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Why Saying No Can Improve Your Sales Process

Saying no to a sale goes against everything most people have been taught. After starting Hidden Depth and having to do all the other jobs outside sales, I have a rounded view of what type of sales process works best for a service related business. Here’s an insight into a key part of our sales process, saying no!

The problem with the standard way of selling


The standard sales process is structured for a best case scenario every time.

What I mean is that we expect the client to do exactly what we want, expect that we will produce the same results every time, expect that every person will follow the system to the letter and expect that everybody will get along like a house on fire.

A lot of sales books and courses will teach you about connecting with people, making them like you, persuasion, mirroring, tone of voice, common interest, etc. The goal is always to ‘close the prospect’.

The problem with this approach is it stops you from protecting your business from unsuitable clients and unprofitable work.

The right way


Nobody wants to work with people they don’t like. Nobody wants more stress in their life.

Just because someone has money does not mean you have to take the job. Take money out of the equation and ask yourself would you still take the job?

Sales is not all about say yes and trying to CONVINCE the other party. It is about being honest and making sure you are a good fit for the project.

Good business means a profitable healthy business. The clients who are difficult to work, whose expectations are way out of line with what you deliver will with take up more of your time, which means less profit.

How do we find out if the client is a good fit for us

  1. Set boundaries from the start. It is important to know the work we are good at, the work we are not suited to and the stuff we don’t actually want to do.
  2. Set expectations from the start. In Hidden Depth we explain to potential clients at the outset that we don’t produce designs to ‘wow’ them. We design for the end user and with the client’s business goals in mind. Whether we or the client have that eureka moment with a design is meaningless.
  3. Be clear about our personality. Every agency has a different way of working. We are very much the leader of the project and as such require clients to accept this and put their trust in us. Not everybody wants to work with an agency who is in charge and that’s fine. Because we explain our personality from the start it gives everybody a chance to decide if both parties are suited to work together.
  4. Have clear criteria for walking away. We use red flags as a rating system that stops us taking on jobs which may lead to difficulty down the road. We have a set number of red flags and if reached we cannot take on the project regardless of how good it may ‘feel’. Always keep in mind that we are doing this to make sure both us and the client make the right choice.
  5. Stick to the process. Since our way of working dictates that we lead the project it is important that this happens from the very outset. If a client prefers not to fill in our questionnaire or answer fundamental questions this indicates that they don’t view our process as important and also do not see us as the leader in the project.
  6. Hurdles for negative personality traits. We have certain types of personalities that don’t suit us to work with. We try to identify those personality traits as early as possible. The better we can identify red flag traits, the cleaner it is to walk away.

If you can’t find a legitimate reason to say no then the project and client sounds good. You have also done your due diligence on behalf of you and your client so the project and relationship should be smoother from the outset.

Apply this to your own business

Saying no can be a strange thing to start doing.

If you see your business as important, then you need to make sure you protect it and only do the work that will make the business better.

  • Be honest about your personality
  • Know what work you are best at and what is of no benefit for anyone to take on
  • Understand the personality types that will be a good or bad fit
  • Define the criteria that warrant walking away
  • Figure out how to indentify the negative criteria or personality traits

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