Salespeople are taught to be persistent. Persistence is considered an asset. On the other hand, salespeople are human, and when a prospect says “no” — to a meeting or demo, or to the sale itself — we may be tempted to give up. Should you be a more persistent seller?

Though it may be a natural reaction, it isn’t necessarily the right one when it comes to selling complex solutions. In fact, behavioral research highlighted by our microlearning experts indicates that you shouldn’t always accept a sales prospect’s initial refusal.

The Research Results
This experimental research took place at Stanford University. The idea of the study was to determine how likely people are to say “yes” to a second request after they’ve said “no” to a first.

The results were surprising. Those who said “no” to a first request were not predisposed to say “no” to a follow-up request.

The Explanation
According to the study, when you persist, people are just as likely to say “yes” as “no” because of a powerful psychological effect that makes it hard for people to be negative all the time. Most of us simply are not comfortable being perceived as somebody who always says no.

The Stanford experiment also turned up another fascinating effect in the mind of the person seeking the favor, i.e., the seller. The data showed that requesters were 37% more likely to expect a second “no” than potential helpers were to say it. In other words, for most salespeople, the fear of a second “no” is irrationally high.

So, the research shows that prospects who initially say “no” may say “yes” on a second effort simply because repeatedly shutting the door in your face makes them feel bad.

How to Increase Your Chance of Turning a “No” to a “Yes” 
Here’s a three-step approach from our business sales training series outlining how to be a more persistent seller without annoying your clients.

  1. Empathize
    It all starts by being buyer-centric and putting yourself in your client’s shoes. As gracefully as possibly, acknowledge their discomfort about saying “no.”

    For example, “I understand that you’re busy and didn’t see the value when I last reached out; I appreciate you taking this call.”

  2. Ask an Unexpected Question that Shows You’ve Done Your Homework
    Asking an insightful, relevant, and timely question takes the prospect away from the “still-not-interested” script they likely have mapped out in their mind. Instead of talking about yourself and your product, you’re making them consider something important to them.

    This takes time, experience, and good pre-call sales planning.

    For example, “Based on the data I’ve seen and other clients in your industry, I’d guess you’re looking at a 15% hike in production costs next year. How have you prepared for that?”

  3. Reinforce the Unique Benefit You Offer and Request Next Steps
    Assuming that you are speaking with someone who fits your ideal target client profile, now is the time to highlight your unique value proposition that sets you apart from the pack.

    For example, “We’ve done a lot of work with companies facing pressures associated with rapid growth. We’d love to share our recent research about how to maximize growth without diluting your unique culture.  Can we talk Thursday at 2:00?”

Using this framework, you increase the likelihood that the “yes” you earned through persistence will actually turn into meaningful work. Be a more persistent seller according to a wise strategic plan.

The Bottom Line
There’s a fine line between persistence and annoying pursuit. Don’t be discouraged too early in the sales process. Prospects are as disposed to say “yes” as they are to say “no.” Use the 3 research-backed steps above to guide you past the first “no” and test whether the opportunity can be re-opened. You may be surprised at how often the second-but-gentle approach will result in a positive response.

To learn more about how to win more business, download The Top 30 Most Effective Sales Questions in the Eyes of Your Buyers

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