4 Tips for Turning No into Know

Good sales people are trained to never take no for an answer. But great sales people know that when a sales commitment isn’t an option, it’s time to shift from “No” to know.

Sales organizations are driving long-term improvements in revenue growth—over 20%—by encouraging, gathering, and analyzing insights from prospect conversations and then applying the knowledge to make changes in sales, marketing, and product strategies.

“No Thanks” is Just the Beginning

Challenge reps to dig deeper and ask insightful questions to in every conversation – even when they don’t reach the immediate buyer. Doing so allows you to gather information on what solutions the company is using and why, as well as what they are buying and not buying. Even if the prospect says no, you’ve gained invaluable insights on competitive offerings, desired features, pain points, system usage, and their current issues. When that information is gathered and viewed in context with data from all prospect conversations, organizations have valuable insights to improve sales, marketing, and product strategies to outmaneuver the competition, retain customers, and accelerate revenue development.

Here are four tips for transforming conversation into bottom line revenue:

1. Know what you want to know.

Before reaching out to prospects, you need a clear idea of what information you’re trying to gather and what responses you expect to get. Start by developing a message map—not a call script—with anchor questions that drive a conversation. This map will allow your sales team to probe into specific areas, while providing them with pivot points as the conversation leads to various insights.

Incorporate more than BANT questions into your message map—developing a strategy upfront helps identify areas where a company’s sales or product strategy may not be aligned to the customers’ reality. Then provide your team with the freedom and training to comfortably pivot so when they encounter “no” or objections, they can skillfully direct the conversation to uncover data that contributes to your own unique, strategic knowledge base. Keep this data vital by continually refreshing the categories of insights you are tracking, as well as granularity of detail captured and analyzed.

2. Train your team to listen and learn.

In order to successfully gather insights you need to ensure your team knows that every conversation has value and understands how to actively listen for insights. But how do you help your reps make the most of each encounter?

Teach them the basics of listening—be focused on the conversation, not just the call script. Then coach them to ask the right questions about the market, systems, competitors, and how your company is viewed.

John Thorsen of SiriusDecisions says to “Play detective. Ask meaningful questions… The key is to work these questions into the conversation without sounding like you are taking a survey.” Remember, the sign of a truly effective sales call is when the prospect doesn’t feel like they’ve been sold but rather had an engaging conversation with someone who understands their business.

3. Use technology to gather and analyze insights and sentiment.

It’s critical to implement technology, and a process to support data gathering and analysis, so insights become more than “one-off” conversations but rather, strategic, predictive analytics for improving future sales opportunities.

Technology is about more than recording calls; it’s creating a process for consistently identifying and aggregating insights to capture the voice of the customer, not just keywords. Keywords, such as specific solutions or issues, need to be partnered with sentiment to enable better analysis and gauge the prospects true mindset.

Your CRM should be set up in a defined manner that allows your reps to capture consistent information—providing a way to roll up data across conversations. Organizations must then use the data for developing more effective sales training that will increase ROI.

The opportunity for sales management is to look outside typical metrics of calls per day, dials per hour, contacts made, and pipeline data, and start training reps to gather and record significant insights into what prospects are using, buying, and not buying—and why. Utilize call monitoring analytics to track productivity, gather product feedback, and identify common competitors and barriers to sales, as well as track the frequency of keywords for pain points and sentiment.

4. Regularly demonstrate to inside sales how they helped drive strategic direction.

It’s often not easy to see the forest through the trees. Make sure your sales team knows the impact they are making—not just for the customer, but also for your organization.

Providing your inside sales team ongoing feedback on what the company is learning from their efforts improves their engagement, company ownership, energy, knowledge, and ongoing success in the sales cycle. By sharing with them the strategic changes that are a direct result of their collected insights gives them further proof that what they are doing matters, as well as gives them newfound energy to continue to seek more insights.

The more your inside sales team understands each response is not a “one off” but rather a powerful piece of the knowledge base for driving future strategic direction, the harder they’ll work to develop those learnings and help you turn them into revenue.

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions.


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About the Author

Tim Killenberg

As global leader of N3’s Commercial Delivery organization, Tim focuses on driving revenue results and sales excellence for leading technology, software, and manufacturing companies. Tim has over 20 years of sales, marketing and strategy experience with high-growth companies. Connect on LinkedIn

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