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“No” – the Black Sheep of Sales and Marketing

 “The answer’s yes. What’s the question?”

Anyone with a child of the age of 2-3 will be acutely aware of the power of saying No – and of having “No” said to you.

But in sales and marketing, we hate saying No.

It feels negative.

It feels like we’re shutting the door on the customer.

And after all, the customer is always right.

We’re in the Yes business.

Well, I’m here to help you break the rules.

Be confident – and say No.

Saying “no”

saying no media interview training scotland pink elephant communications trainers.

We dealt with a number of widely-varying clients this week, helping them to shape their key messages, whether preparing them to speak to Scotland’s media or present their business in a more positive light.

A common theme emerged – an unwillingness to say one of the most powerful words in the English language: “no”.

Consider the following situations:

  1. A loyal customer phones you and asks for a freebie. What’s your answer?
  2. Your colleague asks if you can deliver their presentation to the Board today – they don’t quite feel up to coming in today. What’s your answer?
  3. A local charity you supported last year phones you to see if you’ll give up your time again this year – but you’ve already committed to an evening out with friends. What’s your answer?

In each situation, we feel torn.

We want to please our customers, our colleagues, our partners – and our friends.

We fear saying No – and so we respond something like this:

“I would love to help you out and I’m certainly keen to be as flexible as I can to help you in your situation but…”

Well, I’m offering you the chance save time and save face by starting with a simple word: No.

Of course, you have to move on quickly, justify your response and move your buyer towards an action.

saying no media interview training scotland alan douglas.

Let’s take the charity example:


“I take it you’d be free again this year? You helped make such a huge difference last year”.


“No, I’ve really given up after-dinner events to spend more time with my family, but I’d be happy to recommend others who may be interested”.

Or consider your customer asking for a freebie:


“I’m considering buying several of your products so could you please arrange for one to be sent free of charge to my business address?”


“No, we’re unable to send a product free of charge as it’s a high-value item, but I’d be happy to meet with you to demonstrate the product to you”.

It’s very simple, it’s very positive – and it all starts with the word “No”.

As a buyer, we’re often simply looking for certainty – and that certainty comes in the form of a Direct Answer: “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know” or “it’s too early to say”.

Direct Answers – of which No is one – help you to control the agenda of your conversation. They create that certainty, help you getting controlled by your customers – and everybody knows where they stand.

So next time, stay positive, stay focused, stay confident, say No.

Andrew McFarlan is a Director of Glasgow-based media training and presentation skills firm Pink Elephant Communications.

You can view his full profile here.

Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis) 80M Views via / CC BY-SA

1st March 2015 Featured in: Blog By:

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