Better Persuasion Through Acceptance
I was at a sales seminar about a year ago, when I heard a piece of advice so stereotypically salesy that I nearly did a spit-take: “you can’t be willing to take ‘no’ for an answer”. Sure it was actually not that candidly said, but distilled down, that was clearly the message being conveyed. I felt like I was being coached by Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia.
Now, I’ve only done sales for a few years, at a few companies, but I just don’t buy this approach. I think not only should you be willing to take “no” for answer, but you should actually take that approach even further. You should accept the “no” and take advantage of it as an opportunity to teach you something about your approach, about the thing you’re selling, and about the market.
By the way, this doesn’t just apply to selling products or services for money. It applies to anything that you’re trying to convince someone of — any kind of persuasion. It’s easy advice to generalize: if you don’t hear the refusals you encounter loud and clear, you miss a great opportunity for growth — both personally and professionally.
How Did I Fall Short in Selling?
You’re not perfect. Neither am I. You should already know that. Somehow, though, when we get caught up in that quixotic quest to drive to drive growth in our business or product, we suspend that particular belief while we persist beyond the point of reason to just sell, damn it!
Doing that, however, has two unsavory effects. First, it can land a lot of customers who are not a great fit — ones who are skeptical and who may end up dropping whatever you’re selling like a bad habit very quickly or just never really appreciating what you’ve sold them.
Second, it can keep you from understanding what you might need to change about your approach. You can fail to learn things that could make otherwise skeptical customers actually be on your side.
I won’t be the first (or last) writer on this topic to quote Simon Sinek, who said: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
I’ve found this to be true for the customers who stick with you. If they have truly bought in, you won’t have to constantly work to keep them. Meanwhile, customers who you roped in with the same old process will be looking for any reason to jump ship, or just never really be engaged.