Yes is the Destination NO is How You Get There

My Rough Start in Sales: Over the years I tried my hand at sales a number of times at outside sales and failed miserably. Several of the positions were in the car business; leasing cars, selling extended warranties, and fleet sales at my Dad’s dealership. I’ve sold insurance (a job that lasted four months) and copier supplies over the telephone (a job that lasted just four hours). In every job I just couldn’t seem to get past the feeling that I was an unwanted interruption to others. Eventually I drifted into retail and took a position selling men’s suits, in part because I loved clothing but mostly because in retail I felt more secure. After all, in retail the customers were coming to me!

The event that changed my life happened while working in my third retail job. I had been working for this particular men’s wear chain for several months and, as usual, I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. The district manager, a man by the name of Harold, was scheduled to visit and I really wanted to impress him. I was worried that if my personal sales didn’t improve they were going to let me go.

Harold showed up about nine-thirty in the morning and everybody said their hellos, had coffee and donuts and all that. At ten o’clock we opened the doors. Because I was the first salesman in that morning I had first “ups.” In walks this finely dressed gentleman who announces that he wants to buy an entire wardrobe of clothing and within thirty minutes I had a $1,100 sale, the biggest of my career. I was certain that Harold would be impressed.

After the customer left, Harold finally sauntered over and said, “Nice sale, kid.”

“Eleven hundred dollars!” I proclaimed, my chest puffing out with pride. But Harold just stood there not seeming overly impressed. Finally he said, “I’m just curious, Rich, but what did that customer say no to?”

“What do you mean?” I shot back. “That guy just bought a suit, sport coat, three shirts, six ties, shoes, socks, a belt and underwear! What do you mean, what did he say no to?” Man, I was steamed!

Harold waited calmly for me to stop being defensive, then he said, “We’ve already established what he said yes to, Rich. What I want to know now is, what did he say no to?” I thought for a long time, mentally reviewing the sale in my mind, then sheepishly I replied, “Well, nothing. The customer didn’t say no to anything.”

“So,” Harold asked, “then how did you know he was done?”

Harold’s question hit me like a punch because I suddenly realized the customer hadn’t ended the sale… I had! Why? I stopped because the customer had hit my mental spending limit. You see, I had never spent over a thousand dollars on a shopping trip in my life, so when anyone went over a thousand bocks, hey, they were done! Harold wasn’t through with me, however. “The salesperson never decides when the sale is over, Rich, the customer does,” he continued. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “Rich, your fear of hearing the word no is the only thing standing between you and greatness.”

It was amazing. I had gone into work that morning hoping to keep my job, and I went home that night just two letters away from greatness.

And the letters were N-O.


The Correct Model of Failure and Success

Before that moment with Harold I had been operating under the assumption that my goal in selling, in life for that matter, was to do everything I could to move toward success and away from failure. In essence, the model I was using looked something like this:


I suddenly realized that failure wasn’t something to be avoided at all, but rather a stepping stone… the halfway mark… on the road to success. Most people get to the sign marked failure and they figure they’re heading in the wrong direction. They turn around and head back home, figuring that success must back the other way. But it’s not! When you reach the sign marked failure, success is almost always straight ahead. The correct model looks something like this:


Until that moment I had lived my entire life with the notion that rejection was awful and was to avoided at all cost. Suddenly I realized that rejection didn’t have to be awful. It could be only slightly annoying… or amusing… or for that matter exciting, energizing and even empowering!

What if you decided to make each no you received and every rejection you encountered something that empowered you rather than deflating you? Instead of avoiding rejection, what if you made the decision to seek rejection instead? Instead of avoiding no or perhaps simply tolerating it, what if you went out of your way to actually go for no and let the yes’s fall where they may?

I know what you may be thinking; this sounds good in theory, but does it really work?

This is no theory. This works.

After my experience with Harold I continued setting goals for the number of yes’s I would achieve (sales), but I also began setting goals for the number of no’s I was going to collect. Over the next few years, with this one simple change in approach, I went from barely surviving to finally thriving in my sales career. Ultimately, as training director for some of America’s largest companies, I began teaching it to others and watched it do the same magic for them. And now, I teach it to my clients that I work with in my own business.

So if someone tells you that you need to start "going for yes" - I say, "Go for No!"


Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz are the authors of the best-selling book, 'Go for No!' and run Courage Crafters, Inc.; sharing their message internationally on how to achieve extraordinary sales success by hearing 'no' more often.  Speaking on stage together, Richard and Andrea teach people in a wide variety of businesses and industries how to reprogram the way they think about the word NO, and to fail their way to success.  The...

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