When They Say NO!

Most salespeople will admit they don’t like hearing a “No” from prospects during the sales process. There is a small sting of rejection that is hard to accept with a lingering sense of discouragement. This is not uncommon and if you feel this way, you are not alone.


When you hear no, let me congratulate you on having the guts and courage to ask the questions to prompt a decision.  You didn’t accept a “Let me think about it ” or “I need to sleep on it” and let the prospect prolong the sales process by gumming up your pipeline with unqualified, unmotivated and uninterested prospects that waste your time with unrewarding follow-up activities.

Let’s break down the statement – When They Say No.

When They: Perhaps the timing is off.  Maybe they don’t have a current need.  They could be unqualified with no decision-making authority and no budget.  It is also possible they have some misconceptions or skeptical about the proposed outcome of your product or service, which may lead to some follow-up questions.  Lastly, they are no aware of the cost, consequences and risk of inaction.

Say No: Keep in mind they said no to the offering, not the person. Many years ago, when I was a server and I would “coffee my section,” which meant I would walk around asking customer if they wanted more coffee and some would say no. They weren’t saying no to me, as a person, rather the offering of more coffee.

What is the impact when someone tells us no? We may feel rejected, like a failure, with little self-worth. We may start to have self-doubt, a lack of confidence and even reconsider the profession of sales. After all, this is the most emotional, roller-coaster career one could pick.

If we have a problem with rejection and a high need for approval from prospects, (seeking prospects approval is one of the reasons salespeople fail, because they choose to be liked versus respected. They are more committed to relationship building than asking for the business by playing the role of a salesperson and earning their respect, because they don’t want to risk the relationship, and being liked) we should ask ourselves; “Whose approval do we seek?”

For me my answer lies in verse 118:8 from Psalms; “Better to seek refuge in the Lord, than trust in any man.” I want to live a life that is pleasing to God and put God above any prospect. This also helps keep me stay honest and ethical in my offerings.

When our prospects and customers say no, and we feel rejected, we make the assumption they know us, and they don’t. We are giving them power to approve or disapprove us. They didn’t ask for that power, but we give it to them, unsolicited. Keep asking. Most will say no, but the good ones will say YES!


Scott Plum is the President of the Minnesota Sales Institute. He delivers weekly sales training classes, on-site workshops, classes, seminars and sales management. Learn more at http://www.mnsales.com or call 612-789-5700 today..





  1. Thanks for the story to keep the “no” in perspective. I’ve been on the agency side for a few years now, after a long career on the corporate and nonprofit side. Business as usual on the agency/sales side involves significantly more rejections — even for a leader in our field. And I especially appreciate tying an internal response to your worldview — like you, I find my solace in my Christian faith. Whatever grounds you, that’s the internal conversation you need to focus on. I’ve even taken to writing some verses on my bulletin Board so I can’t forget in the heat of the moment.

  2. Sage advice, Scott, as per your usual. Never considered looking at Proverbs for Prospecting. Thanks for that timely insight.