Which would you rather hear: yes or no? In sales, we all want to hear yes; it's our ticket to dollars, right? Well, maybe not, according to Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz in their co-authored book, Go for No: Yes is the destination; no is how you get there. They propose you will get more sales by racking up noes than you will with yeses.
To do this, you have to overcome your fear of rejection, something Fenton acknowledged used to hold him back. "I would fantasize about becoming a professional speaker from time to time, dabble in it and flirt with it ... everything but actually do it." The problem? The all too common fear of failure.
But this doesn't stop Fenton anymore, and this book describes how he turned his career around by pushing through his fears, setting different goals and leaping out of his comfort zone.
The spark that led to Fenton's transformation occurred when the district manager of the men's store he worked for came by just when Fenton was making his biggest sale ever. Expecting kudos from the manager, he was surprised when he was asked instead what the customer had said no to. Fenton listed off all the things the man bought. Then the manager asked him a question: If the customer didn't say no to anything, how did you know he was done?
Fenton didn't quite understand the manager's point at the time. But musing over the incident 10 years later, he had an epiphany. He suddenly understood how many sales he had lost simply by not asking more questions. He had been deciding by default that his customers didn't want certain things simply because he didn't give them a chance to consider them. And his "go for no" principle was born.
He then thought of how profitable it would have been if his older, enlightened self could have gone back in time to shake the shoulders of his oblivious, younger self.
Thus arose the story of Eric James Bratton, a salesman who always makes his quota but never strives to exceed it. He starts out three for three, closing three sales with three presentations the Monday on which we meet him. He's ahead of the game, he thinks, so he begins to coast and procrastinate.
On Thursday, Bratton hits his head on the nightstand and wakes up 10 years later. He finds himself in an unfamiliar house overlooking a golf course. Downstairs, a maid tells him it's his house - meaning the Eric who immediately put the district manager's wisdom into practice, not the Eric who never attempted to exceed his quota.
The rest of the book is Eric's older self teaching the "go for no" principles to his younger self.
The first lesson, seek out noes, rejection and failure, is given by older Eric after he puts his plane on autopilot for a trip with younger Eric to Monterey, Calif. They have an early tee time at Pebble Beach before heading to San Francisco for a meeting.
Older Eric says at one point, "You still think that failing leads to failure. Failing ... and becoming a failure ... are two very different things." And "I fail big and I fail often."
On the green, they join two of Eric's salespeople who have found success by aggressively seeking that small word no. Young Eric is wowed by his older self's philosophy and can see the principles older Eric is outlining really work. He learns that running from failure has him running from success: Higher risks achieve higher rewards.
The book includes a diagram of the five levels of failure: We all begin at level one because each of us has the ability to fail; at level two, we become willing to fail; at level three, we want to fail. The few who reach level three can go up the levels to "failing bigger and faster" and "failing exponentially."
The authors claim if you set a goal for how many noes you're going to get in a week, instead of how many closes, you'll keep going no matter how many yeses you get.
Too many salespeople, they say, slow down after success. To put it in older Eric's words, "Would a manager of a baseball team keep his star player out of a game because he was on a hot streak?"
Go for No is a quick read. The fictional, time-travel angle will hook you (Who among us has never wanted a do-over?) and propel you forward.
At the back of the book, the authors describe resources available on their Web site, www.goforno.com.
These include a training program, which is for purchase, as well as free offerings such as a monthly e-zine, screen saver and 20-question personal assessment designed to help you test your perceptions regarding success and failure.
Fenton's and Waltz' principle is simple, but sometimes simple works.
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