The Three Immutable Laws For Avoiding A No

Everyone working in sales dreads the final decision.

The moment a customer emails you after you sent them a proposal.


You hardly dare to open and read the verdict.

Will they say Yes or will they say No...


What if there was a way to reduce your anxiety.

No more butterflies in your stomach.

No more sleepless nights wondering if you gave them the right price.

Wouldn't that be great.


Look no further.

What I'm about to tell you will drastically improve your Yes vs No score.



Of course, I assume that whatever you are selling, provides value to your customers.

And that you put in the hard work that is required.

If not, what I'm about to tell won't help you a bit.

Still here?



It comes down to our lazy brains

Did you know that our brains are dead lazy?

They are the worst.


Evolution has made them that way to save energy.

There are basically two ways we engage our brain when making a decision.


The fast way and the slow way.

We rarely use the slow way since this means we have to spend a lot of mental energy analyzing the consequence of a Yes or a No.


More used, but perhaps less known, is the fast way.


Psychologists calls what we apply heuristics.

Think of it as a set of mental rules we deploy when we are forced to make a decision.


It's quick.

It's totally automatic.

And it doesn't require any effort at all.

But there's a downside you need to know about.


The cognitive bias trap

Cognitive is a fancy word that means an intellectual process, such as thinking and reasoning.


Bias is another fancy word that means error.


It's well known that our fast response system often leads to cognitive bias, which means that we end up thinking the wrong way.


Sounds weird?

Perhaps, but I'm about to introduce three laws of avoiding getting a No.

Laws you need to understand.

Laws that tells you what you need to stop doing.


If you want a Yes, that is.




Respect the Unknown Outcome Bias


Let's say a telemarketer calls you.

He or she opens up with: would you like to save 3.000 on your mobile phone bill?


Sounds like a great deal, right?

And still, the majority of us will say No immediately.

Why is that?

Don't we want to save money?


Sure we do.

But what comes into play here is breaking the first law of how to avoid getting a No - respect the unknown outcome bias.

In the telemarketer example our brains immediately go: Hey, don't say yes, there's plenty of unknown consequences hidden here. The outcome is unknown.


It's an unconscious process based on previous experiences.

Experiences linked to the hustle of switching mobile carrier.

Things like insurance, surf volume, phone upgrades, phone number, international calls and so on.


These past experiences tells us that there is a great deal of unknowns associated with switching.


And you as a sales rep need to understand this and make the unknown known.

If you don't, the customer will say No.


How to uncover the unknown

So how do you go about not falling into the unknown bias trap?


First - don't take anything for granted.

For you, everything is clear as crystal. You know what's going to happen.

But for your customer it's not.

They absorb very little information at a time.

And they tend to focus on the risks.


So I recommend you to walk through a checklist together with your customer.

This checklist includes everything that is important to know should they accept your offer.

It also helps you not to forget anything. Why do you think pilots use checklists?

And once all the boxes have been checked, there shouldn't be any unknowns left that will trigger the customer to say No. 




Remember That New is Not Always Good


We tend to think that New equals good.

Who doesn't like new stuff, right.


Well, it's a staggering 97,5% of the population.

The tiny fraction that jumps on the latest (the so called innovators) represents a measly 2.5%.

You won't get rich on those people alone.


So if what you're selling is new in some way you need to figure out how to cater to the 97.5%.

The laggards, the early and late adopters. The not so sexy categories of the human race.


Evolution has done it again...

There's of course a reason why we hesitate to buy new stuff.

There's risks involved with the untried.

And we have been rewarded not to take any unnecessary risks by evolution.

That's why a majority of us will say No to new stuff.

The 2,5% innovators are, if you think about it, reckless daredevils.


But don't panic.

There's an easy way to deal with this cognitive bias.

I call it referencing.

And it is what it sounds like.

Let me explain.


It's almost like...

To help our customers brain, and the the quick response system, we reference what we are selling to something they know very well.


The thing is, our brain always look for patterns, similarities and things we experienced before. It helps us make sense of the world around us using the least amount of energy. 


So if we can supply the customers brain with something it recognizes as familiar, and thereby tested and safe, the defenses are down, and so is the immediate No.


How would that sound like?

Imagine you're selling a sales training like I do.

Remember - what I have developed could be considered as new and untried for most people.


So what I have to do is actually to downplay the "new" part of what I do.


I usually say something like this: Yes, this is a new sales model adapted to the internet era your customers are living in. But it's built on traditional key account management best practices.


So you see, I try to cater to the new, innovative part that intrigues most of us and at the same time cater to safety by referencing something my customers knows very well.


Think about what you can use as a safe and no risk reference. Surely, there must be something in your industry that is well known and accepted.

At the same time, add the spice of the new and tease your customers ego.




Don't Include Too Many Options


Have you booked a vacation hotel online recently?

Did you find it a pleasant and a joyful experience?


Perhaps in the beginning, when the allure of the coming vacation was still vivid in your mind.


But as you scrolled down among the hundreds, or thousands, of hotels to choose from, you got tired.


All of a sudden it wasn't fun anymore. So you closed your computer and decided to return another day.


The reason you got tired and didn't make a decision was because you broke the third law of avoiding getting a No.

You had too many options.


One of the most common mistakes

We desperately want the sale, so we try to hedge for every eventuality by including many options.


More is better, right?

What can be wrong with having a lot to choose from?


If your'e looking for a Yes that is.


We need options

Decision makers requires one thing from sales reps: show me what options I have, what the risks are and what the return is.

Before we feel safe to make a decision we want something to benchmark against.


So including only one option is not the way forward.

If you do, your customers will look for other options themselves.


The chance of getting anything done

It turns out that the correlation between the chance of getting anything done and the number of options looks like an U turned upside down.

In fact, many call it the U-turn.


The U-turn tells us that with few options, there's a little to no chance of getting anything done.


As the number of options increases, we start making decisions.

Until we reach a peak, the crest of the U.

From there it's all downhill and we start getting bogged down again.


No more decisions, no more Yes'es.


The optimal amount of options

So what is the optimal amount of options you should present to your customers?


My experience tells me that I have to include at least two and not more than four.

Three is my sweet spot.



To Summarize:

  • When we are forced to make a decision, a program called heuristics starts running in our brains
  • This program sometimes leads us astray and causes what's called cognitive bias
  • As a sales rep you can increase the likelihood of getting a Yes to what you are proposing by adhering to the three laws of avoiding a No:
    1. Make sure that the customer knows the outcome by using a checklist
    2. If what you are selling is new and innovative, make sure to reference it to something familiar
    3. Don't include too many options - three is the sweet spot


Now it's up to you.

Remember, we learn most effectively by doing.

So don't put this on hold.

Start immediately.


Good luck and let me know how things work out for you.


Mats Fogelqvist


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