Sheryl Sandberg’s recent commencement speech to University of California-Berkley graduates is well worth reading. In personal terms and sometimes painful detail, she describes dealing with her husband’s passing as a life lesson in resilience.
“I was talking to my friend Phil about a father-son activity that Dave was not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, ‘But I want Dave.’ Phil put his arm around me and said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the s*** out of Option B.’”
As I read Sandberg’s speech, I thought about the importance of having an Option B for salespeople and business owners. Hearing “no” from prospects is essentially hearing that Option A is not available. There is still opportunity in Option B if you’re willing to be resilient, learn to read buy signals and re-approach your prospect.
Why Prospects Say No
Any expression of reluctance to move forward with a purchase is a no, and can occur at any point in the buying process. Two common reasons that qualified prospects say no are: you haven’t spent enough time cultivating a relationship with them, or you haven’t clarified the steps to purchase, and have misread their purchase-readiness.
Making the Most of Option B
The most important action to take after a qualified prospect says no is to rebuild rapport. It’s a three-part process of asking thoughtful questions, listening and being genuinely interested in your prospect’s point of view. Whether your prospect said no three minutes ago or three months ago, or whether you take these steps in one interaction or over multiple conversations, the process is similar.
Acknowledge the hesitation // “I understand your cautiousness.”
Open the door to a conversation // “It looks as though I may have misread the situation or maybe misunderstood what’s important to you.”
Ask for clarification, and listen carefully // What’s getting in the way of moving forward?
Probe for more details // Why can’t you? What else concerns you? What else is important to you?
Ask for agreement to move forward // “If I can show you how (product/service) can do (X), based on what you’ve described, can you move forward?”
Clarify the steps for moving forward // “By (date), I will provide you with (X). After that, you select the date for installation. When you have set the installation date, then we’ll confirm that date by having you sign the purchase order. Once the purchase order is signed, we’ll identify a training date. What time would you like to meet on (date)?”
Sandberg notes, “We all at some point live some form of Option B. The question is: What do we do then?” For anyone in a sales role, the answer is: re-approach, and make the most of that second chance.