3 Lessons in Saying No

SalesmanIf you’ve ever taken a tropical-type vacation, odds are you have seen something like this picture.  Local people take their wares from resort to resort along the beach looking for sales.  I’m sure it seems harmless enough, and it looks like a pretty physical occupation, but if you’ve ever encountered this you know they are fairly adept in their sales tactics.

Now, if you’re on the beach in this scenario and are not interested in what they’re selling, it’s easy enough to just close your eyes and pretend to be asleep until they pass.  Saying no back in the real world requires more than just not making eye contact.  Sometimes it means taking a hard line and standing your ground, but it can be done with respect.

When I was in operations in the hotel business, my staff was great at screening my visitors.  “No appointment?  Nope, she’s out.”  There, done.  The sales person went along his way and (unaware to me) I stayed on the in limbo list because I never gave him a real no.  This meant he would continue to attempt to reach me.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by turning them away, but here’s what I learned as the shoe went on the other foot:

  • I was afraid that if I said no the salesman would come back with a counter and browbeat me into submission, finally getting a yes out of me.
    • Truth—If I just would’ve said no, they most likely would have left me alone and moved on, saving us both precious time and frustration.
  • You’re saying no to the product, not the person.
    • Truth—Do not feel guilty telling your friend that you don’t need yet another candle, lipstick, kitchen apparatus, etc.  They are offering you an option.  If you’re not in the market for it, politely tell them no.  Don’t avoid them and make things awkward, trust me.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re offered a product or service you don’t really understand.
    • Truth—Just because you want more clarity doesn’t mean the sales professional will pounce on you!  If someone is offering you something, they believe it will help you in some way.  If you don’t see the benefit to you (or your business), tell them so.  They may have more information that makes things clearer.  If you listen to this and still are not convinced, tell them your issues and just say no.
    • Truth—If this is a start-up business, you may be helping them work out a few kinks in their product or in the promotion of it.  If multiple people are arriving at similar outcomes it could signal a fatal flaw.  The earlier they catch this the better.

I hope I’ve helped you become more comfortable saying no.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your time management.  Do it for the sanity of the sales professionals.  They’ll thank you for your sincerity, take you off their list, and you won’t even have to pretend to be asleep.

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