How to Get Past No

No Excuses

Years ago, I worked for a direct marketing company that sold cutlery.

Although I saw many salespeople come and go during my 2+ years working there, most of whom didn’t make any money, I was able to find a way to be successful in this odd niche. I sold nearly $25,000 worth of the stuff.

I wasn’t a natural salesman, and I didn’t use any secret tactics, but I did learn a few things about how to get past no. And some of them can help you take your online business from failure to success.

The natural reaction when you hear a no is to politely oblige and then walk away. No one likes to be confrontational. But if I had accepted a no every time I heard it, I probably would have let 50-75% of those sales slip away, and would have lost many satisfied customers in the process.

It’s About Overcoming Objections

What I learned was how to identify and overcome objections, which in turn taught me that sometimes no doesn’t really mean no. Many times, a customer simply wants you to help them make a decision by answering their questions before they pull out the credit card.

Their first instinct says no, but what they really want is for you to convince them to say yes.

Maybe their budget is tight and they just want to be cautious. Maybe they don’t understand your product and want you to explain it to them.

There are a hundred different reasons why people might initially say no to you. Your job is not to shrug and walk away, but to get to the truth behind the no and find out how you can really meet their needs.

Online, it’s your copy that must do the job of getting past no by knocking down every objection.

Here are some simple tips for getting past no online:

  • Break the ice with a cheaper version of your product as a lower-risk purchase. They’ll get to know a little bit more about you and will feel better about buying more in the future. Even making a tiny purchase, say a $7 special report, makes it much more likely for that customer to buy from you again.
  • If your product is expensive, offer a payment plan. $39.99/month for three months looks much cheaper than $119.97. Any good shopping cart program can handle this for you.
  • On your landing page, go ahead and confront the most prevalent objections head on. Don’t be afraid to mention them . . . your customer has been thinking about them from the moment they clicked on your link.
  • In addition to your sales page copy, use additional tools like case studies, FAQs and testimonials to address objections in an “under-the-radar” way.
  • Make the offer too good to refuse. Billy Mays did it by tripling the offer. Our cutlery company did it by offering a forever guarantee. Some marketers pay people just for trying their product. Regardless of how you do it, find a way to make your offer remarkable.
  • If the customer doesn’t buy, give her the opportunity to sign up for terrific free content by email. (Remember that this type of email content needs to be highly beneficial to the reader, not just a thinly-disguised sales pitch.) This kind of “last chance” offer is a good way to use an exit pop-up window from your sales page.

Triggering the Buying Response

The simple reality is that we all have different buttons that need to be pushed before we buy. When I walk around a store for an hour trying to make a decision, it isn’t because I don’t want the product. I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t.

Instead, I’m secretly trying to find a reason to help me feel good about pulling the trigger. Buying releases endorphins . . . it feels good.

Still, we’ve all learned from bad buying experiences that have left us feeling empty after the initial high wears off. This is where the job of the sales person becomes increasingly important.

You need to not only help your customers understand and appreciate the need for your product, but you need to make them feel good about buying it. This starts from the initial pitch and should continue even after the purchase.

Don’t be pushy, but don’t be afraid to explore what reasons stand in the way of a sale. Have the confidence to stand behind your product when you know that a customer could benefit from it. Even if they ultimately still say no, at least you’ve been given the insight of another objection to tackle down the road. Marketing is a learning process, but you can’t sell yourself short.

And giving up at the first sign of no is doing just that.

About the Author: Nathan Hangen is a webrepreneur, social media consultant, and triathlete. You can read more at the Webrepreneur Blog or by following him on Twitter.

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  1. I think a great deal of the “No” that potential customers might have stems from fear.

    Fear of buying something they don’t need and then being stuck with it (while being less richer). Fear of buying something too complex that they won’t be able to use and look silly in front of their spouse. Fear of paying hard-won money for something that looks good but ends up being crap when they finally bring it home. Fear of buying something they really want and then having all their friends laugh because it isn’t “in”.

    People don’t make decisions based on logic. “I’m not interested because I don’t need it.” They make decisions based on emotions. “I’m not interested because I really think if I give you my money I won’t have enough to buy that Taylor-made guitar I finally saved up enough to get.”

    Find the fear, and there’s the reason for no. Think about how you can turn that fear into confidence.

    “Yeah, but if you buy my ebook on guitar playing, you’ll be able to practice now and sound like a REAL rockstar when you do get the Taylor…”

  2. James,

    Although I agree with you that some customers buy or don’t buy based on fear, I don’t think that is the case with all of them. At least in my experience.

    Some customers are very detail oriented, while some know exactly what they want.

    However, you are correct that pushing certain buttons can trigger that positive emotion that leads them to buying something at that moment.

  3. Oooh… Gimme an example? I want to see what you’d consider “not the case.” Play? :)

  4. I totally agree that you must understand the reasons behind the no. Never assume that you are not offering a beneficial product, but do assume that s/he doesn’t know what the benefit is.

