In a previous blog post I alluded to the possible list of adjectives you might associate with sales, and the fact that few would be complimentary! I wanted to look at why we have such bad feelings about sales and selling and I think that much of the disconnect between buyers and sellers comes down to one simple thing – the little practised art of saying no!

Imagine you have just entered a car showroom, you want to buy a car and are looking at the big shiny red one in the middle of the showroom. You’re just looking, but in the mind of the sales person you are “showing interest” which in their mind gives them a reason to approach and enter into conversation.

The good ones will ask you questions aimed at helping you to buy the right car. The really good ones will ask you questions aimed at working out whether you are actually likely to buy a car, followed by questions aimed at helping you buy the right car. The bad ones will probably start spewing forth every last statistic about the car in question to the point where you consider doing them physical harm. Either way you engage with them and continue to “show interest”.

At this point, you are going to do one of two things, buy the car or not buy the car. If you are going to buy the car, you tell the salesperson and then spend an agonising two hours doing “the paperwork”. If you are not going to buy the car, you might say no. Odds are, you will probably mumble something about thinking it over, give your contact details when asked and head for the door with absolutely no intention of coming back! Whether it’s some primal fear that the salesperson is so damned good they will make you change your mind, simply that you don’t really want to offend, or some other reason, it is incredibly unlikely that you will say no!

The following week you see a number you don’t recognise, you push the call to voicemail and discover it’s the salesperson from the car showroom asking if you have thought it over. You mutter something about annoying salespeople and then get on with your day. Over the next month you get 6 similar messages – you get increasingly annoyed and eventually call the showroom and demand that they stop calling you!

Familiar – yes, annoying – yes. But here’s the rub – you have no one to blame but yourself! It’s your fault because despite the fact you have had numerous chances to say no, you have not taken any of them. You have simply hoped they would get bored and go away. Social convention dictates that saying no to someone is rude or might hurt their feelings and it’s far easier to ignore them.

A lot of “average” salespeople hate it when you say no, for them a no is final whereas a maybe is a ray of hope, something they can add to their sales pipeline and tell their boss about for the next six weeks. For a professional salesperson, a no is disappointing, but it allows us to move on to the next customer. We don’t have to waste hours chasing the maybes, the think-it-overs and the I’ll-get-back-to-yous and we can concentrate on the yesses and the future yesses.

No matter what you might be thinking of buying, be it cars, houses, widgets or gizmos – you probably know whether you are going to buy it fairly quickly. If it’s a decision that requires you to talk to someone else, you will still make a decision soon afterwards. So do yourself (and your salesperson) a favour and learn the art of saying no – in the long run it will save you a lot of bothersome calls and despite the initial disappointment, your salesperson will be grateful!