins and actually need a new format.
This not only gives you space to discover if the relationship isn’t a fit, but also to better cater your service to help them if it’s within your boundaries!
For example, you may then share how you do something different with a specific client of yours that had the same concerns and speak to the progress they’ve seen because of it. Now that no is moving towards a yes!
Not because of pressure, but because we’re actually finding the solution they need.
You can also hit the elephant in the room head on to give that awkward relief. If you let them know your pricing, you can follow it up with “Does that sound crazy compared to what you were expecting?”
Our natural reaction with someone we tend to agree with is, “No no! Not crazy at all.” which reaffirms for them that the price actually feels good. BUT if it truly does feel absolutely wild compared to what they expected, they can release that nervous laugh and admit, “Yeah actually. I’m not sure what I expected but that is way more than I thought!”
From there, the conversation has begun instead of ended.
Playing hot potato with “no”: What do we get to no?!
We looooove getting comfy with the uncomfy. This will take some time, but don’t worry, you’ll get there.
Picture this: you’re trusting everything I say and you got yourself to no. A part of you is like, “yay! I did it!” but the other part is going “holy fuck, wait what do I do now?!”
Strap in, baby. Let’s keep going.
No isn’t always going to be “no”.
Sometimes it’s hidden in “let me talk to my partner”, “I can’t afford it”, “I’m too busy”, “I’ll come back in a few months” or the worst of all…the counterfeit yes: when you know in that moment they’re saying yes but it doesn’t feel like yes and you can already feel the ghosting coming on.
So listen carefully for whatever version of no you’re getting and dig deeper.
Find the real reason it’s a no.
Nine times out of ten, the reason they give isn’t the real reason. Out of those nine times, maybe 40% are actively lying to you because they’re uncomfortable admitting their real reason why it’s a no, but the other 60% don’t even know why it’s a no. All they know is a yes doesn’t feel good.
It’s your job to help them pull out why a yes doesn’t feel good and either solve that hesitation for them or offer an alternative path.
For example, “I can’t afford it.”
We often don’t like digging when it comes to money because we’re trying to respect boundaries and we’re all a little weird about money. But the best thing you can do for that potential client is figure out if they’re actually just on top of their budget and have no space for this at the moment or if they’re feeling something else.
Often, they’re feeling a little scared: maybe they don’t trust you’re a fit for them, they don’t think they have the ability to achieve what they want to achieve…There can be SO MANY REASONS and you have to help them find the real reason inside.
So that’s step one: what’s the REAL reason?
You are not the only one living in an apocalyptic world
Step two: provide some options.
The option doesn’t always have to be you. My private coaching is only an option for people I believe by the end of the call are ready and a good fit for me. Often, the options may be my Sell on Social program (could be because of price or problem they’re trying to solve), someone else (I’ll refer friends’ courses or coaching if I think it’s a better fit for what they want to achieve), and even just a straight task.
Sometimes the answer is that there is more work they need to do on their own before jumping onboard with anyone.
Get comfortable providing alternative options. You got into this because you want to help people and work with the right people, and if they’re not it, send them to something that will best fit them.
And don’t be afraid to give them homework!
I have a client right now that came to me in the spring last year to work together. After asking enough questions and digging around their hesitations, I actually turned it into a no for them. It was a “no, not right now” because I knew it didn’t make sense at the time.
I gave them questions to think about and some advice on finding more direction first, and a year later we started working together and it’s already been magic because they are in the right place based on the “homework” I gave them in a sales call last year.
Give yourself 30 seconds to get it together
I’m a broken record, but we all want everything FAST now. The $10K months, the beach lifestyle, whatever people online have.
Give yourself some time to practice! You will butcher some sales calls. You will have some real uncomfortable moments. You will still get ghosted from time to time.
But the more you can create an environment where the conversation can be human to human, real ass honest shit, the better you’ll be at landing the right clients.
Eventually, you’ll be so clear on who’s the right fit for you through these sales calls, it will start to shift your whole marketing strategy and you’ll only be on sales calls with people who are a perfect match for you because that’s who you’re drawing in.
I no longer get many no’s or ghosted at all because I’m creating a comfortable environment, and attracting those ready to have an open conversation. It takes time! But you’ll get there.
Happy selling, and remember: it’s not evil to sell. It’s not evil to want to close a deal. What’s evil is allowing scammy assholes to make all of the money because you’re too scared to sell.
We need more good humans with successful businesses. (Yes, I’m talking about you!)