Sandler Training: Going for the “NO”

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Going for the “NO”

Grace is a new salesperson, recently hired by a major software firm. She’s three months into her first year on the job, and she’s in trouble. At the weekly sales meeting, Grace has plenty of “good discussions” to talk about. She’s very eager to share all those stories with her sales manager, Ben, and with the other members of the sales team. In fact, Grace looks at each sales meeting as an opportunity to prove just how good her discussions are with potential buyers. Yet her closing numbers are the lowest in the company, and she’s in real danger of losing her job. Ben recently had a meeting with her to discuss the best means of turning her situation around. “I really don’t know what the problem is,” Grace said at the beginning of their meeting. “You know that I’m having lots of really good conversations. I’m talking to as many promising leads as I can possibly track down.” Ben responded, “It seems to me like most of your efforts over the past few months have been devoted to identifying as many good relationships as you can. That’s not a bad approach, but for the next thirty days, I’d like you to try something different. I want you to try to disqualify as many people as you can. Over the next month, I need you to forget all about sharing how well things are going during our sales meetings. Instead, I want you to show me at least twenty new people a week who do not meet our criteria for an active prospect.” During that meeting, Ben asked Grace to change the way she looked at her job. He asked her to start “going for the ‘no’.”

The Art of Qualifying…and Disqualifying: Selling is what takes place when you lead the prospect through a step-by-step process, each step of which may lead to the prospect’s disqualification and removal from the process. If you do not disqualify the prospect opportunity, the sale moves forward and eventually culminates in the prospect making a buying decision. The more effort you put into qualifying an opportunity, the more quickly you can develop and close it if it measures up to your qualifying criteria…or move on to another opportunity if it doesn’t measure up. What information should you uncover?

• Concentrate first on the degree of fit between what you have to offer and the prospect’s problem, challenge, or goal. If the correlation is low, it’s probably best to look for another opportunity.

• Next, determine whether the prospect is willing and able to commit the necessary resources—time, money, manpower, or expertise, for example—to acquire and use the product or service you will eventually propose. If the answer is “no,” it’s likely time to move on or rethink your solution.

• Before you begin to work on presentations or proposals, you must also determine exactly how your offering will be judged—and by whom. Just as you are qualifying the opportunity, the prospect will eventually be qualifying your offer. Find out what you will have to show, tell, and demonstrate in order to reach the prospect’s benchmarks. If what is required for you to “measure up” is more than you can or are willing to provide, it’s definitely time to move on.

If a possible buyer fails any one of these three tests, that person is no longer a prospect. Move on to another opportunity, and consider this discovery a victory. You have successfully disqualified someone. Now you can spend your time identifying and working with a qualified prospect!

The Turnaround: By following her manager’s advice, and “going for the ‘no’,” Grace turned her performance pattern around … saved her job … and beat her quota for the year. It happened because she stopped trying to “convince” her prospects to buy her software, and in turn, convince her supervisor and peers how promising her conversations were … and started being more choosy about which opportunities got her time and which didn’t.

If you change your paradigm – by learning to go for the “no” instead of the “yes” – you can post similarly impressive results.


Sandler Training is a global training organization with over three decades of experience and proven results. Sandler provides sales and management training and consulting services for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as well as corporate training for Fortune 1000 companies.  For more information, please contact Karl Schaphorst at (402) 403-4334 or by email at kschaphorst@sandler.com.  You can also follow his blog at karlschaphorst.sandler.com