Just say “No”

A sales person’s lamentYes-No-Maybe

What has happened to business in America? I never thought I’d be espousing Nancy Reagan’s philosophy, but business executives simply don’t say “No” anymore.

I first noticed this in the early 2000’s. I was selling an online solution for buying and selling films between the studios and movie theatre owners. Most of the people I met loved the solution (at least that’s what they said). I spent the better part of a year following up with the decision makers. Although they never bought a thing, they never said “No”.

Why? Why take calls from someone you’ll never buy from? Just say “No”. And watch how quickly the phone calls and emails stop.

And then there are the no shows. These “professionals” tell you to follow up because they’re interested in doing business with you. When you do, they ignore calls, emails and text messages. What is the point? Tell me “No”. Let me move on.

I heard a sales executive recently say that she doesn’t chase people that don’t want to be chased. I completely agree. I’ve learned to cut bait after exerting a reasonable amount of effort to get a response.

My hypothesis for business people not saying “No” is that they’ve never had to sell anything. I propose that every new hire, as part of their on-boarding process, be put in a sales environment to observe the frustration that comes from being told “Yes” or “Maybe” and then watching the sales rep be lead into the abyss of radio silence.

Radio silence is the most frustrating part of this new reality. Part of the problem is the sales rep’s fault. Sales reps need to secure a specific date and time for a follow up conversation. “I’ll call you next week” doesn’t cut it anymore. Closing for the next interaction has become an imperative if you don’t want to lose your buyer in the myriad emails and meetings they have to handle day to day.

If you’re reading this as a non-salesperson, please take heed. Give us reason and we will chase you.  If the answer is no, tell us.  We’ll all benefit from the communication.

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