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The Science and Art of
'Go For The No' Selling

By Jeff Thull, CEO, Prime Resource Group

As salespeople, we are taught from day one, "Don't take no for an answer."

The stereotypical image of a salesperson is that of a telemarketer who recites scripted answers to objections until the victim slams down the phone. The reason for this picture: Salespeople tend to equate anything other than a yes with failure.

Probably the most debilitating myth ever perpetuated on the world of selling is: "A good salesperson can sell anything to anybody." But those of us pursuing a complex sale should be taking the opposite approach. We should be thinking, "Go for the no."

Accepting 'no sale'

Conventional selling grew up in a world of unlimited prospects and unlimited demand and was based on a "go for the yes" approach. In short, the salesperson's role was to engage the prospect who was qualified to buy and use the product or service, and relentlessly present, pursue, persist, cajole, convince and persuade until the prospect said "yes."

Too many salespeople are so focused on getting the order that they actually lose track of reality. Selling has become such a complex process that if you don't consider "no sale" as a valid outcome, you could end up wasting valuable time and company resources, and delaying access to more lucrative opportunities. Real professionals recognize that a "no," after a quality diagnosis, wins the potential customer's respect, leaves the door open for future business and frees you up to pursue a better match.

Remember: About 35% of all sales are bad sales. Going for the "no" helps you steer clear of the trap of making a sale that turns out to be wrong for both you and the customer.

Diagnostic Business Development

Today's business arena — characterized by long sales cycles, multiple layers of decision and influence, and numerous perspectives that often cross national and cultural borders — has become so complex that the very nature of selling has changed. A system called Diagnostic Business Development® provides a navigable path from the first step of identifying potential customers through the sale itself and onto expanding and retaining profitable customer relationships. These are the four phases in this system:

  • Discover: The sales professional researches, prepares and sets the stage for a compelling engagement and a continuing relationship based on trust and respect.
  • Diagnose: An in-depth determination of the existence, extent and financial impact of the customer's current situation is pursued. Diagnosis is meant to maximize the customer's objective awareness of their dissatisfaction and determine if that dissatisfaction can be alleviated by the salesperson's offerings.
  • Design: The goal is to get the sales professional and customer working together to identify the optimal solution to the problems or opportunities that were uncovered and quantified in the Diagnose phase — even if it involves alternatives offered by competitors. This phase is the "dress rehearsal" before the final presentation is made. It is here that many salespeople make the mistake of becoming an unpaid consultant.
  • Deliver: This phase begins with the presentation of a formal proposal, co-written by both the seller and the buyer, and the customer's subsequent formal acceptance of the solution. Implementation and support of the solution are next, followed by maintaining and growing of the relationship with the customer.

Earn the customer's respect

In the diagnostic method of selling, the sales professional has earned the customer's respect by conducting a high-quality diagnosis. She has also gained the customer's trust because of her willingness to end or reschedule the engagement at any time if the diagnosis reveals that the problem or opportunity does not exist or is not worth the customer acting upon.

When you "Go for the no," you are thinking like a doctor. When the symptoms are not significant enough to take action, there are two possibilities: 1) You and the customer agree they never will be and you end the relationship, or 2) You agree to monitor the customer's condition until the symptoms are severe enough for the customer to take action.

In choice two, when the customer's condition changes, the customer believes you are the best qualified professional to help design and deliver a high-quality solution.

About the author

Jeff Thull is a leading-edge sales and marketing strategist and valued executive advisor at major companies including Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific.

He is also the author of the best-selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff’s new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales, is now available.

For more information, please contact: Prime Resource Group, 3655 Plymouth Blvd., Suite 110, Plymouth, MN 55446, [email protected],, 1.800.876.0378 or 763.473.7529, Fax: 763.473.0792.

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 . . .
FPS regularly works with financial services companies to maximize the impact of their client communications, including e-mail and online communications. To find out how we can help you develop effective strategies for communicating with corporate financial executives, contact FPS President Vince DiPaolo at 847-501-4120 or [email protected]. You can also write him at the following address:

Financial Publishing Services Co.
464 Central Avenue
Suite 8
Northfield, IL 60093

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