We’ve all heard the dreaded 'no' and 'not now' at many points in the sales process. It still activates the old primitive part of our brain that makes rejection feel like we’re being kicked out of the tribe, a threat to our survival that triggers a visceral reaction. The good news is, we can override this kneejerk negative response by implementing an action plan that turns a rejection into an opportunity - or, at least a valuable learning experience.
1. Ways To Turn 'No' Into An Opportunity Down The Road
After a prospect says no, gracefully accept: this is their position for the time being. Politely ask permission to touch base with them a few weeks or months from now, depending on buyer cycle length. Most prospects say yes and once they’ve made that commitment, they are much more likely to open your email or take your call when you follow up down the road.
This is according to the psychological principle of consistency wherein humans prefer to remain congruent with their past behaviors and statements.
During those weeks or months, subscribe to events from their industry. Simply Google search keywords related to their industry.
For example, let’s say your prospect’s company manufactures drones. A keyword you can use is 'drone maker.' Toggle to the News tab on Google’s topbar:
Scroll all the way down to the bottom of results until you see this:
Click the ‘Create alert’ button, which will take you to a page to confirm you want email updates when new articles are published about this keyword. Then you can set up a filter in your email to send all news about this industry to one folder which you can check up once in a while.
When it comes time to follow up, you can say something like:
How’s the double-layer-longjohn weather been treating you? Last we spoke, you wanted me to circle back in August.
How’s the dev for the drone kit for hobbyists coming along? I read that China built a drone that can fly humans (so like a mini helicopter then?)
The goal of this email is simply to reopen the conversation. Keep it lighthearted and make it all about them. Don’t mention anything about you or your product yet. Ask them about something their company was working on the last time you spoke with them.
2. Ask Them For A Referral To A Company Who May Benefit From Your Product
If the reason for their rejection is something that will not likely change in the future such as they have a long-term contract with another company, ask them if they know of any other companies who may benefit from your product.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss how you may benefit from prying open the black box of social media ROI.
While you’re planning your new social media strategy, do you know of any other companies who would benefit from Google Analytics level comprehensive reporting on their social media metrics + ROI?
Thank you so much!
Thank your prospect for the opportunity to talk with them, framing it as a way they learned more about how to improve a specific area of their business.
Ask them if they know any companies who would benefit from your product by reiterating its biggest benefit.
3. Are You Sure You Have Been Rejected?
Before you droop your shoulders and let out an exasperated sigh, are you sure you even received a definitive ‘no?' A lot of salespeople equate a no response with ‘no I’m not interested' when it could just mean you need to follow up to put yourself back on their radar.
According to Yesware’s 2014 study, 70% of salespeople don’t follow up after not getting a response to their first sales emails even though the salespeople who persisted have gotten a response as far in as the 6th or 7th follow up!
Think of super busy people’s inboxes as a social media feed. Do you remember something someone tweeted an hour ago? A few hours ago? Even if it was interesting? Probably not. Same goes for your prospect.
That’s why you have to keep trying until you catch them at a time when your prospect either has the time to respond to your email or has seen it enough times to finally deem it necessary to respond to it.
So how do you make sure you actually remember to follow up? What you can do is install Yesware for Gmail and set up a follow up reminder when you send the first email:
On the day that you scheduled Yesware to remind you, it will return the email to the top of your inbox:
You can also use several tools to set up a follow up email sequence that is automatically sent on a preset schedule if your prospect doesn’t respond.
How they work is:
- You pre-write the content for a few follow up emails
- You set it up in your follow up automator tool, setting the time interval between each follow up
- If the tool detects that your email did not receive a response, it will send the next email in the sequence. If it detects your prospect did respond, it stops sending the rest of the sequence.
Here’s how the follow up sequence looks like in Outreach.io:
The advantage of automating your follow up outreach is, you will never get too busy or forget to follow up again.
Here’s an approach you can use for each follow up email without repeating yourself or annoying your prospect:
1st follow up: Explain another major benefit you offer and ask again to set up a call time
2nd follow up: Pick my brain session - offer them a free 15-min consultation where they can ask you any questions they want related to your field of expertise
4. Turn Getting Rejected Into A Valuable Learning Experience
If you do get a ‘no’ further down in the sales process, make sure you drill down to the core of their objection:
- Is there a mismatch between their needs and what your product offers?
- Do they not have the budget?
- Is your product lacking something important that a comparable one offers?
When getting rejected, it’s very common for a prospect to give you an excuse why to avoid hurting your feelings. It’s important to dig deeper to understand the real reason.
For example, they use price as the reason, ask:
'Moving budget out of the equation for a second, is my product and a similar product about the same for you? We are continually improving the results our product delivers for our customers so we take every feedback to heart.'
If they say yes:
If you believe there is a major differentiating factor between your product and a similar one, then you did not communicate it clearly enough to the prospect.
If they say no:
There’s a chance a few of your products important features aren’t distinguished enough from a similar product’s. Probe a little more to see what features your prospect would really like to see and report the feedback back to your product team.
A lack of product fit can also happen if you are not targeting companies who have the exact problems your product can fix. Relay to your lead generation team what questions your prospects raised about product features to review the criteria you are using to qualify each prospect.
- A rejection does not mean ‘no, never.' You can still continue to provide value to this prospect once in a while to stay on their radar so that should their company circumstances change, you are still on their mind.
- Even if this prospect turned out to be a dead end, they may know another company who would be a better fit for your product
- Many salespeople equate no response to rejection when it may just mean they need to follow up! The trick is to set up a follow up reminder or to pre-write the follow ups in advance so when the time comes to do it, you aren’t a) too busy to b) too discouraged by the no response to or c) simply forget to.
- Turn the rejection into a learning experience by drilling down to the real reason why your prospect didn’t buy. Find out if the cause is really a situation on their side or if it’s an issue on your side (lack of product fit or wrong targeting criteria for prospects).
Sapph Li is a B2B copywriter who runs prospecting campaigns. You can find her sales email templates at Art of Emails.
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