Sales Tips >> Browse Articles >> Negotiation

Sales Tips >> Browse Articles >> Closing Tools


Learn from No: How to Turn a Negative Reaction into a Positive One

Learn from No: How to Turn a Negative Reaction into a Positive One

By Naomi Wax | Monster Contributing Writer

“No” is unpleasant. It’s frustrating, it’s demoralizing, it’s downright annoying. It’s also inevitable if you have a career in sales. You’re going to hear it at some time or another, and though that initial sting might get you every time, there are ways to make “no” work in your favor. It doesn’t have to resound endlessly in your mind and undercut your morale.

To begin with, be aware that as much as “no” is a refusal, it’s also an opportunity — one that many salespeople fail to capitalize on. When you’re met with “no” as the final answer, rather than trying to force it into a “yes” or feeling bad and walking away, try asking questions. If you can find out why, you’ll be in a better position to garner a “yes” from your next prospect.

Why Ask Why?

People have all sorts of reasons for not buying, and you shouldn’t necessarily take “no” personally. The more you can put your ego aside and gracefully accept the refusal, the more you might learn from the experience. So, assume for the time being that you’ve been turned down and your business with this person is done. Make it clear that you’ve accepted the reply. If you’re no longer trying to sell him, you and the buyer will be in a more neutral territory, and you’ll have an easier time getting information that will help you. Begin by saying that you appreciate the time he’s given you and ask if he would be willing to take just a few more minutes to talk about why he isn’t interested. Explain that the information will be helpful to you in your job and you’d be thankful for the feedback.

You might not get a straight answer initially, because people are often uncomfortable with having said no and want to get out of the situation as soon as possible. They’re likely to offer a pat answer about price or prior loyalty, but if you probe a bit you might find your way to a more substantial reply.

Some approaches that might lead you to the truth include:

“I realize price is an object. If it weren’t for the price what would you think of the product?” If they say they’d be interested, gather more information by asking how they think their company would benefit from it.

“Might there be a time in the future when my product will fit your budget or is there something more than the cost involved?”

“I respect loyalty to X company, and I’m wondering if you can tell me what sort of things have inspired that loyalty. What do you like most about doing business with them?”

“Is there something we could be offering that would make our product more attractive to a company like yours?”

Was It Something I Said?

A difficult question to ask, but a crucial one to find out whether there was something in your presentation that the prospective buyer found off-putting. Again, you’ll want to indicate through your attitude that you aren’t going to fall into a fit or respond in rage. Attitude and tone are crucial here, and unless you’ve established a friendly rapport, you may not be able to pull it off.

If the mood seems right, try saying, “I hope this isn’t asking too much, but was there anything I did that interfered with your decision?” You might want to add, "This is what I do for a living, and it would really help me to know.

Even if there is something about your approach that blew the sale, keep a professional attitude. No salesperson is perfect, and any approach can stand improvement. Also, an approach that works for one customer does not necessarily work for another — this is just one person’s opinion based on one interaction.

Gather as much information as possible and consider the criticism carefully. Perhaps run it by colleagues and friends to see if they think it’s well-founded. But rather than letting it get you down, focus on how you can use it to improve your approach. And remember, a problem with your presentation is not an indictment of you as a person or a determination of your future in sales.

No Does Not Mean Never

When you’re turned down for a sale, whether you’re able to gather more information or not, don’t give a “no” more weight than it merits. If you find yourself panicking that it’s all you’ll ever hear or that you’ll never meet your quota, remind yourself that it’s just one sale. Every salesperson hears “no,” and it’s no indication of how your next meeting will go.

And don’t forget, if you field this “no” with finesse, the person who didn’t buy may be left with fond enough feelings to find a way to send future business your way. Establish whether you can call on the prospect again in the future (be specific about when, suggesting a time when the circumstance that led to the “no” may have changed), and make sure your clients know that they can call you as well.

When to Take Your No and Go

In some situations, you’d be better off letting “no” stand without questioning it. If the person you’ve been dealing with has been a naysayer from the start – if he’s been patronizing, prickly, or strikes you as pretty imperceptive – it’s probably not worth pursuing his opinion. Solicit feedback only from people you respect and who you sense will be honest and constructive in their response.

Finding the Yes

If every cloud truly has a silver lining, your challenge as a seller is to find the sliver of silver sagacity in every sale that slips away. If you set your sights on what you can learn from each “no” and the sales it might lead to, who knows, you might come to see “no” as an inspiring response and the seed for a future “yes.”

This article originally appeared on