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A “No” answer is better than no answer at all

I need closure. No matter what I’m doing or what happens in my life, I need to have closure with it. I hate loose ends. If something goes unfinished or there’s something that I need to know that would answer a particular challenge or goal I’m working on, then I get very uncomfortable. I feel empty, as if there’s a hole inside me that needs to be filled. If someone says they’ll call me, I expect them to call me, and soon too. If I have an argument with someone close to me, I need to get beyond it by settling the issue and making sure everyone involved is satisfied with the outcome. This even effects my driving. If I am given directions to go somewhere and I get lost or reach my destination another way by accident, that’s not enough for me. I still need to find out how to get there given the original directions. I know, this sounds pretty obsessive. But that’s just the way I am.

Imagine the effect this little personality trait has on a sales career. In sales, we are constantly faced with the dreaded “non-answer”. We all get delay tactics and brush-offs. We keep asking for the order and trying to get our prospects to make a decision, yet they give us no answer other than, “I have to think it over” or “We have to wait for the new budget cycle” or “Our new manager has to get settled into her new position before we can proceed with this.” For someone who needs closure, this can be very frustrating, and it is — believe me. In fact, I find this to be the most frustrating part of selling. Cold calling is a snap for me. Negotiating is a sport which I thoroughly enjoy. Asking questions and listening are equally enjoyable. Handling objections is something that I accept as a challenge that exercises my creative juices. But getting no answer at all is the one thing that stresses me; especially since it doesn’t give me closure.

It is much better to get an answer of “No” than to get no answer at all. When someone says “no” we at least know where we stand. We can either walk away or counter the “no” with methods that attempt to reverse the decision. At the end of the day if the prospect still says “no”, then we still know where we stand and can walk away. Either way, we get closure! So what are we supposed to do when we get no answer from a prospect about purchasing our wares? Do we keep trying forever to get an answer? Or, do we walk away immediately so as not to waste our time? This is a tough question. There’s a fine line between walking away too soon and hanging in there too long. If we walk away too soon, we could be missing out on an opportunity. If we stay too long, we could be wasting valuable time and resources. The simple answer is – It depends.

There are many ways to handle a prospect’s objections and stall tactics. However, assuming you’ve done all you reasonably can to address objections but you are now faced with the non-answer scenario, you need to decide how credible the delay really is. Have you already built a relationship with the prospect where you can trust him? Do you know enough about the opportunity, the people involved, the company, and more, to make an intelligent decision as to whether the non-answer is legitimate or not. How comfortable are you with the eventuality that the prospect will ever make a final decision of yes or no?

If you are uncomfortable, then you might want to check back a few times but, a) don’t hold your breath and, b) stop pursuing this opportunity after a few worthy attempts. In other words, give it the old college try then move on to more worthwhile endeavors. If you are comfortable that you know enough about the prospect’s situation and you have a bit of trust that the prospect isn’t just pulling your chain, then hanging in there might be worth your while. Of course, you need to keep assessing the situation since after a while you should be able to determine whether you’re truly getting the run-around or not.

Sometimes it’s difficult to walk away when someone keeps giving you no answer. You want to believe in the deal. You want to believe that they will get the budget approved, or the new manager will also want to purchase your product. You want to believe that the hard work you already exerted will pay off. However, these are all emotional rationalizations. You can’t let emotions come into play when it comes to selling, else you may be disappointed. If you look at the situation analytically, you’ll be making more intelligent business decisions. Let’s face it; no one wants to waste their time with someone who can’t give us a clear yes or no decision, in spite of how hard we tried to overcome all their objections. On the other hand, it’s fair to give someone the benefit of the doubt and be a little patient.

In a personal example, I was faced with the decision to patiently wait for a prospect to go through a myriad of delays; from management turnovers to networking infrastructure changes to their foreign headquarters making contrary decisions. I was close to completing this deal several times, but each time there was another reason to delay and many times when I got no answer at all, as if I were being ignored. Finally, after continuously and patiently following up, I won the deal, and it was a huge deal at that. By the way, it took me four years to close this deal. So there was a LOT of patience going on here. This is not an isolated case and I’m sure you may have several of your own similar stories. If you don’t, then use this one as proof that getting no answer doesn’t always mean “No”.