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- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
6 min read
By Lisa Teh

How to turn a no into a yes


When a salesperson hears “no” and gives up, they are missing out on a golden opportunity to not only make a big sale but to increase the lifetime value of their prospect. According to former FBI negotiator Chris Voss the word “no” is the first step to yes. He goes even further by explaining how the word “yes” does not always mean you will get to yes.

He goes on to say that the word “no” is a beautiful thing to hear in a sales pitch. Why is that? Because “no” is a word that prospects use to protect themselves. Most people do not want to be sold. They do not want to be sold because there is a stigma against salespeople. Everyone has this slick, fast-talking, trickster in their mind with they think of a salesperson. They believe they are going to be conned into something. If they say no, they are protecting themselves from the magical powers of the salesperson.

Voss goes on to talk about the concepts of tactical empathy and other negotiation techniques that can get your prospects to yes. You’d be well advised to read his book Never Split The Difference for a powerful education in effective negotiations. Let’s look at some more common techniques for turning no into yes.


You can use the refusal as leverage to answer more questions. Usually, when someone responds with a no it is because they are afraid. When they are afraid it is usually because they have not had their concerns answered satisfactorily.

They often want the sales process to be over. They’re usually shy about asking the specific questions they have for various reasons. Your job as a sales professional is to turn the situation around. You do that by building a better rapport.


When you hear a no and you recognize that you’ve somehow lost rapport you want to deploy some empathy. Let them know you understand and off short statements that validate their position. They’re usually set off guard by this because they expect you to be pushy.

It gives you a little bit of extra time to re-establish rapport with sales building questions that help them to feel comfortable. Make sure you let them know you understand where they are coming from. Express regret. Demonstrate a sense of remorse if you made the feel pressured. I mean, they probably did feel pressured, even if you were not pushing. Most prospects carry that sense of anxious expectation of pressure with them. That means even if you have not been laying it on, they still think it is there.

Realize that, accept that, empathize with them without making them feel bad, and get back into the conversation. Normal conversation, casual. Over a few moments, they will begin to let their guard down. Gradually, gently, turn the conversation to the sale.


When there is an uncomfortable moment in the sales pitch it is super important that you remain professional. Think of yourself as a fiduciary. You are there to protect and guide the prospect to what they want to have anyway. If they didn’t want it, they wouldn’t be talking to you. The more you can make them feel respected and protected, the more likely you are to turn that no into a yes.


You’ve got to find out why they have said, “no.” That’s not always easy. You can’t just come right out and ask them, “Hey! Why did you tell me, no?” That would put them on the spot and you don’t want them on the spot. Instead, consider the following strategy. Again, empathize with them.

When you empathize with people they often will start to spill their guts. They will come up with a few reasons why they gave you a no. Not all of them will be real. The best way to find out is to listen to them carefully. Let them know you hear what they are saying. Demonstrate a genuine concern.

Repeat what they’ve said back to them. Restate their concerns and let them know you understand. They will start to feel better about the situation. They feel better because you’ve given them a chance to get their thoughts out.


You want to reach little stages of the agreement. You do that by agreeing with aspects of their objections. Saying things like, “Oh, that makes sense.” Or, “I see where you’re coming from.” And generally offering more empathy and understanding creates agreement. Now you have to answer their concerns completely.

Simply tell them how you and your company have solved their problems. Help them see the reversal of risk. Let them see all the ways your organization has addressed those concerns with other clients. Continue to deploy empathy, understanding, and professionalism. Then confirm with them that you have solved their concerns.


Now that you’ve answered their concerns and they’ve acknowledged that fact, you want them to take action. Some prospects will be ready to move forward. Some will still struggle with the decision. When you finish answering their concerns, ask them to take action. If they struggle, answer the concerns and ask for action again.


Now go into your closing pitch. You want to make the close right then and there. You want to avoid putting it off. You have answered their concerns and now it’s time to sign on the line. The key here is enthusiasm. Building enthusiasm throughout the sales process is a powerful way to comfortably lead people to buy.


Just because you hear a no it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. It simply means they have concerns that you haven’t answered yet. Get over your fear of rejection and turn your attention to helping them move forward toward the sale. They will be happy in the end and you will have made a good influence in their lives.

About the author


Co-Founder of Lisnic 🌏 Founder of CODI Agency (Digital Marketing)📱
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