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Sales Tips: Avoid hearing “NO” – How to ask key questions By Steve Richard


On the meeting scheduling team, we believe in the power of doing research before speaking with a targeted prospect. We read media articles, we ask probing questions to members of the executive’s team, and we review industry databases and LinkedIn profiles to gain an understanding to whom the best person to speak with will be. The amount of preparation we do before speaking to a prospect is one of the reasons why our team is so successful. The 3×3 research—three important talking points—is used to establish credibility with executives, probe into specific responsibilities and projects, and often allows us to identify needs.

I recently listened to an interview with Cordia Harrington, the founder of Tennessee Bun Co., and was struck by her attitude of strategic persistence. This single mom of three boys started her career about 20 years ago with less than $600. Today, her company is worth $60 million and is one of the largest suppliers to McDonald’s in the southeast.  It has been a few days since I’ve listened to the interview with Cordia, but her motto has continued to stick with me, “If you get a no, you just haven’t asked the right question to the right person.”

There are a few types of no’s that can be easily converted into win’s with some investigation and effective questioning.

1. We simply haven’t found the right person. This type of no is more of a steppingstone, instead of a roadblock. By receiving a referral, we gain a useful tool to use in the introduction with the correct executive.

2. After a conversation, an executive gives a “soft no” and would like to review some information before taking the next step. Even after explaining the value proposition and related the conversation to the interests of this particular executive, sometimes this can’t be avoided. Because of an exhausting project this week, the executive would prefer to move forward when current projects slow down or budgets open up. However, to avoid this delay, our team asks open-ended questions.  We ask questions about the executive’s current initiatives or plan for existing problems.

3. We have worked with X company for this type of thing in the past and are all set now. I particularly enjoy receiving this type of objection because it provides an open window to explain what makes us different in the market place. With the correct preparation, this “no” should be easy to get past.
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Professional sales trainer and coach Steve Richard is Co-Founder and Head Sales Trainer at Vorsight, a leading sales training firm based in Arlington, Virginia. Vorsight focuses on the first half of the sales cycle, providing tactical approaches that help B2B sales teams generate more opportunities and “get in the door.” Learn more at www.vorsight.com.