How to Grow From the Word “NO”

Just Say NoDo you feel daunted or exhilarated when a customer tells you “NO?”  A blog I read by Minda Zetlin on  recently entitled “4 Reasons You Should Love Hearing ‘No’” really hit home and reminded me that “NO” can be positive.

Zetlin excerpts from a book “Go for No!” by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz, in which the authors maintain “If you’re not hearing no…you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to be successful.” They say people often do everything in their power to get yes responses and avoid no’s, but “that leads to a mediocre life where you’re always in your comfort zone.”

Before joining CDH, I worked for many years in sales and promotions. As a marketeer and budding salesperson, I heard a lot of “NOs” and remember feeling deflated and shot down. But as the years progressed, I actually felt happy when I heard a “NO.”  It taught me not to give up or slink away. It helped me to develop a thicker skin, and the patience and persistence to succeed. Now, as an administrative team member, my customers are mostly internal. However, “NOs” still cause me to ask “WHY?” If I find the answer to that question, I can learn, regroup and re-energize my efforts toward whatever goal or project.

As Zetlin describes, “NO” prompts discovery and growth. “NO” is not necessarily a dead end. After all, hearing nothing from someone is scarier than hearing “NO;”  it’s important to know where you stand with your customers. In sales, if I had the chance to hear “NO” from a customer, I was speaking to him or her and not leaving a voice mail, sending a note or rubbing elbows at an event. I had engaged their attention further. That was a positive step.

In any industry, building business is riddled with “NOs” from customers who either don’t have time to meet with us, don’t know (yet) how our product will help them, or just don’t distinguish us from the next person or company approaching them. While some people may be interested right away in the product or service we offer, more likely with others we simply need to hone our questioning and fact-finding skills to uncover their needs, and offer solutions that will help them.

If we can’t always welcome “NOs” we should at least accept them graciously. Most importantly, we should stay visible. Instead of reacting with disappointment or dismay, remember that “NO” gives us room to move, learn and grow along with our customers. “NO” often spells opportunities, maybe not now, but down the road, for example, when business climates or needs change, or when company decision-makers change. If we keep communicating with and learning about our customers – even when we are not currently working with them – when they are ready to buy or collaborate with us, we will be top-of-mind and ready to serve them.

Has a “NO” helped fuel you or move you in new directions? I’d love to hear about your experience. Please send me a note at

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