  5. I have a set of Cutco knives and love em! :)

  6. Well, let’s use an example of an online customer that is looking to buy web copy for their new product. Most people new to hiring people like this, will probably not spend the money due to fear. However, those that have been around the block know how to analyze numbers and make an information based decision. “I’m going to buy from copywriter A because his conversion rates are tested and are higher than copywriter B’s.

    Alternatively, if a product’s reputation preceeds the salesman/woman or copy, a customer might just be waiting to hear your pitch to re-affirm their “pre-decision” to buy.

    Your turn :)

  7. @Brian are you referring to my (new) last name? ha, i’m bummed i don’t have any of these awesome ‘cutco’ knives;-) would you like me to tell you the benefits of these carving, dicing, slicing gems, though?

  8. Having worked in the fitness industry for 10 years , I’ve heard avy possible excuse. The art “how to overcome objections” is the “must” for anybody involved in any type of business (on and off line). But therea thin line between “overcoming” and being pushy. I actually had lots of customers runnning away from me.

  9. I’m pretty sure I worked for that same cutlery company years ago…also had some success :)

  10. @ Nathan – Well, in the case you just mentioned, there is no “No” to overcome. The client is already in “Yes” mode – he or she is already going to buy the product.

    The question is, from you or someone else? Which therefore points to a fear of making the right choice, choosing the best provider or wondering if the person’s skills are up to par.

    No?

  11. Touche :)…but some people still want to be pushed over the edge. I guess I just tend to think of it more as “needing reassurance” than overcoming fear. Still, I think we are essentially talking about the same thing.

  12. @ Nathan – Ahh, everyone likes reassurance. I’ll agree with you on that one.

    Good post, btw!

  13. Nathan Hangen :

    Thanks James, and thanks for bringing some great analysis to the table as well.

    If I remember correctly, we’ve had quite a few discussions on your site about a certain IM product that essentially, teaches people to overcome fears. Fun times :)

  14. Good discussion building post Nathan.

    Fear is one of 28 emotions that can arise during a sale.

    Take the fear, relate it to a product benefit, and relate that benefit to an emotional benefit that nulls the initial fear; the nos should go bye-bye.

  15. I wonder how many past Cutco/Vector reps are now online entrepreneurs. (125k career sales here. :) )

    Excellent job tying together the lessons from direct sales with good copywriting principles.

  16. I too once was involved in a direct selling endeavor and tell you what… I too learned a great deal during my short stint doing that.

    You are absolutely right in saying that an icebreaker is great to have the customer say so.. for example giving free ebooks can be a great ice breaker for the online community that thinks more while doing purchases online compared to doing so while off line.

    Great content .. thanks.

  17. I sold Cutco for a few months in college, and it taught me a lot about how people make buying decisions. One of the things that stuck with me was the importance of the demonstration – giving customers a chance to try out the product before committing. In a lot of cases, I knew I’d made the sale as soon as the customer (1) used one of their knives to cut something, and then (2) used my sample knife to cut the same thing. Their eyes lit up when they experienced the difference.

    It’s easier to do a demo with a physical product than with a service, of course. But I still think the best pitches offer prospects the chance to see and experience what they’ll get if they make the purchase (e.g., sample lessons for online courses; demo video for web apps; etc.).

  18. Nathan Hangen :

    Wow, tons of Cutco pitchmen/women popping up :)

    And I tried to keep the product name quiet! ;)

    I definitely enjoyed my time there and think it instilled a great sense of discipline, while also being a great educational experience.

  19. Nathan, you may have sold more knives than Traci and Mike, but they use Thesis! ;)

  20. I am the product of IBM’s sales training many moons ago and much time was spent on handling objections; getting past no. You have it right when you talk about providing information right up front (and plenty of it) that relates to people’s primary objections. But there is a “but.” Nathan, there was a line you didn’t want to cross back when we both were peddlers. The more calls you and I made, the more we knew where that line was: when handling objections turned into pushing people away. Online, that line has moved. A lot. As marketers our job is still to get past no, but we need to do it with much more finesse and respect. Said another way, it’s a lot easier to click off a page than kick you out of an office or home. Trust me on this people, I’ve experienced my share of both. :)

  21. Nathan Hangen :

    Hamilton – Great point and you are absolutely correct. Fine and delicate balance there.

    Shane – Have it, just haven’t put it to use yet!

  22. I agree that you shouldn’t let the first no stop your efforts. However there is fine line between trying to figure out the fear behind the no and annoying and frustrating your potential customer. I get so annoyed when speaking with a sales person who, after I’ve said no and explained my reasoning, keeps pushing and pushing. Not only do I leave with a bad taste in my mouth from the sales person, but also for the company they represent.

  23. My secret weapon in job interviews has always been to close with the question: “What concerns about my candidacy do you have?”, which is a head-on way of finding out, and overcoming, the interviewer’s objections.

