As children, we do not back away from the possibility of hearing the word “NO.”

Think about it. 

While standing at the grocery check out, you see the shelves of candy and snacks (positioned there specifically for this purpose).  Right at eye level is the bright orange Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and the sight makes your mouth water.  Without hesitation, you say “Mama, can I have some Reese’s Cups?”  Mama says “No, not today.”  You say “But Mama, I’ve been good. Please, can I have some Reese’s?”  Mama says “No, they will spoil your dinner.” You say “I’ll save them for after dinner. PLEASE!”  Mama says “No, I’ll have to get something for your brother.”  You say “We could get the sharing size, and I will share with him.”

Eventually Mama gives in.  You get your Reese’s, and all is right with the world.

What happened to the resilience of our childhood?

Research shows that a customer will say NO four times before they finally say yes, but 44% of salespeople give up after one NO. 92% give up before asking the fifth time.[1]   In sales, we find the resiliency of our youth and embrace NO as a conversation starter to determine why the customer says NO.

[1] Go for No! , Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz 2010

So, what are the two of the most common reasons?

1) Not enough bandwidth (too many demands on time and resources to consider).

2) Not enough value seen to continue the discussion or buy.

One is out of our control.  The other is in our control.


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”

How do you make NO the favorite word heard by your salespeople?

  • Serenity: Prepare your reps with a list of questions to ask when they are told NO to determine if the reasons are things they cannot change.
  • Courage: Prepare your reps with a list of questions to determine if there are things that they can change to better add value.
  • Wisdom: Coach them on using this knowledge to expand the customer conversations and build compelling customer driven solutions.


NO is not the end of the world or a sales career.  If treated as an opportunity for discovery, then we can gain important information that can change everything.


About the Author:  Beth McClary-Wolford is a Sales Management Professional with over 30 years of sales and management experience. She provides small businesses in the Chattanooga Area Area with Fortune 500 level Sales Management on a part time basis and a part time cost.

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