Outside Sales

Why Would a Sales Person Ever Say No?

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Successful sales leaders and sales people are the ones who are skilled at moving through the prospect stages of KNOW – LIKE – TRUST.

Let’s begin with the underlying belief that it is always best to tell the truth. In any situation whether personal or professional - never tell a lie. Not only is this good for your stress level, heart, blood pressure, etc. but also because, in the words of Mark Twain, “if you tell the truth you never have to remember anything”.

For sales leaders and sales people, when in the sales process there are many situations that arise where it seems that the flat-out truth is the obvious response and it seems also obvious that telling the truth is very detrimental to winning the sale. In such situations, it is very tempting to avoid giving a direct answer like ‘no, we cannot do that’ and instead respond in a manner that stretches the truth so that the sales process stays alive and you can still hope to close the sale. Tempting as this might be, it is not a long-term success formula. One should never tell a lie. “A single lie discovered is enough to create contagious doubt over every other truth expressed” – author unknown. When you are found to have stretched the truth (or worse) your credibility takes a negative turn that is hard, if not impossible to recover from.

Ideally, you will always have the best product with perfect capabilities and be the clear leader in the prospects consideration. For many that is not the case and so sales training, skills and ability to ‘think on your feet’ become critical to the sales process and ultimately winning the sale. When you know your product capabilities, understand the competition and their strengths and weaknesses, have done your research on the prospect and the prospects business/industry, then you are in a strong position that minimizes the temptation to stretch the truth or even to have to say "no."


Although one should never say never, I believe strongly that in the sales process a sales leader/sales person should never say "no."  Why? Here are the primary reasons you will find yourself in a position to respond ‘no’ to a prospect, even though you have worked hard to identify a good prospect and qualify the opportunity:

Competition is doing their job! If the competition is any good, they will know your weaknesses versus their own strengths and weaknesses. The competition will work to put themselves in good standing and create ‘Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt’, or FUD, about you and your product/solution.

Prospect has partial or inaccurate information! Information received from well-meaning friends & family, peers & workers, or internet research often results in a biased view of your product/solution.

Prospect is focused on a symptom not the real issue! The humorous saying ‘When you are up to your *** in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your objective is to drain the swamp!’ applies here. Often the challenges of the day and resulting pain points drive a prospect to want to just fix the immediate pain.

Prospect is positioning for a concession! While not as common as the first three mentioned, there are times when the prospect wants your product/solution and this is a way of negotiating for a better price.

Encourage the prospect to talk about why they want to make a change and not just focus on a specific item that may not be in your favor. Rather than stretch the truth or say ‘no, we can’t do that’ or similar phrasing, it is best to bring the prospect back to the positive by reframing the opportunity in the context of the strengths you and your product/solution have for the prospect. Offer an answer on why the prospect benefits more from you and your product/solution than from any other option. Remaining positive throughout the sales process greatly enhances your credibility with the prospect and thereby enhances your chances of closing the sale.

CRO RoundTable is focused on revenue growth and the strategy, leadership and execution necessary to improve skills such as this.

The Inside vs. Outside Sales Rep Choice

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Your company’s fate is in the hands of your sales people. 

Whether you are hiring for inside or outside sales, you are going to give careful consideration to the candidates in front of you. But back up a bit. Have you thought about the role that they will play specific to your business? This is essential; think it through.

The Nature of the Sales Role – Outside vs. Inside

If you’re hiring outside sales, also called “field sales”, you’re expecting reps to meet with prospects face-to-face, have a detail-oriented appearance, and probably do a lot of traveling. Their managers may see them only quarterly. The sales they’ll negotiate will tend toward greater complexity, and probably be a longer process to establish. Their communication, by phone or email, is often oriented toward setting up appointments.

An inside sales rep works in an office where they will show up most every workday, and may also be “on call” to cover additional hours. They spend a lot of time obtaining new business through cold calls, so they must be great at giving information without visuals or props. The ability to clearly articulate a product or service, while also reading the person across the phone line, is a gift common among successful inside sales people.

Reviewing these two styles of business sales, it’s obvious that each attracts its own personality type. You want to be sure of which you are seeking when you put out the call. But the question remains: which call to make? The answer is as unique to your own business as a sales rep is to the process of sales.

Tips For Determining Which Model Matches Your Business

  • What kind of clients/customers are you going after? Is their industry more oriented toward one sales style over another? Example: if you’re in active sports, chances are you want a team of outside sales people demoing products and conducting clinics.
  • What size is the business of the client you’re chasing? It your targets are SMBs, and your product isn’t demo-heavy, inside sales could be your best bet.
  • Calculate what you can afford. If you need revenue to roll in NOW, you probably can’t afford to send sales reps across the map for face-to-face. Bear in mind that rep productivity must make good financial sense for you.
  • Consider the solutions your product or service offers for the problems your customer faces. What is the best approach to deliver the message that their problem can be solved?
  • Do you have the management in place to work with the type of rep you are considering hiring? If your management team regularly sits down with their reps, they’re going to want to keep the sales force inside. If they’re all about setting the reps up for success and letting them roll, outside sales are what they’re all about. Don’t force a square peg into a round hole!

Tips For Selecting The Best Reps

It’s all about you. The bottom line is getting the folks who are going to score wins for your business. You may already know how to hire salespeople: when reviewing candidates, keep your eyes open and trust your instincts, but let your instincts rely on these points.

  • Select talent and skills over experience. Although experience is a benefit not to be ignored, it is not an ultimate predictor of success. Too many variables affect sales for you to rely on the individual’s experience as the highest hiring factor. It’s the opposite for skills and talent; these traits can be measured. Learn how to best assess and factor their abilities into your decision.
  • Beware of the herd mentality. Hire salespeople who are not just like you. A diverse team brings varying skill sets, delivers fresh solutions and will likely have broader overall knowledge. Look for reps with unique styles that round out your needs.
  • Set up hiring situations and put the candidate into play. Mirror the selling situation the salesperson will be placed in. Check out how they handle multiple questions, interact with varying levels of power and make eye contact. Be sure to envision the candidate selling for your company.
  • Put the search for perfection to rest. Make a list of your company’s “need-to-haves” and a list of the “nice-to-haves.” Do not expect to check all boxes on each list. The right sales candidate will have some blemishes. This just means they have room for improvement, as well as the potential for adaptation and great growth within your company.

Clearly, you want the sales person you hire to be within the image of the rep you have in mind. If you hire a Clark Kent, don’t expect him to snap into Superman. But with the right basics starting out, and great guidance and tools from you, he just might become a superhero for your company.