January 6, 2010

Why Saying YES is Always More Dangerous Than NO

Why Saying YES is Always More Dangerous Than NO

You don’t have to be the parent of a teenager to realize that saying YES is always potentially more dangerous than saying NO. (Although if you are the parent of a teenager, you can probably come up with plenty of examples to illustrate the point.)

The same thing is true in business. And if we’re going to sell our products or services, we have to make saying YES a little less risky.

That is our topic this time.

Tom Sant

Why Saying YES is Always More Dangerous Than NO

It's a truism of consultative sales methodologies that there are numerous decision influencers in an opportunity who have the power to say NO to a deal, but only one person who has the authority to say YES. The person who can say YES is sometimes called the "economic buyer" (in Strategic Selling terminology) or the "center of power" or simply the "boss.” Whatever you call that person, he or she carries a heavy burden: they have the authority to commit the organization to change.

Change is risky. After all, we know how to do what we're already doing. Maybe we don't do it very well and maybe it's not producing the results we want, but at least we feel comfortable in following the process and getting things done the way we've always done them. It's not surprising, then, is it, that we might see you and your enthusiastic recommendations for change as being more than a little threatening?

In our sales process and particularly in our proposals, we can make saying YES a little less dangerous for our clients. Here are seven ideas:

• Chunk the recommendation down into bite-size pieces. If our solution involves complex products and services, significant resource commitments, extended development cycles, or a large price tag, we're probably making our decision maker feel uneasy about saying YES. Why don't we divide that big solution into several smaller ones? Maybe we can start with a simple planning or assessment project that provides a clear Go/No Go gate at the end to protect the client from becoming embroiled in a large-scale disaster.

• Avoid over-engineering the solution. Simple is always safer than complex. Easy is always less risky than difficult. Try to avoid the temptation of adding in extra elements when you are configuring your recommendation.

• Link your solution to the customer's needs. One of the best ways to overcome the tendency to say No is to make it clear that your solution addresses their key needs. We've discussed this before, but as a quick reminder, I urge you to start your presentation of the solution with a quick summary of two or three key needs that the client wants to address. For each need, show how a specific feature of your solution addresses it, what the benefit to them will be, and a quick proof statement (a reference, for example) indicating that it's likely to work. Now they see that they are in fact buying a solution. Unfortunately, most proposals contain canned descriptions of products and services that are not linked to anything. They're just information dumps and they provoke a profound desire to say NO.

• Include service level agreements or real guarantees in the contract. The client is more likely to feel protected if we've been willing to offer them a way of measuring our performance and if we're putting some of our revenue at risk.

• Avoid self-serving behavior. The flip side of putting guarantees into your offer is taking out anything that might be construed as self-serving. For example, if you require buyers to purchase an expensive support package as part of the deal, even though you have assured them that your solution is dependable and low maintenance, they are justified in thinking you're just trying to jack up your own commission. If you recommend a product that doesn't quite address their needs and they later find out you were being spiffed on that product, they're likely to question the objectivity of your recommendation.

• Provide a convincing value proposition. People will take risks when the potential payoff is big enough. Unfortunately, most proposals fail to include a value proposition. And when they do include one, it often consists of marketing fluff rather than measurable results that will have a positive impact in a key area of organizational performance.

• Tie your recommendation to an inescapable compelling event. If the client has a fixed date in the future by which something has to be done, and your solution will help them get there, make the connection obvious.

One bonus tip worth considering: create a persuasive and fully compliant proposal. We can help you with that one, because Sant Suite is designed to take away the hard parts of writing a winning proposal. That's why so many of our clients say YES to our solution!