5 Times When it’s Okay to Say No to a Prospect
Our overarching desire in sales is to get prospects to say yes to us. We get there by building rapport, learning about the prospect’s needs, presenting our product or service in the most favorable light, and following through. We also get there by being the person who says “yes” to the prospect as often as we possibly can.
“Yes” is great. It’s positive, affirming, and shows that you’re the type of person the prospect can count on to get things done. And, if you find yourself saying yes a lot, there’s a good chance you’re getting closer and closer to a deal.
But there are times when saying yes can backfire, and when you’re better off saying no to a prospect. It feels counterintuitive, and maybe a little unpleasant, but there can be value in sticking with “no.” Here are five times when it’s perfectly okay to say no to a prospect:
1. When the prospect immediately asks for a discount
While it’s not unusual for prospects to inquire about discounts, a prospect who leads the conversation by asking for one before learning more about your product is starting off on the wrong foot.
The problem with agreeing to a discount right away is that you not only lessen your product’s perceived value (since most people associate value with price) but you’re also opening the door to more concessions down the line.
It can be tricky to effectively navigate the discount discussion without turning the prospect off, but if they ask you for a discount before they’ve had a chance to learn about you and vice versa, your best bet is to stick to your guns and say “no.”
2. When it gets personal
This is probably the most difficult situation on this list to navigate because it crosses from the professional into the personal. But it’s important to set boundaries with clients, and to stick to your guns if those boundaries are crossed.
When we build rapport with prospects, we’re trying to build a relationship through trust, communication, and getting to know each other. Most of the time it’s easy to keep this relationship professional, and the prospect typically won’t make an attempt to cross the line.
Sometimes, however, things get complicated, and a prospect will want more from you than you’re willing to give, whether it’s dating, a more personal friendship than you’re comfortable with, or a favor that crosses boundaries. When this happens, you need to be firm in explaining that your professional relationship needs to remain just that.
3. When the prospect wants unrealistic results
Some prospects will make requests that are simply unrealistic. When this happens, don’t go along to get along – you’ll just end up paying for it later because when things go wrong, they’ll blame you.
Of course, there’s certainly some wiggle room when discussing results. Some of your clients have better results than others, right? Effective selling involves playing up the positives and downplaying the negatives. But it’s when you cross over into fantasy land that things can get hairy, and oftentimes unethical.
Sometimes, your competitors won’t play by the same rules, and will go along with a prospect’s unrealistic expectations in order to win the deal. That will catch up to them sooner than later, so don’t get suckered into playing their game.
4. When it’s obvious the prospect doesn’t value your time
If it’s obvious from the start that the prospect doesn’t keep their promises, isn’t forthcoming, and doesn’t think your time is important, you should be prepared to say “no.”
This shouldn’t come from a place of spite or ego, but from a place of practicality. If a prospect shows that they’re not willing to follow through on their promises, then how do you expect the rest of the process to play out? The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior, and a prospect who couldn’t care less should raise red flags.
This, or course, is easier said than done since salespeople put food on the table by closing deals. But think back to every prospect you’ve worked with who didn’t value your time and kept playing games. How many of them did you end up closing? Exactly.
5. When the prospect makes unreasonable demands
Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are flooded with pictures of lions or men in sunglasses with quotes about doing “whatever it takes,” and how “impossible is nothing.” That sounds great, but when it comes to dealing with prospects, sometimes the impossible literally means impossible, and you shouldn’t be afraid to say so.
Keep in mind that unreasonable requests are sometimes used as a negotiating strategy, in which case you shouldn’t necessarily take them at face value. But it’s also true that some people think salespeople should give them the world and everything in it simply because they have the gumption to ask.
You are a sales professional, not a doormat. And your company provides a product or a service that took time, effort, and resources to build, and is supported by employees who have families to feed. Keep this in mind when prospects make unreasonable demands, and make sure you value yourself enough to say “no.”
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