    A similar question is useful when you’re selling services, perhaps less so in retail. But it works so often because people tend to answer a direct question with a direct answer. In the case of job interviews, they may not be interested in you at all, but you’ll at least find out (1) that you’re not going to get another interview before you waste time sitting by the phone and (2) why you’re not getting it, which can help you make adjustments for the future.

    If they are interested in you, you get the opportunity to address any lingering doubts directly–and to demonstrate your level of self-awareness.

    They key to success with that question, and in the situations you describe, however, is figuring out well in advance all the things someone could find objectionable in the first place–and having a legitimate and defensible answer, or alternative offer.

  24. I like that, Tamsen, that’s smart. And it shows a lot of confidence and independent thinking as well, IMO.

  25. I think this also has to do with building some trust. By making the appropriate rebuttals, the fear factor lowers a bit and the customer feels a little better. With the demo Traci mentioned, it builds even more trust cause the customer himself sees what a product has to offer, sometimes even experience it firsthand.

  26. What really nailed it here was knocking down objections. It’s everyone’s first reaction to avoid them and tout the benefits. But while you might start with a benefit headline, you do need to hit the objections head on right from the get-go.

  27. @Tamsen: I very much like the idea of asking an interviewer what reservations s/he may have; however, I wonder if this approach is a bit idealistic? Have you found that you secure the job more easily this way?

    From my experience, interviews limit freedom. Why? I think the interviewer tests to see if the candidate can exhibit power within the limited parameters of that current relationship. This being: you are the the one being judged and s/he is the judge.

  28. Overcoming objection is quite a difficult task but once you did; it feels weird but fun. To have a sale, you shouldn’t be hindered by NO answer, indeed. Instead you should dig deeper and ask qualifying questions. Make the client think that your product is essential and worth buying. Present the benefits and advantages and also answer questions. Listen to the customer and of course for the buying signal. Once you had it, don’t let it go.

  29. We hear more ‘Nos’ in life than ‘Ayes’. It is true that in real life, a No does not really have to mean No. Translating the No into Aye is the magic under wraps.

  30. Great post, Nathan. I love your “walking around the store” story. I worked for a home improvement retailer in college. We drove sales through the roof when we asked, “What project are you working on today?” Customers wanted to be reassured they were making the right purchase (overcoming objections) …and could be convinced to buy two sizes of the same item with the knowledge they could return the item that did not fit under our refund policy (removal of risk).

    Line those objections up and knock ‘em down.

  31. Love this post as you provide information that we all could do with knowing. It is important to know your consumers and what you can do for them and not the other way round. I think the trouble is people make it obvious they want to make the sale, rather than making it clear why people should want the product.
    Thanks Nathan.

  32. NO IS SHORT FOR NOT NOW!

  33. I’ve often found that many times we forget our natural selves when it comes to overcoming objections. We use every tool but what comes naturally to us. Many times the objections that potential buyers have are objections that we’d have ourselves, many times understanding ourselves and our own objections can really help us understand others thoughts and objections. We always have to sell ourselves on our own products and services before we can sell to someone else. I think I just repeated a great deal of what has been said here. Sorry :-) Awesome post!!

  34. I think Andabwa raises a critical point: to be convincing, you have to be convinced.

    If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, you won’t sell much.

  35. Great post.

    It is best to handle all possible objections before the buyer has the chance to say no. That’s why it is important to brainstorm about what might hold people from buying your product and adress that in bold claims.

    Igor

  36. @Tamsen
    Very true – you have to believe your prospect desperately needs your product or service.

  37. @Jason
    And, perhaps more importantly, you have to believe that your product or service is the right and best thing to fill that need.

  38. That is an epic point–that you need to make them feel good about the purchase. Do you have any recommendations on how to do this? Is it really benefit-driven copy? I see your tips on getting past no, but you don’t really go into how to make them feel good.

    Were you working for cutco? And how did you make a living for two years only selling $25,000 worth of the products? :)

  39. Chris,

    Well, I was in high school at the time and eventually moved into management there, so I wasn’t selling the entire time. However, as a high school kid working part time and making up to 2k a month, I was pretty stoked :)

    The advice I’d give you depends on the product you sell, but I believe that congruency in your messaging is important. I also believe that following up after the sale is a lost art.
    As for making them feel better before the sale, I usually stick with a strong guarantee, overcoming objections in my copy, and using testimonials.

  40. Folks do want you to get them past “no”. even if they are not conscious of it, they want to play the game to some extent. Saw this quite a bit when I sold cars. Anyone who came in and said, “Just so you’ll know, I’m not buying anything today” were most often the ones who left the dealership in a new car.

    On the other hand, on occasion someone would walk in and announce, “Who wants to sell me a car today?” All of the sales staff would start running – the other direction. It was a trap. Always. They NEVER bought.

    George

  41. You make some great points. I like your idea of getting to the truth behind the no. Figuring out the client’s reasoning for no is very important when selling, asking questions is the best way to do this. Creating a motivation for them to buy is what will ultimately get them to open their wallet.

  42. All comments took on board! Many thanks for this :-)