Should You Ever Accept “No” for an Answer?

Have you ever heard the theory that it’s important to get your first “no” out of the way early? It might feel counterintuitive, but if you can keep the conversation going after a first “no” is already given, then it means you’ve already opened the door for negotiation, compromise, and a very possible future “yes.” 

When you’re marketing a product or service, you’re ultimately going for that “yes.” Perhaps yes to buy, yes to subscribe, yes to learn more. For this reason, the same negotiation rules apply.

If you don’t get your “no” out of the way early, the conversation or pitch can go on for a very long time with zero indication of how someone is leaning—only to finally get one, single, final “no.” And then you might wonder at which point the listener had made up their mind, and how much of your conversation was actually held purely out of politeness. Maybe if you’d known how they were leaning, and why, you could have changed course or addressed their concerns.

Sometimes, of course, “no” really is the final answer, and it’s important to move onto partners, customers, clients, and others who are going to be receptive to what you have to offer. 

But how do you know the difference? When should you keep an eye out for a change of heart?

Here are a few insights and techniques:

  • Look for alternative opportunities. A “no” doesn’t need to be the end of a conversation. But it could take your conversation in a new direction. While you might have been hoping they’d change their mind, be sure you’re keeping your own mind open to other opportunities to work together, as well.
  • Try to see it from the other side. Understanding why the party you’re speaking to is saying “no” can help clarify whether or not you should accept it and move on. Are they holding out for a better offer? Are they potentially courting another opportunity? Are you not sweetening the deal enough—and therefore should come back again with an adjustment and try for that “yes”? Sometimes they simply don’t have the budget or bandwidth or ability to say “yes” right now, and if that’s the case, it’s important to walk away without wasting any more of your own time and resources.
  • Consider if the “no” is a negative. For the most part, we’ve been conditioned to think of “no” as bad—as a rejection. But sometimes, being told “no” is actually what’s best for all parties involved. Sometimes it allows you to move on. Sometimes the proposal wouldn’t have worked out anyway, and it’s best to realize that right away. Maybe it will clear the way for another opportunity. By accepting “no” as a potential positive—or at least seeing both “no” and “yes” as neutrals—you’ll be freeing yourself from strategies that always keep you boxed into corners with predetermined outcomes or limited solutions.
  • Make sure you understand the justifications. Ask for the reasons behind the “no”—not so that you can change their mind, but for your own elucidation. Demonstrate that your interest isn’t limited to getting your own way, but also extends to developing good communications and a possible future relationship should a different, better-fitting opportunity emerge on either side.

But sometimes, it’s important for marketers to keep building on those touchpoints, listening to feedback, and soft-selling with a responsive approach until you reach that “yes.”

For a menu of potential strategies based on your specific goals, all you have to do is ask.

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