Not every opportunity is good for both parties, and thus not every deal is worth chasing. But, be careful disqualifying potential opportunities too early. Sometimes you have to say "No" before you can come to terms.
One of my best current clients (at first) rejected almost every point in the engagement agreement we use to schedule and confirm QBS events. My price was too high, they didn’t want to provide a wireless lapel microphone, their company’s expense policy was overtly stringent, and host of other gotchas.
My initial instinct was to try and work through the details in order to find common ground that would allow us to move forward. "There is no middle ground," was the response I got from the Development Manager. So, after pondering the predicament for a couple hours, I sent an email respectfully declining the opportunity.
My wife suggested that I was crazy to walk away from such a big company. But to me, when it becomes clear that we are not working toward a mutual solution, I would rather decline the opportunity than have an unhappy customer.
Lo and behold, the client immediately came back to me apologizing for a "misunderstanding," and within a few minutes, we came to terms on literally everything in the contract. When I look back, I have experienced many situations where if I wasn’t willing to say, "No," the customer would not have been so quick to say, "Yes."
There are different ways to say, "No," however, which is why I dedicated an entire chapter in my second book to the concept of "Delivering Bad News Gracefully." (Excerpt below).
Delivering Bad News Gracefully
Particularly in larger deals, after you have already negotiated your best and final price, what do you do when the prospect starts hitting you up for additional discounts? Do you say, "No," or do you just cave in to every client request.
Giving prospects everything they ask for is a bad strategy because the more you give, the more they will want, until the deal becomes bad business for you and your company. But for salespeople, saying, "No," can be a frightening proposition because it represents that moment of truth in the sale where prospects will either move forward with a decision to purchase or turn their backs and walk away.
Therefore, sellers must know when giving a little extra will help to consummate a sale, and they also have to know when to say, "There is no more to give." This doesn’t make delivering the actual bad news any easier, however.
Saying "No" is difficult because it puts you on the other side of the argument. The prospect is essentially asking for your help, in the form of either a lower price or free add-ons, and you are essentially telling them, "No, I am no longer willing to help."
Communicating that you are "no longer willing to help" is not the message you want to convey at the end of a sale, especially when you are trying to make prospects feel comfortable enough to pull the trigger on a favorable decision. Fortunately there is an alternative, a way that allows you to deliver bad news gracefully.
The technique is simple. If a prospect asks for something that is unreasonable or beyond what you are willing to provide as part of the sales transaction, you simply start your response with, "I’d be happy to…" For example, if you have already negotiated down to your best and final price and the prospect says, "We need another 10% off the price." With this technique, you can confidently begin your response saying, "I’d be happy to take another 10% off the price…" Now, this is not the entire answer because this analogy assumes that the buyer is asking for something you are not willing or able to provide.
Here’s the rest of the answer. After saying, "I would be happy to take another 10% off the price…", you simply add, "…but here’s the problem. We don’t have another 10% discount to give." I would reiterate that we want their business very much, but I would also be very direct in explaining that there was no extra ‘fluff’ built into the price from which to provide additional discounts.
The beauty of this technique is when you deliver the bad news gracefully you no longer have to be bad guy. You no longer have to be the one who says, "No, I am not going to help you." While this approach allows you to be very direct in communicating that there is no extra room for discounting, you are softening the blow. You can still provide value to your customers by suggesting, "Mr. Prospect, if budget is the issue, perhaps we could remove certain line items from the proposal to reduce the bottom line price." Or, "Since your project includes a second and third phase, perhaps we could bundle the entire purchase together to make the deal size bigger, which would give us some additional room to provide discounts."
This technique for delivering bad news gracefully has many practical applications in real life. For example: "Son, I would be happy to do your math homework for you…but here’s the problem. I’m not the one who will be taking the math test on Friday."
"Honey, I would be happy to buy you a new diamond necklace…but here’s the problem. In order to spend that much money on jewelry, we would have to dip into the kid’s college fund."
"Jim, I’d be happy to be an usher in church next Sunday…but here’s the problem. I will be flying in from London next Sunday morning."
You will find that there is a huge difference between saying, "No," and saying, "I would be happy to, but…" Simply re-phrasing your response allows you to deliver your bad news more gracefully. At the end of the day, you will be much more successful in sales (and in life) if you can position your words so you spend less time on the other side of the argument.
–Thomas A. Freese