| Jun 7, 2021

How To Deal With “No” in Negotiations and Sales

You're bound to hear "no" in business. Here's how to overcome that.
Hands yes no scaled

Unavoidably in business, there are going to be times when customers, investors, or others tell you “No”. Many might hear this and just accept it and move on, assuming that it’s better to find the people who are really interested. But seasoned pros don’t initially take no for an answer. They know that they just have to respond well to the “no” to turn it into a “yes” or “tell me more”. So, let’s break down some of the techniques they use to do just that.

Ask more questions

Nobody ever has all the information in the world, and we’ve all got our biases. Plus, it’s normal for people to be a little wary of those they don’t really know and to hold back because of it. Asking questions of your prospect can break down their defensive barriers and get them to tell you the real reason for the “no”. It can help you get past your assumptions to see the potential customer well, which you need to do to show them empathy and build trust.

There are a few ways to approach your questions, as FBI negotiation expert Chris Voss points out. For example, you could focus on the emotions you’re perceiving from them, such as “Am I right in that you’re feeling a little uneasy about…?” You could also delve deeper for what’s going to satisfy them, such as “What would you need to sign up?” Or you can try to get them to identify exactly what’s going wrong so you can fix or talk about it, such as “What about this model doesn’t work for you?” Lastly, ask related questions that show you’re interested in them more broadly, such as “Wow, you hiked Park X? Did your whole family go?”

If you’re a great active listener during this process, then you’ll be able to analyze their fears and get more specific about how and what you’re offering can benefit them.


In some situations, “no” doesn’t sound like “no”. Instead, prospects say no by handing you predictable reasons for leaving, such as needing to think about it.

Get out ahead of these common excuses to eliminate them. For instance, reassure them that they have time to think about it — and that it’s totally fine to do that — before they even say that they have to. Then ask if you can follow up with them in a few days. Or if they talk about their partner, then offer to hop on a call with them both later, so it’s a decision they can make together, or give them extra copies of your materials. The more you anticipate like this and are prepared to be genuinely helpful and accommodating, the less pressured they’ll feel. They’ll see that you really care and become more likely to commit as a result.


Have great alternatives

Most companies have a flagship product or service that they really want to campaign for at some point. But you don’t have to have people buy that product or service immediately. Sometimes you can bring them into your fold with something else, such as selling bookmarks for $5 when the real item you’re promoting is a novel for $15. This is known as a downsell.

The point with a downsell isn’t to settle. It’s to play the long game. They might not buy your main service or product right now, but it gives you a chance to get acquainted with each other and build some trust. As they use that product or service, you stay in their memory. Once they’ve purchased something smaller, they often feel better about spending more for other things.

So, come up with something less intense that even your toughest prospects can afford or probably would want to take home. Their previous interaction/buy, however small, is the perfect excuse to check in and repeat the bigger offer or to make totally new ones. Because it takes more effort and resources to keep finding new prospects, it’s worth it to take this time to build a long-term, loyal relationship that yields more purchases over time.

The “no” will come, so be ready to respond

When you’re promoting or selling for your business, it’s not if you’ll get a “no,” but when. So, it’s critical to know exactly what to do when that “no” hits you. Asking questions, anticipating excuses with real helpfulness, and downselling are all legitimate ways to flip the “No!” around to either a “Yes!” or keep the conversation going. Use all of these strategies as you build your client relationships to see more long-term selling success.

Dr. Steven Ghim
Executive Author

Cosmetic Dentist, Dr. Steven Ghim Charlotte Dentist

Dr. Steven Ghim is a cosmetic dentist who also provides general and comprehensive dental care. view profile


Related Posts