The Psychology of “NO”

business woman and male colleague listening to a sales pitch

For such a small word, it is amazing how much power the word “no” carries in our language. “No” can completely short circuit a conversation. “No” can stifle creativity and stop collaboration cold. “No” can harken back to all sorts of negative emotional experiences, even some we cannot consciously remember.

In improvisation classes, such as those taught by Second City, participants are taught to never use the word “no” since it interrupts and throws cold water on the improv/communication process. Rather, the students are asked to help each other build scenes and stories together by adding to, rather than blocking, the next round of give and take.

A sales call can often offer the same opportunities to either shut down rapport by saying “no,” or keep things going with a less abrupt response.

For example, if the buyer says, “Is there any chance of getting the same discount on this smaller order as you give me on the big ones?”, rather than saying “no,” the seller might say, “The big orders allow us to control costs and pass the savings along to you. Should we wait until you can accumulate a bit more demand?”

See the difference? You might wind up in the same place but without the collateral break in rapport which you have worked so hard to establish.

Pay attention to your sales calls and meetings over this next week and see how many times you use the word “no,” and try to replace it with a less abrupt response. You might be surprised by the outcome.

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