Because They Cannot Say No
By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA
My dad always taught me not to take “no” for an answer. It has served me well both personally and in business.
While I am pretty sure the message Dad was trying to get across was to assert myself, there is a slight twist on this lesson that works well when selling your services: Do not let “no” be an answer.
When selling, many people are essentially asking the question, “Will you buy this from me?” A question that starts with the word “will” has two possible final destinations: “yes” or “no.”
That is not good enough. We do not want “no” as an answer. A good salesperson works hard to ensure the answers are all just different shades of “yes.”
Sounds great, but how does this all work? Here are a few tips that work to keep “no” out of the vocabulary for your customers.
Ditch the words “will” and “would.” When attempting to close a deal (schedule a patient, solicit a referral), never use the words “will” and “would.” Questions starting with these words can end in “no.” Starting your questions with words such as “when” and “how” provide options that do not facilitate “no” as an answer.
Do: “When is your next availability?”
Do Not: “Would you like to schedule your next appointment now?”
Use your watch, not theirs. Oftentimes, getting to “yes” takes several tries. As many will attest, a single lunch with a physician group does not by itself open the floodgates to new referrals. When a “yes” is not achieved, make sure that follow-up plans are directed by you, not them. If you did not get what you want, schedule a follow-up on your timeline and get agreement on your follow-up plan.
Do: “Thanks for your time today, I’ll plan to follow up with you in a couple weeks to check back in.”
Do Not: “Thanks, well just let me know if you want to follow up on this at a later time.”
Change the subject. If you do not see the answer you are looking for on the horizon, do not force the issue. Changing the subject will still give you the opportunity to leave a good impression and to work on getting to “yes” at a later time.
Do: “OK, enough about physical therapy for now . . . you said you had kids, where do they go to school?”
Do Not: “OK, it does not sound like you are ready for physical therapy right now. Let me know if you change your mind.”
Always leave an opening. Unless you have determined that you no longer want the business from your customer, never, ever, ever, let the conversation resolve with a final “no.” There is always the potential to earn the business at a later time, and leaving an opening to a future conversation can be key to landing good business down the road.
Do: “OK, it looks like you are all set for now but listen, I am going to stay in touch with you, and please make sure to reach out if your needs change before we talk again.
Do Not: “OK, well I am sorry I cannot serve you right now. I appreciate your time.”
“No” is a dirty word in sales, and it can unwittingly harm those who need our services. We have to be assertive. So, do not take “no” for an answer . . . better yet, do not let “no” be an answer.
Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, lives at the intersection of physical therapy and entrepreneurship, spending his time helping physical therapists build and operate successful practices through his company, Vantage Clinical Solutions. He specializes in marketing, finance, and business planning, and authors and speaks regularly for the APTA and PPS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.