A sales professional who has trouble saying no will never have complete credibility when they say yes. It may seem counter-intuitive for some to say no within a sales process. For less experienced sales professionals, no may feel like the beginning of the end. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. No ultimately gives credibility to your yes. More often than not, if every answer from a sales person is yes, either they are a magic genie, or they are overstating during the sales process.


Overstating sets the service team up for failure and positions the client for disappointment. This article will provide a brief overview as to why the word no is so important in sales.


There Are No Perfect Solutions

Even if your company is head and shoulders above its competition, there are no perfect solutions. In other words, even with solutions that can be customized, there are things a company can do and things it can’t. A sales professional that knows it’s company’s capabilities is well positioned to provide accurate guidance to prospective clientele.


Business Owners See Through the BS

Anyone whom has owned a business understands what their company can and cannot do. Many owners have experienced firsthand the pain of saying yes when the answer should have been no. These pains normally manifest in lost profit, over extending resources, strained client relations, etc.  A business owner will appreciate when a sales rep is honest about what they can do versus what they cannot. The buyer often becomes cynical when all they hear from a sales person is yes. Accurately depicting your company’s capabilities allows a business owner to make an educated decision and positions the relationship for success.


There Can Be A Partial No

Answering no to a request isn’t always black and white. More often than not, the answer may be partially no and partially yes. When a business owner asks a tough question, your company may be able to partially fulfill what they are requesting but not all of what they want. Be clear to delineate between what your company can do versus what it cannot. Paraphrase back to the owner what they are requesting and reiterate your answer to ensure that both parties are on the same page moving forward.


No May Simply Mean Not Now

Saying no to a prospect, be it on pricing, service capabilities, terms of the deal, etc. doesn’t mean the answer will always be no. For example, within the PEO industry, if price is an issue, the client may be able to earn a renewal reduction based on good performance. The reduction they asked for today may have received no for an answer but at renewal, they may be able to earn a reduction.


Each Answer Has Its Own Weight

A business owner may ask a plethora of questions during the sales process. This is a good thing. However, a good sales person should be able to emphasize the weight to each question. What does this mean? It means that if a buyer askes 50 questions during the sales process, there are likely 5 questions that matter the most to the buyer. These are the deal makers or deal breakers. Understanding the gravity of each question will allow the sales person to emphasize what is important to the business owner. If your company’s capabilities result in a no for the pivotal questions, the deal will likely not move forward. Alternatively, if you answer no to a number of questions but your company’s capabilities allow you to answer yes on the questions that are essential in the buying decision, the sale will likely move forward.


Knowing Your Company’s Capabilities

Without intimate knowledge of what a company can and cannot do, a sales professional cannot accurately answer yes or no to a buyer’s questions. Not fully knowing the capabilities may result in a plethora of erroneous yeses or with inappropriate nos. Neither of which bode well for sales or company branding. A sales professional should take the time and make the effort to know the company’s capabilities. A sales person is a guide. The business owner is trusting you will guide them in the right direction. When the business owner sees enough wrong turns, they lose faith in the sales professional’s ability to guide them and the sale is lost.


Good Buyers Test the Sales Person

When buying, I have personally asked questions that I already know the answer to. Why? Truthfully, to see if the sales person is full of crap. If they are honest, it gives them credibility in my eyes. When they answer no and can explain why the answer is no, it gives them credibility. Now, I am able to believe them when they say yes, especially when they are able to illustrate how the yes is executed.


The Ultimate No May be Your Own

Your company is not right for every buyer. Likewise, every buyer is not right for your company. During the sales process, the business development professional should be evaluating the viability of the relationship. If the prospect is not a good fit for the organization, the business development professional should vet the prospect. While the buyer may say yes, the ultimate no may come from the sales professional. A decision to proceed forward shouldn’t be made for the sake of the sale but rather for the future viability of the relationship.

Wrap Up

Below are some key takeaways from the article.

  • Don’t say no for no’s sake.
  • Say no when appropriate and illustrate why the answer is no.
  • Know your company’s capabilities.
  • Be able to explain the execution of the yes answer given.
  • Don’t BS.
  • Each question has varying degrees of weight in the buying decision.
  • Sometimes no just means not now.
  • With partial no’s, delineate between the no and yes
  • The sales process should also be a dual sided vetting process
  • No ultimately gives credibility to your yes



Rob Comeau, CEO of Business Resource Center, Inc.

Rob Comeau is the CEO of Business Resource Center, Inc. (www.biz-rc.com) a business consulting and M&A advisory firm. Comeau is an expert in growth and strategy and has helped PEOs grow by billions of dollars throughout his career.