Learn To Say “No” From A Russian

by drjim on March 26, 2010

Sometimes The Best Way To Get To “Yes” Is To Say “No

Sometimes The Best Way To Get To “Yes” Is To Say “No

So What’s So Hard About Saying “No”?

As I work with sales negotiators and teams of negotiators I am constantly surprised by just how hard it is for them to say one simple word: “No” . I’m not sure if it’s the way that we’ve been raised or if we all have some built-in need to make other people happy, but we sure seem to like the word “yes” more than we like the word “no”. Normally, this is no big deal – I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with somebody who is always agreeable. However, this inability to say “no” can spell disaster when you are in a negotiation…

There Are A Lot Of Ways To Say No

The classic Russian sales negotiator is always shown as sitting on the other side of the table saying “no” (or “Nyet” if you prefer) over and over again. Why can’t we be more like them?

When you are in a sales negotiation, it’s sorta like you are dancing with the other side of the table. You go back and forth as you both try to drive the best deal for your side. However, there is one important difference between this interaction and dancing: you have a goal that you are trying to reach.

What the Russians know and we need to learn is that by saying “no” we can drive the other side closer to the goal that we want to achieve. If we don’t learn how to do this, we can get trapped in a sales negotiation that just keeps going on and on and on.

As with all things in life, saying “no” isn’t just as simple as saying the word and then being done with it. Instead (and as the Russians have shown us in countless international negotiations) there are a 1,000 different ways to say no and you really should learn them all.

The simplest way to say no is to simply say it. And then say it again. And again. And again. Often times the first few times that you say it, the other side of the table will ignore you – this isn’t what they want to hear. However, if you keep saying it over and over again, they will eventually get your point.

For variety, you can get up and storm out of a sales negotiating session. They do say that actions speak louder than words and by physically leaving you are very clearly saying “no”. When you return, that “no” is still on the table and the discussions can pick up from there.

Finally, silence is a very powerful way of saying “no” . Just by sitting there and not saying anything you send a very powerful message to the other side of the table and they’ll quickly get your point.

How To Say “No” And Leave The Other Side Happy

Clearly if you become known as the sales negotiator who always says “no”, you’re going to develop a reputation. You want to be careful and make sure that you use this powerful weapon to help reach a deal with the other side.

The power of the “no” comes from the simple fact that after you’ve been saying “no” for awhile, any time that you say “yes” to the smallest concession, the other side will experience a thrill that will make them happy. You can use this to your negotiating advantage.

What All Of This Means For You

All too often we try to hard to make others happy all the time. When we are involved in a sales negotiation, we need to turn this tendency off otherwise it may inhibit our ability to strike the best deal possible with the other side of the table.

The ability to say “no” is a powerful tool that we all have. There are many different ways to say “no” and as a sales negotiator you need to learn to use them all.

The real power of saying “no” is that when you finally get around to saying “yes” you’ll be that much closer to reaching your negotiating goal.

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to say “no” too much during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How many times have you really wanted something only to discover that its price was too high? What did you do then – give up and go away? As sales negotiators we are taught that everything can be negotiated; however, in our personal lives (as well as our professional lives), if we see a price written down, we shrug our shoulders and say “well, that’s that” . Turns out that we’ve been getting it wrong all this time…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Boughton March 26, 2010 at 10:35 am

Great article on the power of saying “No”. You need to adapt how you say no depending upon the style of negotiation you are involved in. Distributive negotiations lend themselves to a simple “No”.

However, when collaborating saying “No” can impact the climate in a negative way causing discussions to deteriorate. You can say “No” by simply responding with a counter-proposal with your conditions attached. Try saying this,

“Thanks for that proposal, we’ll take that into consideration”, followed by long pause…… “Here’s what we can do……” (insert your proposal)

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Dr. Jim Anderson March 26, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Andrew: You make a great point. The Japanese are considered to be the masters of the “Yes, but…” way of saying no. When you are working with the other side of the table to reach a deal, you don’t want to kill the good will by saying “no”, but you still want to communicate that that condition is not working for you. This is where it really pays to have a good vocabulary…

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