If you’re a salesperson, your customers will always be asking you for “stuff.” Maybe they want a new feature, or better delivery time, or a customized product. As sellers, we are conditioned to say “yes” to these requests. After all, aren’t these signals that the customer wants to buy? Why not accommodate them?
That’s not always the wise thing to do. Most of the time, giving in to such requests means giving them something extra, at your own expense. It is a victory for them, but a loss for you. What you really want to do is guide the sales conversation toward an agreement that’s a win for both parties.
Of course, simply saying “no” stops the conversation, or at least sets the wrong tone. What you can say instead is:
“No, but if...”
Saying “no” immediately reduces expectations, signaling that the request is outside the bounds of what they can reasonably request. It might shock them as well...but, before they can get mad, you follow this immediately with a “but if...” which signals that there is another option you are willing to consider.
This then gives you the opportunity to state what you would need in order to accommodate their request. It allows you to set the stage, explaining a scenario in which the customer gets something they want, but in return for getting something you want. In short, it allows you to specify a “win-win” situation.
Examples of “No, but if…” in Action
For example, imagine a customer that asks “If I put in a two-month order, can I get a bigger discount?”
Seems like the sale is made, right? Still, giving in might well be leaving money on the table, and you’ll be right back to negotiate in another two months. Instead of saying “yes,” imagine saying:
“No, but if you were to put in a standing order, you could get a bigger discount.”
Or, imagine the following question, which is really a veiled attempt to get more out of a contract:
“Are you going to have service available on a four-hour basis?”
Instead of reflexively saying “yes,” try saying something like:
“No, but I can have a service tech on call if you give me an order for spare parts inventory.”
Again, the “yes” answer here would be giving away something for free. The “No, but if…” approach holds out the possibility of what they want, but also clearly states what they have to give in return.
Mastering the “No, but if” Strategy
Of course, knowing the words to say is just the first step to mastering this technique. You have to practice saying these words in such a way that it does not put off customers or make people feel like you are talking down to them. You also need to practice thinking on your feet: The strategy works only if you have thought of an alternative ahead of time—hopefully one that suits your goals and that your customer will see as reasonable.
The “No, but if...” technique, then, is really a skill that you as a salesperson must practice and master. We cover this technique in much more depth in our video on “No, But If™”.
If you are a sales manager or other executive in charge of a sales team, you may also want to try introducing your team to this method. If you sign up for a trial of Thinkzoom, you’ll have free access to the video, plus many more on sales processes and tips.
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