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These 4 Magic Words Can Turn “No” Into “Yes”, According to the World’s Smartest Salespeople

Your challenge is to keep the conversation going while learning more about the prospect.

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BY Geoffrey James - 26 Jun 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Many people foolishly believe that selling consists of pitching. Under this way of thinking, if you work hard to create a compelling sales pitch or elevator pitch, you'll get plenty of customers.

Maybe that's true if you're selling Veg-a-matics or snake oil, but selling to businesses means having meaningful conversations. And because nobody likes being talked at, the moment you start pitching, you lose.

This is true whether you're face-to-face or online. To eventually sell something, you must keep a conversation going to 1) learn enough about the prospect to 2) propose a deal that makes sense to that prospect.

The most important four words to keeping that conversation are: "Just out of curiosity,..."

For example, novice salespeople and people who sell as part of their job (i.e. most entrepreneurs) tend to be stymied when they hear "No" or "Not interested." In fact, negative response are actually useful parts of the conversation.

So, then, let's suppose you're talking with a prospect, who says "Sorry, not interested." You have three courses of action:

  1. Give up. Likelihood of making a sale: 0%
  2. Keep talking and hope they'll change their mind. Likelihood of making a sale: 1%
  3. Find out why they've said no and address that issue. Likelihood of making a sale: somewhere between 10% and 50%, depending upon your sales skills.

Obviously, you want to try #3. However, if you blurt out "Why?" or "Why not?" you sound like a toddler or, worse, the hated salesperson who won't take "No" for an answer.

The phrase "Just out of curiosity" keeps the conversation going without making you seem like a jerk. For example:

  • Prospect: "I'm not interested."
  • You: I understand completely. Just out of curiosity, why aren't you interested?"

Here's why that works.

By saying "I understand completely" you signal that you heard the "no" and that you respect it. Then, by leading with "Just out of curiosity...", you've asked the prospect to educate you without questioning that decision.

One of three things happen at this point:

  1. The prospect declines to answer, in which case you're right where you were before. Since the prospect doesn't want the conversation to continue, you politely end the conversation.
  2. The prospect surfaces a reason that is a true deal killer, like "we're going out of business tomorrow." Now that you know that they're not a viable prospect, you politely end the conversation.
  3. The prospect surfaces a reason that's worth discussing, like "it's not in our budget" or "we already buy from [competitor]." Now that you know what's going on with the prospect, you can address that specific issue, using .

To do this, you use the four magic words again, like so:

  • Prospect: "It's not in our budget"
  • You: "I understand. Just out of curiosity, what are your budget priorities right now?"

...or...

  • Prospect: "We already buy from [competitor]."
  • You: "Ah. I didn't know that. Just out of curiosity, in an ideal world what would [competitor] be doing for you that they're not doing today?"

 

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