Transform No Into Yes

Here is the scenario: Percolating in your brain is an idea for an interesting project or initiative that you are certain will benefit the organization of a good and steady client. You anticipate that you may be able to sell the decision-maker on the concept and create a paying project for yourself.

You gain the support of an advocate, who gives you the green light to approach the decision-maker. You make the appointment and make your pitch. The decision-maker is pleasant, but nevertheless backs away from your proposal, even though you’ve verified its likelihood of acceptance via your influential advocate. How do you get to the heart of your client’s objections, attempt to overcome them, save the sale and get paid?

The late, great sales guru Zig Ziglar, motivational speaker and author of several sales training books, once said that every sale has five obstacles:

  • No need
  • No money
  • No hurry
  • No desire
  • No trust

The Solopreneur consultant’s challenge is to discover and overcome these objections and persuade the client that the proposal is worthwhile and will make the client look good to superiors and peers.

First, realize that “no” does not always mean “never”. Sometimes clients say no when there is limited time and energy available to evaluate what has been proposed. The need may be relevant, but other matters can take precedence and your proposal is not perceived as urgent. As a result, the decision-maker will not be inclined to address the issue in the near future and it is easier to decline.

Alternatively, you may not deliver a sales pitch that inspires either desire or trust (confidence). Homework may have been done to confirm the need and identify the stakeholders, but it is still necessary to deliver a narrative that will convince the decision-maker to take that leap of faith and put him/herself on the line for you.

Budget constriction is another frequent objection, regardless of the state of the economy. When conferring with your project advocate, it is always important to find out if there is available budget to support your proposal and also gauge what will motivate the decision-maker to petition for funding.

Finally, be mindful that when selling, it is necessary to present only the details that the client needs and wants to make the decision, no more and no less. Avoid giving too much information, that may potentially confuse the client or open a can of worms that will turn on you. Conversely, one must not be vague. Give all relevant information and express it clearly and concisely. Describe the benefits that you expect will be important to the client and paint a picture of what’s in it for him/her.

Steve Strauss, business attorney and columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine and USA Today newspaper, recommends that you diplomatically let the client know that you know your proposal is good for the organization because you’ve taken the time to verify its usefulness. Don’t immediately fold your tent if the client hesitates or declines.

Instead, ask if there is any additional information you can provide, or some other accommodation you can make, that might make him/her feel comfortable with approving the deal. Show the client that you are prepared to confront and resolve questions and doubts. You might save the sale and even if you don’t, you may be able to position yourself to successfully get another proposal approved when timing and funding are on your side.

Thanks for reading,


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