Telephone Prospecting Tips Article #4: Anticipate the First “No” and Be Prepared to Push Past It

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I’ve got bad news and good news about your prospecting call.

The bad news is that, most of the time, regardless of how well you’ve done in the early stages of the prospecting phone call (right mindset, good voice tone, great start, and compelling, customer-issue-centered, value-dripping mini statement), it’s highly likely that the first request you make to set up a meeting will be met with a “no.”

That’s just reality. Very few prospects are sitting around with nothing to do just hoping a salesperson will call and ask them for a meeting. And unless you happen to call someone on the exact day that the “thing” you sell is broken or going wrong at their place, or their boss just launched an initiative that requires the type of solution you sell, the likelihood the prospect says “yes” the first time you ask for a meeting is low. I know. That’s not what you want to hear and it doesn’t help you want to make prospecting calls. But hear me out. The call isn’t over yet.

That first “no” isn’t personal and likely has nothing to do with you. That no is automatic. They’re busy and you’re a salesperson – and unfortunately, there are a lot of pathetic salespeople who waste prospects’ time. One of the keys to successful prospecting is understanding that you are going to hear “no” a lot, and it’s what you do next that determines how many meetings you are going to secure.

The good news is that if you are emotionally and mentally prepared to respond appropriately after being told “no” when requesting a discovery/initial meeting, you are going to convert a significantly higher number of your calls into meetings.

Let’s deal with the emotional aspect first. While the advice that follows applies to all sellers, it’s especially critical if you’re a highly relational salesperson who tends to shy away from conflict. I’m not a fan of applying much pressure when selling, and I don’t like being pushy or salespeople who are pushy. However, and this is a big however, this is one time during the sales process that it is absolutely necessary to push. When the prospect declines our first ask for a meeting, we must be prepared to ask again for the meeting. And then to ask one more time. That’s right. I’m advocating that it often requires three asks in the same call to secure a yes. And I know right now that if you’re overly relational, wired like a people-pleaser, and shudder at the thought of conflict, what I just wrote makes you very uncomfortable.

I worked with a very successful salesperson recently who was highly relational, super respectful and abhorred conflict. We were reviewing this exact stage of the prospecting call and it hit him like a ton of bricks. His default response when the prospect denied his first request for a meeting was to kindly reply with, “Thank you for the time. Is it okay if I keep you on my list and contact you again in six months to see if anything has changed.” 

Salespeople, please listen to me: The salesperson who gets told “no” to the first ask for a meeting and responds with “Ok, I’m sorry to have bothered you; thank you for you time” and hangs up is going to starve. As I mentioned above, I’m the last guy who wants salespeople to be obnoxious or pushy. But in this one instance, at this exact point in the sales process, you must push past this resistance. I can’t even tell you the number of meetings I secured as a salesperson by bouncing off of the no and asking two more times for the meeting. Let me repeat: this first no is automatic. It’s an auto-reflex. They are programmed to say no.

Along with being emotionally ready to bounce off the first no, you must also be mentally prepared with solid comebacks. Here are a few favorite tips:

  • Keep in mind that your objective is to sell the meeting, not your solution.  Resist the temptation to start pitching the value of your services and stick to selling the value of getting together with you.
  • In Chapter 9 of New Sales. Simplified. I spend a good amount of time sharing how to use three magic words: Fit, Visit, and Value. Use these words. They work. Here’s a link to a very old blog post (so old that it’s from when I was still an employee at a company way back in 2010) with some brief examples how I deploy those three words.
  • While it’s great if you have succinct, specific “objection busters” ready to the most common objections you get, I’ve got a powerful and very effective line to offer you that works a shockingly high percentage of the time. It’s so effective, and has helped so many sellers secure appointments, that for the past few years I’ve been referring to it as the money line: “Visit with me anyway.” Regardless of the objection, when you’re laser-locked on getting the meeting and absolutely convinced that you can bring value to the prospect and that they’d be foolish not to at least visit with you, with great confidence bounce off their objection or “no” and simply tell them to visit with you anyway. Simple? Yes. Effective? More often than you would believe. Every few weeks I get a LinkedIn note from someone who got that line from my book or from a workshop I led and they’re ecstatic to share how it’s working for them!

Remember that highly relational salesperson I mentioned earlier in post? Yeah, the one who was taking the first “no” and asking permission to keep the prospect on his list? Along with getting his mindset right and sharpening his messaging, the biggest change he made was pushing past resistance and being willing to ask three times for the meeting. He tripled his success rate on prospecting calls. Tripled.

I’m going to wrap up this series with one more article dedicated to the effective use of voicemail. My hope is to change your entire mindset about getting a prospect’s voicemail and show you that you can actually be building a relationship with a prospect who has yet to call you back. Until then, I wish you great selling and many New Sales.

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