Dealing with “no”

In my post titled “I’m really busy” I said I would deal with those people who say “no”.


Dealing with “no” can be one of the hardest things we have to do. It is the most negative word that we come up against and has a finality that most of us accept. Although I did meet a particularly thick skinned sales person once who told me that “No is just an alternative way of saying yes, when the customer hasn’t yet realised what they want”. I must admit to never really coming around to that point of view.

However the principle is well intentioned. What he was saying was that the “no” wasn’t personal. Generally, in a sales situation, that is the case and “no” can cover a myriad other reasons.

• Has not considered the proposal. Easier to say “no”
• Not a priority. Easier to say “no”
• Can’t say yes, not the decision maker.

And the list could go on and on.

Outside of the sales arena dealing with “no” can be harder to separate from being a personal rebuff. Pretty obviously “no” comes after a question; if the question has any personal significance then to receive a “no” can seem like a personal rather than a professional rebuff.

How we deal with the “no’s” that we receive is far more telling about us as people than the way we react to yes. It gets to the heart of our resilience and resourcefulness.

Do you give up at the first “no”? Do you go away and sulk? Do you moan to your friends or anyone else that will listen? Do you pick yourself up and try again?

At a job interview I was once asked what I would do if I was turned down for the job. I said I’d look for another job. They turned me down so I did indeed go and get a job with a different company. They wanted to know how much I wanted to work for them and their way of gauging it was to see how I reacted to “no”. It’s still a common approach.

If you are particularly competitive by nature you might relish the challenge of turning a “no” into a yes and call on all of your resources to achieve it. However getting attached to such a cause can be more detrimental than the original “no”. Whilst there might be a huge amount of satisfaction in the achievement; both businesswise and from a personal perspective, it is about return on investment. Sometimes it is easy to get so bound up in the challenge of getting to the yes that you crave so much that you forget about the investment of time it is taking to get there. Knowing when to accept “no” is as much a skill as driving on to overturn it.

Dealing with “no” is the fundamental skill of any business person. We wouldn’t have the Dyson Vaccuum Cleaner, the workmate bench, and countless other inventions and business ideas if the people behind them had given up at the first, second, third or in James Dyson’s case, 50th “No”.

How someone deals with “no” is the real barometer of their personal qualities.

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