Entrepreneurs gain valuable insights from prospects who rejected them.
Melissa, an executive coach, had been talking to a medium-size company about their new training program. The company was looking for someone to coach six executives and run a weekend retreat.
Melissa spent a lot of time with Jack, the vice president who would be the decision-maker.
Jack asked for videos of previous presentations. He called a few of her references. She met with others who’d be on the team.
Of course, they also discussed prices. Melissa knew her price was well within the market but could be seen as high to people who weren’t familiar with her work.
As with any big-ticket item, the sales cycle lasted a long time. Melissa achieved some rapport with Jack. She began to see herself doing the job, realizing she was a perfect fit.
She was truly surprised and disappointed when Jack called to say, “Thanks for your time. We’ve decided to go with another company.”
Being rejected after coming so close: that’s hard.
Melissa’s first reaction was, “I’d like to know why. Maybe I can schedule a time to do some customer research.”
Jack wasn’t enthused. “Send me an email,” he said.
Melissa asked me, “What’s the best way to learn Jack’s backstory?
At this point, though, Jack’s backstory will not be especially helpful. When you get a “no” you need to uncover a different story. Here’s why.
(1) Your prospect may not have a good answer to the “why” question.
In general, asking “why” rarely gives you useful answers. I discuss this more in my article on marketing research questions. Asking your prospects why they turned you down will encourage them to be creative — and half the time they honestly don’t know.
At one time, I was buying a new home. I spent time talking to several different agents before making a spontaneous decision to work with someone I’d just met. I didn’t have a good reason for my choice and in hindsight, I’d have done better to choose someone else.
Some agents sent me a nice note saying, “Good luck with your purchase. Let me know if you ever need anything.” I remembered those agents and continue to recommend them. At one point I considered switching agents and would have gotten back to one of them.
That’s the best approach you can take when you get a “no.” Respond graciously. Congratulate the prospect on making a wise choice. Leave the door open.
Jack may decide he made a mistake after the first stage of his new project. Almost always he’ll have new projects down the road. Other companies may ask him for recommendations.
Rather than put him on the spot, Melissa needs to wish him the best and move on.
(2) When you ask your prospects for feedback, you’re asking them to do work.
Giving feedback is hard for anyone! You have to figure out what points you want to make and how to make them tactfully.
Your goal is to encourage your prospect to associate you with simplicity and ease. Leave them with the feeling, “We’re still friends.”
(3) Asking for feedback will reinforce your prospect’s decision to say “no.”
It’s all about the attitude-behavior connection. In his famous book, Influence, Robert Cialdini emphasizes that behaviors change attitudes. Explaining a decision? That’s a behavior.
You may have heard about experiments like this one. People are randomly assigned to be “pro” or “con” in a debate. They write essays to support their position. The outcome? Regardless of where they started, their attitudes became more favorable to the positions they wrote about.
Jack may have begun with a fuzzy, “Larry just seemed to be more confident than Melissa.”
By the time he’s done giving Melissa feedback, he’ll be questioning her qualifications…and have more reasons not to return to her when he needs help in the future.
The dynamics of dealing with a “no” answer will be different from the research you undertake to understand your market’s backstory.
Understanding their backstory will help you find leads and connect with them. Once they’ve begun to work with you closely, you need a new approach — especially if you’re working one-on-one in a service business.
If you’d like to learn more about identifying your prospect’s backstory in the earlier stages of your relationship, click here for my newest course.
Or click here for a free guide to finding out the 3 parts of your prospect’s backstory that will help you create persuasive content.
Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com.