Adapted Growth

How to Respond When a Prospect Says No

Knowing how to respond when your prospect says no will make or break you in sales.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash


Let’s face it, none of us close every deal. The world isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and even the best salespeople get turned down. But knowing how to respond when your prospect says no can make or break your entire sales career.


Why Prospects Say No


There are many reasons why a deal might not close, and it’s often outside of your control.

If you know how to do it, you can ask about many of their potential objections during your discovery conversation. Yes, almost all objections fall under only seven different ones. I now call them The Universal Deal-Killers.

If you’re diligent, nurturing, and a little bit lucky, you might be able to overcome these common objections before:

  • they implant themselves in your prospect’s brain and prevent closing the deal or even further discussion, or
  • you’ve spent a frustrating amount of time going over your pitch, building a proposal, and following up with them to find out that they have to say no.

Other than asking about them, though, you have little control over the factors that might prevent them from saying yes.

You do have control over how you approach your prospects, how you communicate with them, and how well you listen. Even minor missteps in these soft skills can make a prospect trust you less and ultimately turn you down.


How to Respond When a Prospect Says No


Even when you’ve asked all the right questions, qualified for all the usual objections, and built trust and rapport, some deals still fall apart. 

Although you do not have control over every reason you could lose a deal, there’s still something you can do. It may help you save deals in the future, and it might even help save the deal you just lost.


Respond with Gratitude

If a deal doesn’t go through, it wasn’t only your time spent on it. Your prospect also set aside time and bandwidth to talk to you to find out whether or not working together makes sense.

That time is part of why acceptance is so important. If you don’t allow them the space to say no as soon as they’ve made that decision, you might waste even more time chasing and following up.

Let them know early in the conversation that you’d like to hear no rather than “maybe” or “we’ll see.”


Ask for Feedback

After you’ve thanked them, ask them what factors lead to saying no.

While saying no can be difficult for people, they usually have no qualms about telling you why they went in a different direction.

Be careful how you ask for that information, though. Avoid making your prospect feel guilty or defensive when they explain their reasons. You want them to know that you’re striving to get better.

You’ll usually get a really helpful response when they know that you’re trying to do better. 

Taking the time to ask your prospects for feedback after they’ve told you no would help you in multiple ways.


Potential Pivots

First, they might be able to offer suggestions for what they’re looking for inside your niche that you don’t currently provide.

Maybe they want custom messaging with their lead generation. Or greener options in their office supplies.

Their answers could lead to a profitable pivot in your business if it’s relevant and feasible. If not, at least you know what people might be looking for in the future.


Missed Question

You might have missed a vital question or pain point that could have closed the deal.

The earlier you find out what that was, the more possible it is to save it.

For example, maybe lead generation wouldn’t actually help them very much because they’re struggling to close the leads they have. So what they really need is sales training or better onboarding for salespeople. And that just happens to be another service you provide.

If you don’t know how to respond when a prospect says no, you might not get the feedback needed to turn it around.

Plus, after you add your notes and their comments to your CRM, you might notice that it’s a question you’ve missed before. Rejected deals could point to gaps in the steps of your sales process that need to be closed before your following sales conversation.


Improving Your Selling Skills

Maybe there’s nothing you can do to change their mind or prove you’re the right fit.

If that’s the case, their feedback could still point out an area of improvement in your sales process or abilities.

Not many prospects will be this honest with you, but some will. So it doesn’t hurt to ask if there is anything you could have done differently.

Perhaps you came on too strong or jumped to the pitch too early. Or maybe they just didn’t feel like you were listening.

Things like this don’t feel good to hear, but if they help you in the long run, you need to listen to them.


No Hard Feelings

Rejection doesn’t feel good for anybody. And rejecting somebody isn’t comfortable for most people.

Knowing how to respond after a prospect says no helps both of you move forward.

Being able to retain the same level of concern, helpfulness, and friendliness absolves any guilt they might have about saying no. It’ll also make them feel better about their choice, which assuming they made the right one, they should.

At the very least, it shows that you hold no grudges and that you would be open to having a discussion about future projects down the road.


Staying in Touch

If your follow-up conversation is positive and their decision is final, ask if you can check in with them later.

If their project doesn’t go the way they hoped with somebody else, staying in their inbox could lead to them coming back to you.

Even though they might feel stuck, and let’s face it, nobody likes admitting to mistakes, staying in touch removes the need for them to reach out to you. Even if they stick it out with your competitors, it will show them that you have their best interest in mind.  

Another reason to stay in touch is to keep the possibility of referrals open. You might not have been the right fit for them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know others you could help.

Knowing how to respond when a prospect says no allows you to keep the relationship open and positive, whether for future work together or work with their peers.


Consistency is Key in How You Respond When a Prospect Says No


More than anything else, keep your emotions balanced and communication consistent after they’ve said no.

If you suddenly go from Jekyll to Hyde, they have no reason to ever work with you or even talk to you again. As hard as rejection can be, it is part of your job. Getting defensive or angry can only hurt you.

After your emotions are in check, keep your follow-up process respectfully consistent.

To develop a referral or future working relationship, they occasionally need to hear from you. Just be careful not to bombard or overwhelm them.

Build your follow-up process into your CRM, and that way, it happens without even thinking about it.

The better you get at knowing how to respond when a prospect says no, the more you’ll improve as a salesperson. And over time, that improvement will lead to you hearing no less and less.