04/16/2012 06:02 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2012

The Audacity of Nope: Why Hearing "No" Can Help Salespeople Get to "Yes"

You may often think, "How can I increase my number of face-to-face appointments when so many companies aren't buying right now?" The problem lies in the question itself. If you're scheduling an appointment just to sell something, you may have a tough time getting the appointment. If the perception of your prospect is that the very reason you're calling is to either sell them something over the phone, or schedule a meeting to sell them something, you'll likely hear things like "It's not in our budget," "We're not making any purchases now," "We don't have any money," "We're not in the market," and "Our budget has been frozen." In other words, you may be setting yourself up to hear "no." If, however, you position your introduction over the phone as an opportunity to meet in person so you can learn more about your prospect and their potential future needs, you may have better luck. After all, if your goal is simply to learn about the prospect, you may not have an opportunity to sell them anything at all, so there's less resistance to setting up a meeting.

If you still encounter "no" when asking for that first meeting to start the discovery, and potentially selling process, here are some tips to get the meeting anyway. First, if you have a good sense of humor, use it, and you'll be half way there. Making someone laugh breaks down the barrier between two otherwise strangers. If the response to your question in asking for a meeting is, for example, "We don't have any money," say "Neither do I, that's why I'm calling YOU!" Now of course, part of the humor in this is your delivery, so you may want to practice a few times before trying it live.

Another response to the all too common, "It's not in our budget" objection is "In that case, now is the perfect time to meet! We've found it very beneficial to discuss future needs and our solution early so that if you decide to proceed, we can be of help during your decision-making process." Notice I said, "If you decide to proceed" which implies that you're not going to shove the sale down their throat, but that the prospect will be making the decision to proceed or not.

It's also a good idea to present yourself as a resource to the prospect, regardless of whether they're in the market at the moment or not. Then, actually BE a resource for them, even if it means meeting several times, providing valuable information that will help them and offering advice in your area of expertise even if it's outside of the potential solution you may have to sell them.

Another good rule of thumb is to give something of value to your prospect three times before asking for anything in return, like an order. Providing something of value might mean something as simple as sending an email with an article relevant to a recent discussion the two of you had about their needs, or introducing your prospect to another member of your team or resource within your company who can provide expertise, such as an engineer or project manager. If you're genuinely interested in helping them with their plight, regardless of having the entire solution to sell yourself, your sincerity will become obvious to the prospect and it will only make sense they buy from you when they're ready to make a purchase. Also, the rule of reciprocity is at play here. It's human nature to give back to those who have helped us. By helping the prospect first, you set up the dynamic of the rule of reciprocity and they will be likely to reciprocate the favor you've done for them, by placing their order with you.

Once you're ready to close the sale, if budget is still an issue, you can discuss payment plans, leasing options, no money down, 90-day payment and other terms that may make your solution more appealing to your prospect. Your willingness to work with them and their budget will increase your chances of ultimately closing the sale. You can also reflect back with the prospect to your earlier discussions about what was important to them which will help build the value of your solution, framing the money issue more as an investment than as a cost.

Finally, sometimes the answer is "no," but you know what? That's okay too. Part of learning to love hearing "no" is knowing that it's only a matter of time before you hear the word "yes." The more "nos" you get, the closer you get to "yes."