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All The Hidden Meanings Behind A Lead’s ‘No’

All The Hidden Meanings Behind A Lead’s ‘No’

It’s amazing how powerful the word “No” can be to a new salesperson, considering how short it is. Just two letters. Just one syllable. And still, it sometimes feels like a door is being closed in your face, or a phone call is being brought to an abrupt end. Even a novice sales rep will expect a

It’s amazing how powerful the word “No” can be to a new salesperson, considering how short it is.

Just two letters. Just one syllable.

And still, it sometimes feels like a door is being closed in your face, or a phone call is being brought to an abrupt end.

Even a novice sales rep will expect a certain volume of “Nos” before they get their first “Yes,” of course. Selling is notoriously filled with rejection. But it’s how reps handle those “Nos” that can really make the difference in whether they meet quota or not.

The rookie mistake — and it’s easy to make it — is to respond to a firm “No” with brief thanks for having your pitch heard, and then moving on.

A rep might then look at the next lead in their CRM, whether it’s come through their own efforts or has been passed on by the marketing team, and tries the same pitch all over again.

By treating every rejection at face value and accepting it, the rep then plays what is essentially a volume game, hoping their win ratio (perhaps based on the size of each deal) will be worth the number of “Nos” they have had to hear.

That’s not an effective strategy, for a couple of reasons.

First, it means you’re going to be dependent on generating (or having your marketing team generate) an enormous number of leads. That’s sometimes possible, but not very effective or efficient.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it means you’re not really trying to cultivate a relationship with your customer.

In our personal relationships, for instance, we hear the word “No” a lot. It doesn’t mean we walk away from our family and friends. We work through differences of opinion, treating them as points in an ongoing discussion. It should be the same with customers.

Sometimes “No” can be a sort of shorthand for a whole range of responses that experienced reps have learned to assess, investigate and overcome.

These are some of the things your lead might really mean — and which you can act upon:

“Not yet.”

Some products and services might be really interesting or helpful, but a lead’s particular budget cycle isn’t at a point where they can commit to a purchase.

As a sales rep, your job is to learn more about that budget cycle, and any other conditions that need to be met in order for a purchase to go ahead.

Ask about when they typically look at replacing old products like the one you’re selling, or introducing new ones if you’re offering a product they’ve never used before.

“I’m not sure.”

Uncertainty can be the death knell for the most persuasive sales pitches.

While you want to close as many deals as possible, remember there can be a lot at stake for your lead.

If they’re considering a purchase on behalf of their company, it could represent a sizable investment.

Your product could change the way people in their business work. It could bring benefits, but it also might pose risks.

If the product doesn’t help address their pain point (or address it enough), will they be reprimanded or overlooked in the future?

Use your active listening skills to get at all the questions that may be circling around your lead’s head. See if there’s more information you can provide to give them the confidence they need.

“I’d have to ask XYZ.”

In B2B environments, few purchases are made by a single individual. Often there are formal buying committees who have to meet multiple times, research several different vendors and iron out specific terms and conditions before the final sign-off.

Your lead may see the merits in the products or services you’re pitching, but they dread having to bring it up with a coworker who might use it as an opportunity to debate a problem at the company.

They might already be in hot water with their boss, and don’t want to suggest they open their wallet for a major purchase.

Make sure you talk to each lead about who they need to get buy-in from, and help them build the business case.

Give them information that will speed up the process, or data that will drive a greater sense of urgency among their peers or manager.

“We’ll be okay.”

Without necessarily giving a full explanation, some leads will hear a rep’s pitch and assume that the product or service being described is too sophisticated or complex for a business of their size.

This is where you may need to explain that, even if they work for a small and medium-sized business, the digital nature of the current business environment is levelling the competitive landscape. Small firms are often competing with larger entities, whether they realize it or not.

Complacency is another hidden factor behind many rejections. It’s always easy (or at least it seems easy) to maintain the status quo. That’s where a good rep will help show where a company or an entire industry might face disruption if they don’t respond to emerging customer needs or higher expectations.


As you’ve realized by now, a “No” isn’t always really a “No.”

There will be some leads who make it a principle never to accept the first version of a pitch they hear.

They might be looking for a better price, an additional proof point, or to see if the rep might throw something else in as part of the package.

What seems like a rejection, in other words, is really just the start of a negotiation.

One of the best things about using a CRM is that you can begin to see trends and patterns in these kinds of rejections. You can begin to develop your own cheat sheet of how best to respond to common objections in a way that moves a deal along.

Working in sales means that, occasionally, you will have to take “No” for an answer. Just don’t take it without considering all the hidden meanings behind it first.

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