5 Ways to Turn a No Into a Yes

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no or yes

“Dear Mr. Strauss: Thank you for your submission, but unfortunately…”

When you are an entrepreneur, you hear the word “no” a lot. The not-so-fictional rejection letter above was just one of scores of similar responses I received for years from publishers back in the day when I was first trying to become a published writer. It took me almost a decade of hearing no before – finally! – that all-important yes came in the mail.

And that then begs the question: How do you deal with no, or maybe even more importantly, how do you turn a no into a yes?

There actually are a lot of ways to turn a no into a yes, but let me first tell you one strategy that I don’t want you to use: Mimicry. There is a school of thought out there that posits that if you subtly mimic someone’s verbiage, body language and the like, that you can therefore subliminally create rapport with that person. Somehow, they are not supposed to notice that you are mimicking them, not be either insulted or feel manipulated by it, and instead will suddenly realize that you just have so much in common that they need to do business with you.

As you gather, I am not a big fan of that strategy because 1) I have never seen it actually work, and 2) it is condescending and shallow.

Instead, here are five ways you really can turn that no into a yes:

1. Get a clue: No does not always mean no. Instead, often, it is just an easier answer than, “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” or “I am not ready at this moment to give you an answer.”

So your first step is to be able to ascertain whether the no really is just a way to buy some time. Small business owners with whom you deal especially often resort to ‘no’ because it saves time and is simply easier.

I remember one time when I was speaking with a big franchisor about carrying my USA TODAY column on their website and, while they seemed interested, the gentleman eventually said no. But since I knew that they truly were interested, I pressed a bit when normally I would not have – was there something they needed, anything else we could offer? Within five minutes of having this casual, extra conversation, he decided that they really did want to carry the column. They were my clients for the next five years.

Lesson: No does not always mean no.

2. It’s not you, it’s me. George Costanza’s famous breakup line is as applicable in business as it was in Seinfeld. If you hear no a lot, too much, it is probably a hint that you are doing something wrong. The challenge then is to zero-in on that that thing is. It could be any number of items:

  • Your pitch may be off, or too long, or not detailed enough
  • Your product could be too expensive, or maybe too mediocre
  • Maybe your offer has no compelling call to action

The best way to figure this out is to share what you are doing with a trusted colleague; don’t try and figure it out in a vacuum because that obviously has not worked given the feedback the market is giving you.

Or what about this: Ask the naysayer why he or she said no. Get some constructive criticism. The important thing is to get some feedback, learn from it, change things up, and get back out there.

3. Deal with the objections: The late, great, sales guru and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said this about sales:

Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, and no trust.

That is a lot of no’s, a lot of potential objections. But, understanding that no may really mean that the prospect is actually worried about some or all of Ziglar’s objections, you are armed with the ability to handle that. If you forthrightly deal with their fears or objections, whatever they may be, then, a no will not be, as Regis Philbin used to say, “their final answer.”

4. Make it better. I saw Jack Canfield speak recently (Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc.). Jack shared a principle that he uses to turn maybe and no’s into yes’s. He calls it  “10.” After he gives a pitch or proposal, he asks prospects, “Was my proposal a ten? If not, what would it take to make it a ten for you?”

5. Don’t take it too seriously. Having the right attitude about a no can really go a long way to getting to more yes’s. After all, what is a no except a prelude to the next yes? As they say, smile and dial, smile and dial. As long as you keep throwing stuff against the wall, something is bound to stick.

Always remember that Babe Ruth was not only the homerun king, but also the all-time leader in strikeouts. There’s a good lesson for all of us in that.