You’ve probably heard the statistics: more than 80 percent of sales are made after the fifth attempt. And yet 90 percent of salespeople never get that far. When they hear a no – no to a sale, no to a trial, no to a meeting request – they simply give up.

Some prospects will actually consider what you’re saying, think it through, rationally conclude that you can’t help them, and tell you no.

But often, prospects say no for other reasons:

  • They’re not really paying attention to you, or
  • They just want to get you off the phone quickly, or
  • They’re testing you

If you can re-engage prospects after those kinds of no’s, you still have a chance to convert them. You won’t win all of them, of course. But if your “second effort” can get just a few to reconsider, the effect on your sales will be huge.

Here’s why: When you’re making a second effort, 95 percent of the work is already done.

Think about it: Where do you spend most of your prospecting time? Actually talking to prospects? No, you spend it dealing with receptionists, gatekeepers and voice mail. It takes a lot of work just getting connected to a decision maker. So once you reach them, why not try to get as much value as possible from the call?

In fact, it’s always worthwhile to make a second effort when you hear a no. Because there’s no way to predict which prospects might respond. It only takes a moment. And you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Let’s look at a four-step approach that will make your second efforts worthwhile. You can think of these four steps as the E.A.R.N. method:

1. Empathize with the customer’s position. When prospects say no, their defenses are up. The good news about that is it means they’re actively engaged with what you’re saying. If you empathize instead of offering a rebuttal, you can catch them off guard, giving you an opportunity to connect.

2. Ask a question that your prospect won’t see coming. Ideally, this question would deal with your prospect’s favorite subject: himself and his immediate needs. Your unexpected question might be built around some recent piece of news or trend in your prospect’s market. For example: “So, Hank: I’d guess you’re looking at something like a 15 percent hike in benefits costs next year. Have you given any thought on how to deal with that?”

If you have specific knowledge that allows you to ask a question related to the prospect’s company, even better: “So, let me ask, Joanne: Now that you’re about to merge with XYZ Corp., how concerned are you about integrating their CRM platform with your data?”

Most powerful of all is a question that’s tailored to the individual: “You mentioned at the marketing association meeting last month that you’re facing pricing pressure from the big box retailers. How’s your company handling that pressure?”

3. Reinforce the benefit that you offer. “We’ve done a lot of work with companies facing big-box competitors. We might have some ideas that would work for you.”

4. Nail down the commitment. You’ve done all this work; don’t leave the most important part hanging. Set up a firm date and time to meet with your prospect.

These four steps give you an easy-to-remember framework for your second effort, which you can adapt to your unique selling situation. They’re not pushy or confrontational. You won’t achieve your call objective every time, of course. But enough prospects will say yes on the second effort to make it worthwhile.

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