Getting to ‘no’ | Editor and publisher

Doug Lighthouses | for editor and editor

Sales may get a bad rap, but some sales fundamentals can be useful at all levels of an organization. In fact, I would argue that many of the fundamentals of selling are really just good management skills. And the higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more essential sales skills might be for you.

A long time ago, when I was leading a grassroots sales journey, I went into it with next to no sales skills. I had to learn quickly and luckily I had people around me who were generous enough to pass on some much needed sales wisdom. But of all the things I learned, the one I got the most out of (and still use to this day) was the importance of getting people to say “no”.

Obviously, this is counter-intuitive, especially from a sales perspective. But the answer is not always no, the important thing is to always point someone towards a clear and definitive answer. Instead of selling someone, you should feel that you are making their final decision easier by providing them with clear and relevant information. Otherwise, you’re leaving someone with a “maybe,” and it’s neither in your best interest nor in theirs.

From the perspective of the person you are selling to, a maybe is a waste of time. It’s time spent thinking, reading reviews, consulting a spouse – and it can always end in a no. And if you’re the seller, you have to go back to get a final answer and repeat your spiel one more time.

The real value of getting someone to say “no” is in the time you save. And I know you want every conversation to end in a sale, but no matter how much you believe in your product, it just won’t be for everyone. And the more time you waste trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to buy, the less time you’ll have giving information to a customer who might actually buy.

So what does this have to do with management?

By following the rules above, a good salesperson can assess what information a person needs to make a decision and then provide it. Coincidentally, the management is essentially the same – making sure people have the correct information to make good decisions. And in a corporate setting, being able to help people make informed, quick choices can save you and your organization a lot of time that could be spent on achieving your goals.

With that in mind, I have some sales tips that also contribute to good management practices. Some of them seem a bit goofy, but the reason it made it to this list is because I still use it regularly all these years later.

A common sales tactic is to ask “this or that?” Instead of asking them if they want to buy, you ask them if they want red or blue. “Do you want to buy” means a difficult choice, but choosing between red or blue is much easier.

But offering an easier choice doesn’t just apply to sales – I use it all the time to set up meetings. For example, instead of asking “What time suits you”, I will ask, “Is time X or time Y best for you?” Much like asking a potential customer to say no, it’s the fastest way to get a clear, definitive answer from someone in your organization.

Another valuable skill I learned during my time in sales was to ask the small question instead of the big one. If you’re trying to get a signature on a big contract or get final approval from your boss on something, don’t keep reminding them that you’re waiting for a decision. Instead, ask a short question that’s easier to answer.

For example, instead of asking for final approval of a project, ask, “That thing in paragraph three, does that sound right to you?” Is there anything else that is problematic? If they say no, then congratulations, you just got the answer you’ve been waiting for – hand it over for their signature.

Another strategy for getting a decision is to ask what the decision maker would change. Instead of asking for a final decision, by asking for their thoughts, you make it their responsibility instead of yours. If they make a change, it’s an intellectual investment, and you can consider them sold.

Some of them may seem sneaky or dishonest, but those are just skills. And they can help you distill critical information, make sure it’s understood, and make a decision as quickly as possible. Life, sales, and business are all about making decisions, and the faster you can get someone to make a choice, the more effective and efficient you will be.

Doug Phares is the former CEO of Sandusky News Group. He is currently Managing Director of Silverwind Enterprises, which owns and provides management services to small businesses. He can be contacted at [email protected]