A salesman once told me that he had to get through an average of 11 “no” responses before he got to one “yes.” He defined “no” responses as more than just the word. Also included, he said, are things like body language (excessive fidgeting, arms folded across chest, furled brows, etc.) and being easily distracted in the middle of conversation.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with Tom Dillon (pictured), the former owner of a successful hardware store in here in Charlotte. Tom told me that, throughout his career in sales (the owner is always “in sales”), he followed very specific steps to overcome the “no” and get to the “yes” when it came to selling his products. The steps are: feel, felt, found, and here they are.
Feel. Since relationships are integral to business success, it's not surprising that the first step involves acknowledging the other person's feelings. Tom said that one way to do this is simply to tell the person that you can relate to how they feel. If it's true, you can even say you know how they feel. The precise phraseology will vary with the situation, the amount of time you have and the pre-existing relationship (if any) of the person you are talking to.
Arguing or challenging the person about their feelings is a definite no-no, and failing to respond at all is the surest way to end up in the poor house. Accepting the person's feelings, whatever they are, and acknowledging them with sincerity is the best way to go, says Tom. It establishes that you respect and value their feelings and opinions, and that your main purpose is to participate in a mutually beneficial relationship. Of course as you do this, you must also be processing a substantive response to their concerns.
Felt. Let the person know that you once felt the same way (or close to it) about similar products and services that were offered to you. Think about some time when someone wanted to influence you to make a purchase and you felt similarly to the person in front of you. Share that experience honestly and forthrightly. Allow the person to respond to you and ask questions.
Sharing an honest experience further establishes the relationship and reminds the person that you are often in their position. It creates a way for the person to relate to you as a human being and not just as someone trying to sell them something. As you describe how you felt when you were in their position, you can then let the person know what you did next.
- Found. Finally, let the person know that you did further investigation to find out whether your initial objections were sustainable. This reminds the person that, sometimes, initial reactions are just that: initial. It lets them know that it's OK to challenge your claims, and further, that it's OK to change their mind after further research. Even if this does not get you to “yes” at that moment, it certainly leaves the door open. In effect, it invites the person to think about your offer more. This helps the conversation continue even after the meeting ends.
Question: What do you think of Tom's steps? Are they an oversimplification? What do you do when a prospective customer's initial reaction is “no?”